Nat'l Geo, Imagenation announce joint venture

Groups to produce up to 15 feature films

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates -- Following a star-sprinkled opening night, Saturday was down to business: National Geographic Entertainment and Imagenation Abu Dhabi announced a $100 million financing fund.

The companies stated the fund will be used to produce 10 to 15 feature films during the next five years. The new venture was announced on the first day of the second annual Middle East International Film Festival, during a press conference held at Emirates Palace.

A wholly-owned subsidiary of the government-owned Abu Dhabi Media Company, Imagenation is the latest initiative aimed at making the capital a media hub to be reckoned with. Launched in September 2008 with a pot of more than $1 billion, Imagenation is dedicated to financing upwards of 20 films for Arabic and global markets over the next five years. A quarter of this has already been earmarked for use in conjunction with LA-based Participant Media. Such financial incentives play a large part in attracting filmmakers to a region with a still barely-there film infrastructure.

Edward Borgerding, ceo of Abu Dhabi Media Company and Imagenation, said, "Only six weeks ago, Imagenation didn’t exist and today we’re announcing our second global relationship. This deal continues our strategy of building relationships with the world’s leading media companies to produce award-winning films that are commercially successful and appealing to diverse cultures."

The fund was announced by a panel that included Borgerding as well as National Geographic Global Media head Tim Kelly, National Geographic Films chairman Jake Eberts, National Geographic Films president Adam Leipzig and ADMC head Mohamed Khalaf Al-Mazrouei. Also in attendance was actor Ben Kingsley, in talks with the venture about one of his productions.

The joint venture will make and finance films budgeted between $5 and $60 million, focusing relationships to the world, their environment and each other. At a time when the global credit crunch is hitting international film funds, there has been no reluctance from bankers to invest in the region, said Eberts.

Al-Mazrouei said, "National Geographic is a perfect partner for Imagenation Abu Dhabi. It is one of the most identifiable and respected global brands."

Kelly said, "With this film fund, we will be able to expand our outreach into the creative community and help filmmakers produce the kinds of films they dreamed of making when they entered the industry."

Eberts added, "National Geographic has access to a seemingly endless treasure trove of images and stories and to use the power of film to bring people of different cultures together. Imagenation Abu Dhabi and National Geographic are ideally suited to do this."
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