Written by Muhannad Halawani on Jul 24, 2018. Posted in Contributors / General Interest

On Location in Palestine with Muhannad Halawani from The Palestine Film Club

I started in the film business in 2008 when I joined the art department of a feature called Incendies. I was soon working on a number high-end productions in different locations throughout Jordan, Israel and Palestine.

My experiences over the following six years gave me the chance to gain a comprehensive understanding of the art department as well as other departments that interested me. In 2014 I was hired as Line Producer for the Palestinian-French film, Degrade, which became a Cannes Film Festival nominee. This gave me the opportunity to start a career in production and work on different international film sets with many different crews.
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After returning to Palestine in 2017, I joined a collective of internationally-experienced Palestinian filmmakers to start an initiative called the Palestinian Film Club (PFC). It was born from a desire to bring Palestine's wide range of locations and cinematic landscapes to the international film industry. Palestine also had young and enthusiastic crews that were highly experienced and keen to work with foreign filmmakers.

dead sea sultMy role is to supervise the pre-production and production phases to make sure that clients receive the best service available at the most affordable rate without compromising on quality. When there are no productions in progress, the PFC works to organise workshops and events to develop the local film industry and improve crew skillsets.

We offer a wide range of locations and landscapes and facilitate access to them. We assist with:

Obtaining the necessary filming permits (especially for famous mosques and churches);

Location scouting based on the production’s needs with our thorough knowledge of all possible and available locations;

Customs clearance for technical equipment;

Casting and recruiting local crews and extras at competitive rates through local partner networks;

Facilitating access to production services, catering , transportation, facilities and equipment.
Palestine has a lot to offer foreign filmmakers. It is a compact region (only five hours across) with many landscapes, a range of architecture, a pleasant climate (eight months rain-free), mesmerizing springs and an ethnically diverse population. Filmmakers can find perfect sets and receive high value services while contributing to the advancement of the film production industry in Palestine.

Wadi_Lifta_abanded vellagePalestine is now implementing a range of initiatives to encourage international productions to visit as well as creating several deals with other filmmaking nations. The PFC offers a discount of up to 60%, depending on the size of the production, for the scouting/pre-production phase. Palestine is also tax-free.

Recently, a team of Bollywood producers took part in a location-scouting trip across key cities in Palestine in areas like Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Jericho, Masada, Ramallah, Sea of Galilee and the Dead Sea.

Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem are the main urban centers and typically the base cities for filming. In addition to being cinematic locations themselves, they offer access to Palestine’s more rural landscapes. The region is a very safe place to film overall with issues only likely to occur when entering areas like the Gaza Strip. We can advise you on this.

mar-saba-bethlehemProductions are allowed to bring equipment with them but may need a Carnet to avoid paying customs depending on the amount of kit. The PFC recommends hiring a local customs specialist to assist you. We also have strong partnerships with local equipment rental houses.

Palestine is ideally suited as a filming location for religious projects given the its significance to the Abrahamic religions - Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Its deserts, mountains and ancient buildings mean it can readily invoke a centuries-old setting, with many recognisable locations to choose from, such as the Sea of Galilee, nativity church, holy sepulcher church, the Dome of the Rock, and the Dead Sea.

Most of the country’s churches and religious sites charge from USD50 to USD100 for a film permit whether for exterior or interior filming. The most popular places to shoot on location in Palestine tend to be Jericho, Bethlehem, Sebastia, Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

There are so many unusual film locations that are magical and unique! The old city of Jerusalem has many hidden tunnels, water springs and plenty of other secret places that are known only to the locals.

People in Palestine are open to foreign filmmakers and are incredibly supportive and helpful. Sometimes you will be invited in for a bite to eat and the food is one of the best things we have to offer - delicious, diverse, and vegetarian friendly!

shooting dolly80% of Palestinians speak good English and Hebrew and the Palestinian Authority, together with The Ministry of Culture, is always there to support foreign productions. The PFC has established a strong relationship with the different authorities in the state to ensure their full support.

There are of course some challenging situations. The most difficult for us so far was when the Russian production Qurban requested to film in a desert near an Israeli military base. It took us four weeks to get permission, but we got it at the end.

The PFC can access both Palestinian and Israeli territories - we can provide our services on both sides with the same crew. We also have official coordinators in case we ever need anything particular from the Israeli side.
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There are also endless possibilities to relax in Palestine. Any Mediterranean beach near Yafa is wonderful or you could read a book while floating in the Dead Sea. There is a lot of good hiking opportunities which can be combined with visiting the numerous historic sites.

Palestinian nightlife is also very cool. Ramallah is a good choice for experiencing the bars and clubs. If it’s the winter, go to Jericho. It is a quiet and beautiful city about 40 km from Ramallah. It’s the oldest inhabited city in the world!
Click here to contact Muhannad.
shooting nablus

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