'Student competition to help boost film industry'

DUBAI — "No one here really understands the film industry," says Michelle Nickelson, "because to really understand, you have to see it." That's why for the second year in a row she is organising a nationwide contest for young film makers in the UAE. In November, 20 winners will go to Hollywood for a week and attend an industry premiere of their films.

By Alma Kadragic

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Published: Tue 25 Jul 2006, 12:03 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 7:18 PM

The winners in 2005 were hosted by Warner Independent Pictures for the industry premiere of Paradise Now, the award-winning film from Palestinian film maker Hany Abu-Assad, at The Director's Guild of America and showed their own films to an audience of Hollywood insiders. In addition they toured Warner Brothers Studios. The students were also guests on the Tonight Show with Jay Leno that is seen across the U.S. and by satellite in the Middle East.

The visit provided "a chance for people in the U.S. to see what is truly going on in the UAE" and to break some stereotypes about Arabs and the Gulf, Nickelson explained, adding, "people were amazed at the sophistication of the films we brought." At the same time, the trip opened the eyes of the young Emiratis by letting them see inside the Hollywood film industry. This year Nickelson plans to launch the contest on July 25. Students from any university in the UAE will be invited to submit films on any subject in any style. The only requirements are that films be no shorter than two minutes and no longer than 12 minutes and include English subtitles if they are in another language. They may be shot on video or film but must be submitted on DVD. Although the deadline for submission is October 15, Nickelson urges students — no professionals allowed — to get their films in as soon as possible since all the entries will be shown on UAE television beginning in August. Television viewers voting by SMS and faculty from the College of Communication and Media Sciences at Zayed University will evaluate the films. The top 30 entries will be selected, 50 per cent by SMS and 50 per cent by the ZU panel. From the top 30, Nickelson and her team will choose the 10 winning films.

The student film contest is related to what Nickelson says she considers her mission: To provide a setting in the UAE where major films and advertising can be produced. As President and COO of Mirage Holdings Free Zone, a recently announced mega project to set up a film industry in Ras Al Khaimah, Nickelson says the first phase — to be completed within 18 months — is to build a production studio, which specialises in visual effects and a film school for university graduates. "In the U.S. we have so many things for young film makers. Here something like this is needed, for students who take film and media in college and want to progress to a professional graduate programme in films," Nickelson declared. "If you can give them a platform, they will create some interesting work." She also expects the studio to provide jobs for many of the film school's graduates.

To submit a film, the entry form can be downloaded from www.neginc.biz

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