Written by Murray Ashton on Nov 20, 2012. Posted in On Location

Location Advisor – Exploring Film Friendly Hotels in Morocco

About 25 years ago as a young production person, I was given the enviable task of trying out hotel rooms in Juan les Pins, south of France. Our main location was a palatial villa on the Cap d’Antibes and we obviously wanted to accommodate crew and cast as close to the location as possible.

Unfortunately we were going to be on location during the height of the summer tourist season and we had a heavy night-shooting schedule so it was imperative that crew and cast would be able to get good noiseless sleep during the day. Off I went with my sound level in hand to record noise volumes over a 24-hour period in different rooms in several hotels.

It was at this point that I realised how important it was to get the hotel right. It was a key production decision and a major contributor to the overall success of any shoot.

Normal businesspeople will use a hotel for a few days, have their meeting or attend an exhibition and disappear. A film production will quite easily need to accommodate up to 600 cast and crew for months. Choosing the right hotel and getting the right deal can be crucial to the production’s success and the bottom line. For hotels, accommodating cast and crew is highly rewarding, particularly if the production is shooting out of season. The number of rooms booked and duration are unheard of in other forms of business travel, not to mention what is spent on room service or at the bar.

At The Location Guide we have the privilege of listing some outstanding ‘shoot and stay’ Moroccan hotels in our Film Friendly Locations section including. These include Palais Namaskar, Riad El Fenn, La Gazelle D’Or, L’Iglesia, Kasbah Tamadot, Kasbah du Toubkal, K Kasbah Beldi and Beldi Country Club.

I was recently in Marrakech on a brief visit writing a location report and thought about also reviewing a film friendly hotel. I called on Location Manager Christian McWilliams, who knows about film friendly hotels in Morocco having spent more than six months at Le Meridien Hotel when working on Oliver Stone’s Alexander. The suite where Stone lived, had his office and where most of the film’s local casting took place is now called The Oliver Stone Suite.

Christian suggested I stayed at the Es Saadi Hotel in Marrakech that has seen numerous productions, crew and cast pass through its doors for films like Alexander, Prince of Persia, Sahara and Rendition. It has earned its reputation for being particularly film friendly.

The Es Saadi has been owned by the delightful Bauchet-Bouhal family for three generations. It’s just ten minutes from Marrakech International Airport, minutes from the Medina and set in eight hectares of beautiful gardens.

What makes it very popular with foreign productions is that it has three distinct types of accommodation in the same location. The five-star Hotel section has 150 rooms suitable for crew, while the Palace has 92 separate suites that are suitable for heads of department and executives. Ten independent villas have private gardens, pools and butler service, making them ideal for star cast members.

“We adapt our work force to accommodate the production’s requests,” says Chief Concierge Kamal El Abd (below): “Very early breakfasts, more staff on 24-hour room service and so on. We really enjoy looking after film crews and cast here at the Es Saadi.”

Christian McWilliams is also quick to praise the hotel: “They are extremely accommodating and will go out of their way to help with any request however strange and always with that big Moroccan smile”

Es Saadi Film friendly hotel – fast facts

Hotel: 150 rooms
Palace: 92 suites
Villas x 10
Family-owned and run for three generations
5kms from Marrakech International Airport / minutes from the city centre and world famous Souk
24 hour room service
TV, mini bar and safe in all rooms
Free 24-hour WiFi throughout
Numerous meeting and conference rooms can be converted into production offices, casting rooms, prop, wardrobe or camera rooms. There are 14 meeting rooms ranging from 10 seats to a 500-person auditorium.
Double glazed sliding windows to balcony on all rooms
Spa with full facilities
Swimming pool and tennis
Good security and parking
20 acres of park and gardens (ideal for runners)
Proximity (five minutes) to vast selection of restaurants
Kids’ club

Other film production friendly hotels to consider when filming in Morocco

El Menzah -feels like the set of Casablanca.
Used by crew and cast on Sheltering Sky and The Bourne Ultimatum.

Meridien & Sheraton Hotels
Used by Robert Redford and Brad Pitt

Ouarzazate (Home of Atlas Film Studios)
Used for Gladiator, Alexander, Black Hawk Down, Kingdom of Heaven, Babel, The Mummy, The Living Daylights, Kundun, Body of Lies and Jewel of the Nile.
Berber Palace
Used by Ridley Scott. Martin Scorsese, Omar Sheriff, Russell Crowe, Brad Pitt and Leonardo DiCaprio.

Es Saadi (See above)
Le Meridien
Mamounia Hotel
Considered one of the very best hotels in the world and has hosted Sofia Coppola, Sex and the City talent and, historically, the Alfred Hitchcock film The Man Who Knew Too Much.

At The Location Guide we are always being asked for suggestions of film friendly hotels around the world by people travelling for locations scouts, production, post-production, screenings and festivals.

We would love to hear from you about your film friendly hotel experiences and recommendations.

Please contact me here.


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