Circle Conference announces speakers

Endemol, Al Jazeera heads among guests for Oct. event

TORONTO -- Endemol CCO Tom Toumazis, Quinta founder Tarak Ben Ammar and Al Jazeera channel head Atef Dalgamouni are among schedule speakers for the 2010 Circle Conference, which runs from Oct. 13-15 in Abu Dhabi.

Also set to speak is Rotana Studios president Dr. Hala Saran, Kuwaiti producer Sheikha Al-Zain Al –Sabah, Syrian director Najdat Anzour and Kuwaiti producer Walid Al Awadi, David Shepheard, director of the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, said Monday as he unveiled an initial conference lineup at the Toronto International Film Festival.

The financing and production forum will feature a first-time dedicated social media platform to allow delegates to connect online before discussing possible international and regional co-productions, and possible location filming in the UAE.

Shepheard said the UAE, which has built an expanding media production infrastructure on the hop in recent years, is currently helping producers of "Mission Impossible 4" scout locally to complement an upcoming shoot in nearby Dhubai.

The plan is for the movie's producers to build permanent sets for the blockbuster shoot in Abu Dhabi.

"It proves that projects can come and can be bonded," he said of efforts by the Abu Dhabi Film Commission to pave the way for increased foreign production locally.

The Circle Conference will include once again the $100,000 Shasha Grant Award, which includes a first-look deal with local producer Imagenation Abu Dhabi.

Last year's winner was Saudi director Haifaa Al Mansour's "Wajada," a coming-of-age story of an 11-year-old Saudi girl, which is a German-U.S. co-production.

And the 2008 Shasha Grant Award winner, Moroccan filmmaker Hicham Ayouch, is developing his third feature, "Sambo Do Maazouz," in partnership with Fox International.
 Besides production financing awards, Shepheard said his commission is currently pitching the UAE government on offering production incentives to foreign producers considering a local shoot.

"There are plans for an incentive fund. We're making the business case to why we need one," he said.

The 2010 Circle Conference will be held in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, which is set to run from October 14 to 23.