Marco Mueller may onlyyesterday have received board approval for his planned changes to theinfrastructure of the Venice festival on Tuesday, but he has wasted no timecoming up with big plans for the programme.

His forward-thinking shouldallow the industry more of a chance to plan ahead than this year's Cannes,where many selections were only firmed up very late.

Mueller last week flew toLos Angeles for a series of meetings with studios and leading independents andwas met with open arms by studio heads including Jeffrey Katzenberg and SherryLansing.

He returned to Italy withassurances of support that should allow him to dynamise the competition.Sources close to Mueller believe that the most dramatic of these should be theworld premiere and inclusion in competition of Dreamworks SKG's animated film SharkTale, which is scheduled for stateside theatrical release on 1 Oct.

Another high-profile worldpremiere is expected to come in the shape of Japanese animation maestro's HayaoMiyazaki's hugely-anticipated Howl's Moving Castle. And, continuing theanimation riff, Mueller is understood to be angling for a midnight screening ofKorea's answer to Miyazaki, Wonderful Days. The $13m eco-thriller,backed by the giant Samsung Ventures, screened earlier this year at Sundance toa muted reception. But Mueller expects to be able to put on a heavily re-editedversion, complete with new sub-titles.

From Dreamworks - which nextmonth shares its favours with Cannes in the form of Shrek 2 - Mueller isalso set to secure Stephen Spielberg's The Terminal. The Tom Hanks andCatherine Zeta-Jones-starring comedy drama is released in North America inJune, but should get its European premiere in Venice, where it could show asthe opening film.

Mueller's Venice should alsobenefit from some of Cannes' losses. The French festival had hoped to be aplatform for South African film in the country's tenth year of democracy. ButVenice looks set to be the launch-pad for the biggest South African film of theyear, Drum, which is now in advanced post-production. The 1950s-setstory of a journalist who sparks a popular revolt by exposing the governingregime, Drum is directed by Zola Maseko and produced by Chris Sievernich's LosAngeles-based Armada Pictures.

Wim Wenders and Mike Leighwill be among the high-profile Cannes no-shows that this year keep Venice'sauteur flag-flying. Wenders' Land Of Plenty, a post-9/11 relationshippiece involves a liberal young woman who returns to the US after several yearsin Palestinian territories and her uncle, an intelligence officer on a highstate of alert, but was offered a berth in Un Certain Regard. Leigh's VeraDrake, a 1950s-set tale about a do-gooder, had been offered anout-of-competition slot at Cannes, which Leigh and his entourage are understoodto have rejected.

Venice sources told ScreenInternational: "they may be established stars of the art-house scene, butdirectors like Wim Wenders and Mike Leigh are still keen for competition andare hungry for major prizes from the top-flight festivals."

Wenders' low-budget US indiepicture, produced by the InDiGent collective, may also qualify as one of thestars of the digital film-making focus that Mueller is believed to be planningto straddle several of the festival's sections. He is hoping to be able toinsist on a high degree of digital purity and include digitally-elaboratedpictures only if they are also shown using digital projectors.