Abu Dhabi restructures film industry; to invest $100+ million

MUMBAI: Abu Dhabi’s Media Zone Authority is restructuring its film business and has set aside a corpus of over $100 million (AED 400 million) for the next five years for the same.


The money will be used for film and TV production in Abu Dhabi. Additionally it is also shutting down the Abu Dhabi Film Festival to make way in order to focus on for future targeted initiatives to further support local and Arab filmmakers and attract more film productions to Abu Dhabi in the region via the Sanad Fund. The move marks the next phase in the Abu Dhabi’s maturing film industry. 


The Media Zone Authority will continue its efforts in supporting Emirati and Arab filmmakers through the Sanad Fund, which provides financial support for film projects during their development and post-production stages. The Fund enables filmmakers to develop and complete feature narrative or documentary films. Details of the next session of submissions for Sanad will be announced soon. Additionally, twofour54’s creative lab will continue its role in supporting local talent in the UAE.


Going forward, the Media Zone Authority will focus on promoting Abu Dhabi and the UAE as a regional hub for film and TV productions through Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s 30 per cent cash-back rebate on all qualifying spend of films and projects shot in Abu Dhabi.


Media Zone Authority CEO Noura Al Kaabi said, “Over the last few years we have built a strong foundation for a self-sustaining film and television industry. It is now the right time to deepen our commitment and further develop programmes to take the local industry to the next level. We attracted several major international and regional productions to shoot in the Emirate over the past two years alone, which brought large-scale investment, further built the film industry infrastructure in the region, and created significant opportunities for local talent. These projects include Universal Pictures’ Fast and Furious 7 and Disney’s Star Wars: Episode VII, as well as regional productions Al Ikhwa, Iftah Ya SimSim and ET Bil Arabi.”


Al Kaabi also noted that the UAE is represented at international film festivals through Dubai International Film Festival and Sharjah International Children’s Film Festival.


Image Nation Abu Dhabi chairman Mohamed Al Mubarak added, “Now that Image Nation Abu Dhabi has become part of the Media Zone Authority, our efforts towards building the media sector can be more coordinated and effective. Image Nation’s combination of Hollywood film relationships and its local talent and production knowledge is uniquely valuable to this new phase of our industry.”


Image Nation Abu Dhabi invested approximately AED 30 million ($8.2 million) towards local production last year. Over the next five years, the Media Zone Authority partner anticipates injecting over AED 400 million ($108 million) into the UAE economy through direct spending in the country on film and television production and jobs creation.


Local feature film production has hit a new stride with an impressive and aggressive slate. From A to B, directed by Ali Mostafa and co-produced by twofour54 and Image Nation, topped iTunes charts across the Middle East last week and is set to release theatrically in the UK and Italy this year. And Zinzana, helmed by Emirati first-time feature director Majid Al Ansari, is currently in post-production with a launch in the UAE planned later this year.


twofour54 upgraded its post-production centre this month – the most advanced facility in the region with the latest editing, audio and colour correction capabilities. This first one-stop-shop for post-production will further enhance the industry ecosystem in Abu Dhabi.


Training and development programs continue to expand for Emirati and regional filmmakers. In its fourth year, Arab Film Studio now includes both documentary and narrative programmes, and a new programme for Emirati high school students launches this summer at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts.

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