Magazine article Screen International

Abu Dhabi Reps Court Hollywood

Magazine article Screen International

Abu Dhabi Reps Court Hollywood

Article excerpt

Leading lights in Abu Dhabi's nascent film sector have told Hollywood executives they are ramping up efforts to create a Middle East media and content hub as the region invests in sustainable alternatives to an oil-based economy.

CEO Noura Al Kaabi (pictured) of twofour54, the commercial arm of the Media Zone Authority-Abu Dhabi, and Image Nation chairman Mohamed Al Mubarak were speaking at a panel on Wednesday (11) as part of a promotional trip to Los Angeles.

"We want to reach a level where we're the hub of creative content in the region," said Al Kaabi, whose organisation operates on behalf of the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, the Abu Dhabi Film Festival and Abu Dhabi Media Summit.

In recent years twofour54 and/or the Commission have enticed a number of high-profile productions with Abu Dhabi's fresh 30% production incentive.

These include Disney and Lucasfilm's Star Wars: Episode VII, which remained under a shroud of secrecy for months and was known only by the working title Avco until news got out recently that J J Abrams had shot footage in the locale.

Other projects include the upcoming Fast & Furious 7 from Universal and Sony's Deliver Us From Evil.

It also emerged that the region's facilities, suite of services and rules allowing foreign companies complete autonomy have prompted Warner Bros to consider breaking ground on a theme park.

"[We want to be] the leading content creator in the region," said Image Nation chairman Mohamed Al Mubarak. "We have done three movies so far, two TV shows and a couple of documentaries. It's not enough."

The company launched in 2008 as a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi Media and Al Mubarak showed footage of DreamWorks' The Hundred-Foot Journey starring Helen Mirren, one of two recent collaborations with Participant Media.

The other title is a documentary about Malala Yousafzai, the Afghan teenager who survived being shot by the Taliban as she went to school and has become a vocal advocate of female education.

In the case of the documentary, Participant approached Image Nation when they heard about the project. "We have content and IP to export to the US," said Al Mubarak, whose company has previously partnered with Parkes/MacDonald Productions and Hyde Park Entertainment.

"These partnerships are not just seen as co-financing or production deals - they're becoming educational partnerships. …

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