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Harvey Weinstein kicks off Film Financing Circle with keynote conversation

 The Film Financing Circle (FFC) is an integral program in the inaugural Middle East International Film Festival in Abu Dhabi.  The FFC takes place from October 15 - 17, 2007 at the Emirates Palace, and presents a multifaceted approach to elevating the international entertainment community's awareness of Abu Dhabi's emergence onto the film scene.

The FFC encompasses several extraordinary events guaranteed to optimize networking connections between international financiers and film executives from around the world. The objective is to create new filmmaking opportunities in the Middle East and establish Abu Dhabi as a filmmaking hub.  During the FFC, top-level financiers and executives from local businesses as well as the international investment and entertainment arenas will collaborate and participate in a variety of unique programs to provide industry insiders with innovative investment options, while allowing filmmakers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to have their projects brought to fruition.

"The significant level of capital accessible in Abu Dhabi is one reason we've been able to attract the high profile executives attending," says Executive Director Nashwa Al Ruwaini.  "Another lies in the city embracing the brightest minds available to help create a strong foundation."

Among the initiatives introduced are the newAbu Dhabi Film Fund, designed to bridge the co-production and financing gap that exists between Europe, America, and the rest of the world, and the InCircle Pearl Grant, which is created to expose emerging filmmakers to high-level industry decision makers and to facilitate the financing of their projects.

"I'm delighted to have Harvey kick off the conference. He epitomizes the international power players Abu Dhabi would like to partner with," says Conference Director Adrienne Briggs.  "By the end of the FFC, I'm confident the international motion picture industry will recognize the potential Abu Dhabi has to become a leading film community in the Middle East."

The Film Financing Circle is poised to have a tremendous impact in its opening year and promises to provide unique opportunities to everyone involved. One of the industry's

greatest movie moguls, Harvey Weinstein, will launch the program with his keynote speech on the State of International Co-productions.

Harvey Weinstein launched The Weinstein Company, a multi-media company, with his brother Bob on October 1st, 2005.  Dimension Films, the genre label that began at Miramax, is also included under The Weinstein Company banner.

Since launching on October 1, 2005, The Weinstein Company and Dimension Films have released many films, some of which include "Derailed," "Wolf Creek," "Transamerica," "The Matador," "Mrs. Henderson Presents," "Hoodwinked," "Scary Movie 4," "Pulse," "Shut Up & Sing," and "Grindhouse."  "Bobby," "Lucky Number Slevin" "Clerks II," "School for Scoundrels," "Factory Girl," "Miss Potter," are Weinstein Company presentations that have been theatrically released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios (MGM).

Upcoming films to be released by The Weinstein Company and Dimension Films include the heartfelt drama "Grace Is Gone" starring John Cusack, and Anton Corbijn's "Control" about former Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis.  

In 1979, he and his brother Bob started Miramax, one of the most successful independent distribution and production houses. Willing to take risks, the Weinsteins utilized specialized marketing and distribution strategies, individually tailoring each film's release to suit its particular strengths. Their inventive marketing techniques are widely known to be responsible for many artistic success stories.

Under Harvey and Bob's leadership, Miramax Films released some of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful independent feature films. The outstanding quality of Miramax's films under the Weinsteins leadership was represented in the company's success in the annual Academy AwardsÒ. Under the Weinsteins, Miramax received 249 Academy AwardÒ nominations and won 60 Academy AwardsÒ. They include: "Pulp Fiction," "Il Postino," "The English Patient," "Good Will Hunting," "Life Is Beautiful," "Shakespeare In Love," "Gangs of New York," "Chicago," and "The Aviator."

Some of Harvey's other accolades include being named a Commander of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the British film industry, and being made Chevaliers de Arts et des Lettres (Chevaliers of the Order of Arts and Letters) at the French Consulate in New York City. This great honor was bestowed to recognize Miramax's efforts in greatly increasing the presence and popularity of foreign films in the United States.

Harvey Weinstein is also active in the philanthropic community on issues such as poverty, AIDS, juvenile diabetes, and multiple sclerosis research. He serves on the Board of Robin Hood, New York City's premiere non-profit organization in fighting poverty, and recently co-chaired their annual benefit where they raised a record $72 million in one night.

Joining Harvey Weinstein are a multitude well-respected industry professionals who will form six powerhouse InCircle Teams to create a marketing and finance strategy for six chosen projects. Filmmakers will have the opportunity to pitch their projects and the winner of the InCircle Pearl grant will be unveiled at the Film Financing Circle's Closing Night Gala. 

In addition to those previously announced, confirmed panelists of the Film Financing Circle include:

Isabel Begg - Senior Legal and Business Affairs Manager, BBC Films  (UK)

Since 2002, Begg has worked as Head of Business and Legal Affairs for BBC Films and is currently Senior Legal and Business Affairs Manager for Fiction. She qualified as a solicitor in 1992 and left private practice to join Miramax Film Corp, where she initially worked as personal assistant to Harvey Weinstein, while also acting as Director of Legal Affairs for Miramax UK. Begg worked at Miramax for nine years as the Head of Business Affairs UK.

Paul Federbush - Senior Vice President, Production & Acquisitions, Warner Independent Pictures (USA)

Federbush is Senior Vice President of Production & Acquisitions for Warner Independent Pictures, a specialized division of Warner Bros. which finances, produces, and acquires feature films budgeted under $20 million.  Federbush and his team acquired the Oscar-winning doc March of the Penguins, and the Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe-winning Paradise Now.  The acquisitions currently on the slate include: Michael Haneke's remake of Funny Games, Leonardo DiCaprio's environmental documentary The 11th Hour, and David Gordon Green's Snow Angels

Ryan Kavanaugh - Founder and CEO, Relativity Media, LLC (USA)               
Kavanaugh is the founder and CEO of Relativity Media, LLC, a financing, consulting and production company that structures slate financing for both major studios and independent production entities as well as produces and finances its own productions. Kavanaugh has created structures which have financed $7 billion of total film production budgets.  He is credited with establishing the recent wave of structured finance off balance sheet transactionsKavanaugh has produced (or financed) over 35 major feature films, including, Talladega Nights and Pursuit Of Happyness.

Branko Lustig - Producer (Croatia)

Legendary film producer Branko Lustig won an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and BAFTA for his work as a producer on Schindler's List.   He more recently produced the box office record-breaker and Academy Award winner Gladiator.  Lustig's collaboration with Ridley Scott has yielded such acclaimed films as American Gangster, Kingdom of Heaven, Black Hawk Down, and Hannibal.  

Deepak Nayar - Executive Producer, Kintop Pictures (UK/India)

Nayar began his career in his native India by collaborating with the Merchant Ivory group before moving to Los Angeles, where he started Kintop Pictures.  The first features from Kintop Pictures were the critically acclaimed Lost Highway and award winning The End Of Violence and Best Documentary Academy Award nominated The Buena Vista Social Club.  Nayar made his mark on the British film industry in 2001 with the Golden Globe and BAFTA nominatedBend It LikeBeckham, the highest grossing British financed film in UK box office history. He recently produced The Mistress of Spices and the supernatural thriller Broken Thread.

Ted Sarandos - Chief Content Officer, Netflix (USA)

With more than 20 years of experience in home entertainment, Sarandos is recognized in the industry as an innovator in film acquisition and distribution. Sarandos oversees strategic content acquisition for Netflix and manages the company's relationships with studios, networks, filmmakers and producers. Since joining the company in 2000, the Netflix DVD library has increased from 2,000 to 80,000 and has grown to 6.8 million subscribers. 

Nansun Shi - Executive Director, Film Workshop (Hong Kong)

Named one of the 50 most influential independent filmmakers and Hollywood players by Variety in September 2005, Shi's star is still rising after working in the Asian film scene for over 20 years.  Born in Hong Kong, her film career began when she joined Cinema City Company Ltd.  Nansun then founded Film Workshop Co Ltd, an independent film production company with her husband Tsui Hark, a prominent Asian producer and director.  Film Workshop has produced a number of internationally-acclaimed box office successes including the Once Upon A time in China series, the A Chinese Ghost Story series, Peking Opera Blues and Black Mask 1 & 2. In 2001 she joined the Media Asia Group, where she executive produced the award-winning box office hit Infernal Affairs.

Graham Taylor - Head, Endeavor Independent (USA)

Graham Taylor is head of Endeavor Independent, a recently established arm of the Endeavor Agency.  Completed projects on which Endeavor Independent has helped arrange financing include Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's Babeland Rodrigo Garcia's Nine Lives. Other films on which the department has worked include Inferno Distribution's The Good Night, with Penelope Cruz and Gwyneth Paltrow; The Battle In Seattle, from Insight Film Studios; and live-action 3D drama Sanctum, which James Cameron is producing for Rogue Pictures.

Deborah Zipser - Head of Business Affairs, River Road Entertainment (USA)

Zipser is head of business affairs at River Road Entertainment, a company known for financing and producing bold and provocative feature films such as the Academy Award nominated epic, BrokebackMountain. Prior to joining River Road, Zipser served in a senior investment role with Film Finance Corporation Australia; Australia's largest film and television fund, putting finance and distribution in place as well as overseeing FFC's interests with respect to their feature film and television slate.

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