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Qatari Business Heavyweights Get Lessons In US Film Finance

Hal Sadoff Headshot - P 2012
Alexandra Wyman/Getty Images for AFM

With the Middle East entertainment marketplace set to post five percent annual growth, the local industry gathered in Doha to mull opportunities for growth and investment for the region.

DOHA, Qatar -- Business leaders from Qatar gathered Sunday to be offered a snapshot of the current Western film financing models and to mull the potential for investment from the Middle East region.

A heavyweight panel from the world of film finance, chaired by the former ICM head of international and film finance Hal Sadoff, gathered during this year's Doha Tribeca Film Festival to talk about the opportunities currently opening up for independent movies as the studios concentrate on big-budget tentpole franchise titles.

Sadoff told the audience of Qatari business bigwigs that with Hollywood making "anything with a cape," referring to superhero film franchises, it meant the independent movie making industry had greater access to A-list titles on both sides of the camera.

"Fewer films are being made so great directors and great actors are available to work and will do so cheaper than before because they want to work and make films," Hadoff said.

"This means we can make more commercial movies at a lower cost with a higher value of talent.”

Sadoff also noted the success of independent movies at the Academy Awards – citing movies such as Black Swan and The King’s Speech-- which is helping create an excitement amongst the public to see independent films.

And the film finance veteran reminded the Qatari biz leaders that while film remains "a risky investment," the opportunities to mitigate the risk by "structuring financing properly" is growing.

Sadoff's comments came after his Excellency Sheikh Hamad Bin Faisal Bin Thani Al-Thani, one of Qatar's rulers and a leading business player, said the movies and wider entertainment market in the Middle East is expected to grow at a rate of five percent annually.

And with the Sheikh also pointing out figures from Marketline show that the global entertainment market worth is expected to hit $93 billion by 2016, up from the $90.2 billion in 2011.

It spells opportunity for the region, according to Thani Al-Thani.

“There is a deep interest in cinema and the development of the film industry in Qatar.  DFI is fulfilling the vision of developing a local film culture,” he said.

The flurry of promising stats for the audience came ahead of the talk from the expert panel.

DFI head of film financing Paul Miller, introducing the Sunday lunchtime session held in the St. Regis hotel's grand ballroom, told the gathered audience it was a moment for the local industry to shape its future.

"This is about understanding and realizing the film industry as potentially lucrative and a business to invest in. DFI cannot fulfill its mission alone without the support of financiers, banks and lawyers. Together we can help shape the Doha film industry."

The panel also included L.A. legal eagle Sam Kozhaya, German and U.K. based sales and finance label K5 Media Group founder and president Oliver Simon, Judith Chan from British private bank Coutts, Film Finances president and completion bond expert Kurt Woolner, French giant Pathe's deputy managing director Pierre du Plessis and collections agency Fintage House CEO Robbert Aarts.

Du Plessis noted that while there was a danger in him saying "there is value in everything," he suggested projects from local filmmakers could end up enjoying success if "they cut their cloth accordingly" and shoot for homegrown success.

The panel and lunch was sponsored by Miramax and mounted by the Doha Film Institute, the organization behind the DTFF.