Jordan has a long and illustrious history as an international shooting location dating back to the 1960s, when David Lean’s Lawrence Of Arabia filmed in the desert wilderness of Wadi Rum.
Hundreds of international productions have since shot in the kingdom, including Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, Oscar winner The Hurt Locker and US blockbusters The Martian and X-Men: Apocalypse, drawn by its desert landscapes, iconic ancient sites such as Petra and typical Middle Eastern settings.
Productions to touch down in Jordan over the past year include Netflix’s Iraq War drama Sand Castle, directed by Fernando Coimbra, Dutch director Mijke de Jong’s Layla M, Egyptian filmmaker Osman Abu Laban’s Petra Gate and Ramazan Nanayev’s Roads To Olympia, which is about three young people escaping oppression through sport.
Jordan is generally a stable territory, with a skilled workforce and modern administration. However turmoil in neighbouring Syria and Iraq has deterred some big-budget US productions from visiting the country. This is due partly to insurance issues related to the proximity of the conflict zones.
One of the remarkable things about Jordan as a location is the variety of nationalities to have shot there over the years. As well as welcoming US and European directors, Jordan has become a production hub for indie directors in the region hailing from Palestine, the UAE and Egypt. The country’s local industry has grown in stature in recent years, thanks to the efforts of the Royal Film Commission (RFC), which supports local and international productions that choose to shoot in the territory.
For Dutch director Hanro Smitsman, the main draw was Jordan’s refugee camps that house more than a million refugees from Syria. He shot his upcoming film Brother, about two Dutch siblings of Moroccan origin who travel to Jordan in search of their missing aid-worker brother, against the backdrop of Azraq refugee camp.
Since 2014 Jordan has offered exemptions from the 16% tax on goods and services acquired in the country, as well as from customs duty on imported equipment and the withholding of income tax on local wages, which rose to 15% from 7% at the beginning of 2015.
Full details on financial incentives in Jordan: The Royal Film Commission Jordan
Infrastructure and crews
Thanks to the influx of international productions over the years and the development of the local industry, the country has a pool of skilled and experienced crew and a raft of companies offering services. As a gauge to the strength of the crews, 35 out of the 45 crew members on the recent shoot of Hanro Smitsman’s Brother hailed from Jordan. “With each film that comes into the country, we gain more experience and learn different techniques and styles,” says local line producer Issam Husseini. “Not every country has the same style of production management and we’re exposed to all of them. Basically we’re a plug-and-play crew — plug us into any production and we can play the role.”
Jordan is one of the smallest territories in the Middle East, spanning nearly 90,000 sq km. The country is connected north to south by the 250km Highway 15, known also as the Desert Highway. Taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive, and it is easy to hire a driver for a day. Driving can be erratic so buckle up. The country is served by two key airports, one outside the capital of Amman and one in Aqaba in the south.
Germen Boelens, producer, Brother, says:
“We had great first contacts with the Royal Film Commission, and Jordan has great line producing and project managing facilities. They find creative solutions to make things work on set.”
First person to call
David George, general manager, Royal Film Commission
Need to know
- DO check out the booklet by the Royal Film Commission (RFC) detailing services and requirements for shooting in Jordan.
- DO connect with the budding local industry and visit RFC’s Film House in Amman, a hub for young filmmakers that holds screenings and workshops.
- DO check your government’s travel advice before pre-production.
- DO take the time to explore Jordan’s Unesco world heritage sites including Petra and Umm ar-Rasas.
- DON’T shoot during Ramadan (May 27-June 25 in 2017), when the country shuts down. June, July and August are blisteringly hot — temperatures can hit 40ºc.