Written by on Mar 31, 2010. Posted in On Location

Jordan doubles for Iraq and the wider Middle East

Jordan has been in demand for many years as a filming location. However, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003 its expansive desert landscapes have grown in popularity for film and TV projects looking to tackle the war in a safe environment.

The country has hosted the shoots of productions such as Redacted and Battle for Haditha, both of which doubled Jordanian landscapes for Iraq. Over the past year the slow-burn critical success of The Hurt Locker, culminating in Oscar glory, has also helped increase the country’s profile, while Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen filmed in places including Petra and Wadi Rum. In addition, ruins dating from the Roman and Byzantine eras remain popular for documentary shoots.

Ghassan Salti, Managing Director of Film Crew TV Production Management Agency in Jordan, said: “It is a very small country and one can travel from one point to another in a couple of hours or less experiencing diverse environments. Also, we have long hours of daylight - about 14 hours in the summer.”

In place of specific filming incentives the Royal Film Commission of Jordan offers many cost reductions. Linda Mutawi, Production Services Manager at the Royal Film Commission (RFC), said: “Currently the RFC provides all public locations at no cost and customs exemption on technical equipment coming from abroad. We assist in obtaining all the necessary clearances and permits for filming, liaise with all government and public entities and assist in recommending crew and service companies; all at no charge.”

Kate Cook, a UK-based Production Manager, worked on a series of short fact-based BBC dramas called Ten Days to War that doubled Jordan for Iraq in 2008 as it was a more financially economical option that offered the right terrain. She advised: “Find a good fixing company and allow time to sort any problems on the ground. If you allow time to negotiate, you’ll be able to get better local deals.” She praised the RFC for its “progressive, forward-thinking approach” and described the shoot as “a good experience”.

One issue facing production teams is that although modern equipment such as the Red camera is available, most other cameras need to be imported from neighbouring countries if crews do not have their own. Ms Mutawi said: “Most of the basic equipment and lighting packages are available in Jordan, while 35mm camera equipment lenses and whatever else lacks in Jordan can be easily brought in from Lebanon, Syria, Israel and Egypt at very reasonable costs.”

Amman offers a variety of studio facilities but these are used almost exclusively by domestic productions. Mr Salti said: “International productions are not interested in interiors as much as the outdoor locations we have. They can do interiors in their own city with a lot of time on their hands.”

There has also been an increase in the number of commercials filmed in Jordan, with major global brands such as Pepsi, Rolex and IBM filming in the last few years. Ms Mutawi concluded: “Because of the amazing landscapes and diversity location filming here is a gold mine.”

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