x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 16 January 2018

The nitty-gritty behind all the glamour

Abu Dhabi is host to a major conference on the film business

ABU DHABI // While fanfares welcomed the stars of the screen to the glittering opening night of the festival, producers, directors and financiers were gathering for what could be a much more important event for the future of the film industry in the region. The Circle Conference, a three-day business meeting for industry insiders, began yesterday, with panel discussions, masterclasses and group interviews with experts from all around the world.

Organised by the Abu Dhabi Film Commission (ADFC), the event aims to create a new, vibrant and strong film industry in the UAE. In his opening speech, David Shepheard, director of the ADFC, said: "We want to boost the local industry and create a centre for excellence so that Abu Dhabi is a new hub for film and TV production." Walter Parkes, a Los Angeles-based producer and screenwriter whose credits include The Kite Runner and Gladiator, said it was the perfect time for the fledgling industry in the Middle East to make international headway.

"For some time the mainstream Hollywood motion picture industry has been in trouble," he said, "and in the last six months particularly there has been a decline in productivity, executive shake-ups and full-scale re-evaluations like never before." As a result, he added, "there could be a situation of great opportunity for emerging filmmakers." On Thursday, Parkes and his wife, Laurie McDonald, signed a deal with the film production and finance company Imagenation, a subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Media Company, which owns The National, for a US$10 million (Dh36m) fund to develop screenwriting in the region.