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Dubai panel on UAE’s film industry private financing

Private investment is key to develop the UAE’s budding film industry, concludes expert panel on "providing finance to the film industry in the UAE" at DIFF 2005

A panel discussion that brought together financial experts and film industry players was held at the 2nd Dubai International Film Festival yesterday. It concluded that private investment would be the single most significant source of funding to drive film industry development in the UAE. Other avenues that aspiring film makers could successfully explore included regional TV channels, grants from the government and venture capital.

The participating financial specialists at the panel discussion included Avinash Gupta, Director, HSBC Investment Banking and Gregory Hunt, Consultant. It was moderated by Eddie O’Sullivan, Editor-in-Chief of the Middle East Economic Digest.

Throwing the discussion open, Eddie commented that going by the past record of the government, it should come as no surprise if in a few years time Dubai boasted a vibrant film industry. “Dubai Media City and the upcoming Dubai Studio City will provide the infrastructure and attract global talent to set up operations rivalling the best in the world. Its geographic proximity to Bollywood, where more than 700 movies are made every year, could give it an increased flow of business for high quality post-production.”

Avinash Gupta was of the opinion that the risk-return profile of the film industry per se did not fit with the bank operations. “Banks manage their depositors’ money. They are not the right place for film makers to look for funds. Instead, the booming private equity and venture capital sector that manages an estimated US$5 billion of high net worth individual funds in the UAE would be an ideal source of funds to develop the industry here,” he said.

According to Greg Hunt, “Governments around the world have encouraged cinema in their countries by providing grants and tax write-offs to the industry. A very important place to look for feature film and documentary financing is amongst the mushrooming TV channels that are hungry for original content for differentiation in the market. Shop-front style media operations can gain depth by exploring these avenues,” he said.

“The Arab world is brimming with creative talent, as evidenced in the offerings at the 2nd Dubai International Film Festival. This talent needs support in the form of commissioned projects and funds. In sum, the ingredients for a strong film industry are all here, it remains to be seen how soon they come together to form the region’s cinema hub,” concluded Eddie.


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