thanks man for your calling
Mohammed Nawafleh (Gabaah )
Busy Jordan offers picturesque filming locations and reduced-rate resources
Rave reviews abound for the newest Arab country to make a dent in global high-end feature film production. But how has Jordan been so successful so quickly? Simple: develop an infrastructure and then give international producers access to an array of fantastic military hardware and manpower.
Fair Game, The Hurt Locker and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen are all features that the Royal Film Commission of Jordan has managed to reel in over the last few years. The presence of George David, the Commission’s General Manager, in a prestigious two-year membership of the AFCI’s Board of Directors has clearly helped the global profile too. He explains exactly why things are going so well:
“[It’s down to] low-cost production services, no-cost public location fees, Government support and, of course, the wide variety of picturesque locations. We have a solid filming infrastructure that includes a very skilled and efficient crew base. In comparison to its competitors Jordan is a very cost-effective location. Also, its versatile and diverse landscapes mean it can double for numerous global locations. Crew in Jordan are very dedicated and efficient. Equally, Jordan is so hospitable and stable that foreign film crews feel safe and welcome.”
We have a solid filming infrastructure that includes a very skilled and efficient crew base. In comparison to its competitors Jordan is a very cost-effective location.
George David, Royal Film Commission of Jordan
The recent flurry of high-end features shows no sign of letting up, either. George is only halfway through 2011, but there’s already been lots of activity:
“We have had four international major feature films shot in Jordan so far this year. A US studio production, a production from Hong Kong, one from Sweden and a US/Jordanian feature film just completed filming. There are several other international films coming to Jordan in 2011.”
Raffi Etyemezian, Managing Director of Platform Studios in nearby Beirut, whose sister company SLATE provides productions services across Jordan, agrees that the country has strength and depth in terms of productions needs:
“It is an amazing filming location due to the co-existence of contrasting environments and sites. The Dead Sea and Red Sea, plus mountains, rolling hills, river valleys and deserts, are all just a couple of hours driving distance from each other. Its extraordinary good weather and its remarkable historical sites make the country even more attractive.”
But why is it so popular? Well, Hollywood’s passion for action and explosions – particularly in a locale that can double for Iraq – has made Jordan a shoo-in for films set in the context of America’s recent political history. In common with other Middle Eastern states whose Governments see high-profile features as a door to the expansion of tourism and increased global profiles, the Jordanian Government has made no secret of its enthusiastic support for the big US movies. George explains:
“The Royal Film Commission is actually a Governmental entity and the Government is fully supportive of filming. We receive constant support from many Government divisions.”
These divisions can include police and military resources at knock-down rates, resulting in big savings for the budgets of films like The Hurt Locker and Fair Game. Productions can make huge gains on these resources, which could have cost millions in fees elsewhere. Ghassan Salti, of long-established services company Film Crew in Amman, confirms this:
“The Government and the Commission completely support any project that might boost the production and film industry, such as closing down streets, providing military personnel and military equipment for hire. They arrange for any public location without any restrictions on what producers can do. This is a huge bonus for ambitious action shoots.”
The Government and the Commission completely support any project that might boost the production and film industry, such as closing down streets, providing military personnel and military equipment for hire. They arrange for any public location without any restrictions on what producers can do.
Ghassan Salti, Film Crew
Ilaria Dei, Sales & Marketing Manager of Petra-based Filming in Jordan, elaborates: “With this kind of help from the Government many sites in Jordan will grant permission but also waive fees. These opportunities do not cost anything! It means that we get clearance at zero costs for the producers. It’s a fantastic situation for producers!”
Ilaria also notes that custom clearance is very efficient and fast so that the international producers can bring their own equipment as a potential alternative to a wide selection of shooting equipment available all over the country.
What about the effect of the Arab Spring? It ignited unrest across much of the Middle East at the tail end of 2010 and developed with the killing of Osama Bin Laden in mid 2011. While the unrest is bound to be an insurance issue for producers, production people on the ground in Jordan are keen to push just exactly how safe Jordan is for film crews. Ghassan puts it in a nutshell: “If any producer has a Middle-Eastern story and there is the need to double for Iraq for example, the safety is going to be the main concern and it’s simple - Jordan is the safest country from the Arab world.”
Middle Eastern rivals won’t welcome the news that on top of Jordan’s stability and recent success, the Government and Commission are considering beefing up incentives for international productions further, as George David explains:
“There are no tax incentives here so far. However, we are working on this and hope to introduce such a scheme in the near future. Currently, we offer custom exemptions on equipment, scouting and free access to public locations and permits, no income tax for international cast and crew, free access to public security through the police force and reduced costs of army services. We also offer a crew training incentive called Film Train, whereby the film commission covers the salaries of select local crew members.”
If international producers lump together safety, infrastructure, value for money, richness of location and – if you are an action film - the array of exciting military toys available to play with when you get there, it is hard to beat the prospect of shooting in Jordan. This is exactly why Hollywood keeps on coming.
Images courtesy of the Jordan Film Commission & FilmCrew - email@example.com
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