Fox International Productions chief Sanford Panitch, producer Walter Parkes, UK industry stalwart Stewart Till and UTA’s Rich Klubeck will be among the keynote speakers and attendees at the Abu Dhabi Film Commission’s 2009 Circle Conference.

The third Circle Conference, which runs from October 9-11, will include panels on digital content, new approaches to financing, distribution, and regional co-productions.

Abu Dhabi Film Commissioner David Shepheard told reporters yesterday  (September 13) that the Conference would also launch the Emirates Training Council for media education and for the first time would include a panel on women in film.

Shepheard also announced the five finalists in the Shasha Grant Award for screenwriters. Haifaa Al Mansour’s Wajda, Annemarie Jacir’s When I Saw You, Engi Wassef’s The Beautiful Game, Rezah Abi Rafeh’s Zahra, and Nadeem Thabet’s A Lebanese Story will contest the prize of a $100,000 development award and a first-look deal with Imagenation Abu Dhabi.

Bassem Kudsi, special projects manager at the Abu Dhabi Authority For Culture, Heritage, said the Film Commission played a key role in Abu Dhabi’s 30-year economic growth plan. “We’re working to build bridges and make Abu Dhabi the cultural hub of the Middle East,” Kudsi said.