Dubai makes speedy Connection
By Patrick Frater
Mon, 12 December 2011, 17:08 PM (HKT)
Five years after its establishment, the Dubai Film Connection is able to point to structural improvements in Arab film-making says its director Jane WILLIAMS.
And she contends that the results have more to do with structure, organisation of ideas and international exposure than simple cash.
The DFC operates in a fashion somewhere between a festival project market and a regional funding body, inviting feature and documentary makers to submit projects that may be presented during the Dubai International Film Festival's market. These are carefully scrutinised, with roughly one in nine making it as far as the Dubai Film Market.
There they are not only presented to potential financiers and co-producers over a three day period, but receive mentoring and can earn a range of prizes that are intended for further development or pre-production.
Williams says that of the 64 projects selected in the DFC's first four years, 19 have been completed and a further 12 are now in production or post-production. That is a high conversion rate and is matched by an average turn around period of two years.
"We are not a fund. How people use the money is their call," says Williams and cites the example of an ingenious documentarian who used the development cash for production and returned to the festival the following year with a completed film.
"What is happening is that there is an evolution. Quality is increasing. People are learning that putting their ideas in an organised fashion can lead them to get funding. In that respect we are a gateway," she says. "An important factor [helping to raise quality] is that projects must be submitted with a producer attached. And people are understanding that being a producer is a profession."
While Williams says that some of the growing film-making confidence in the region comes from the availability of money from the trio of well-funded festivals – Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi – she suggests that improvements have more to do with structure and scrutiny than the quantity of cash.
ImageNation and the Abu Dhabi festival's film fund operated on too large a scale, she argues, and a significant proportion of the finance flowed straight out to Hollywood. "Some of the people were not interested or knowledgeable in local cinema. But that changed when it scaled down and focused on local cinema.
"People from developed industries elsewhere are incredibly critical of this region. But [Emirati cinema] is new. Mistakes must be made. That's why the DFC was set up. And we said it would not take a lot of money to turn around."
"We don't fully fund projects. What we do is find out if there is regional or international interest in a project. If you fully finance there is no test."
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