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The United Arab Emirates is a federation of seven emirates consisting of Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain. The emirate of Abu Dhabi occupies most of the country. The remaining six emirates are located in the north-east.
The Emirates have hosted films such as Star Wars Episode VII, Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol, Bourne Legacy, Syriana, and Kingdom. European productions flock to film in the Emirates given the warm climate, short flights, and a reliable established film infrastructure.
Given the country’s wealth and rapid pace of growth, there always seems to be a supply of newly built cutting edge modern architecture. Newly built roads and tunnels cut through spectacular rocky landscapes. Beyond the cities, the Emirates also offer beautiful natural looks including white sand beaches, desert sand dunes, wadis and rocky mountains.
Dubai and Abu Dhabi are the main production centres. Film locations can be divided by those productions based out of Dubai, and those based out of Abu Dhabi…
Are you a media company, brand, ad agency or production company looking for film / photography production support or shooting crew in the United Arab Emirates? We have fully vetted, locally based fixers, service producers, directors, DP’s, videographers, cameramen, photographers, sound operators, production drivers, and a range of other film crew. Contact us for referrals, questions, cost estimates and references.
Want to know more about shooting in the United Arab Emirates? See below for an introduction to Emirati locations, permits, when to shoot, costs, talent, crews, equipment, art department, studios, post facilities, visas and work permits, film friendly hotels, transport, communications and safety advice.
Ras Al Khaimah is the northernmost emirate of the United Arab Emirates. It's known for its Arabian Gulf beaches. In the capital city of the same name, the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah occupies a centuries-old fort. The museum features regional history and archaeological exhibits. Nearby is the large, traditional Mohammed bin Salem Mosque. Northeast, the mountaintop Dhayah Fort dates from the 19th century.Ras Al Khaimah is the northernmost emirate of the United Arab Emirates. It's known for its Arabian Gulf beaches. In the capital city of the same name, the National Museum of Ras Al Khaimah occupies a centuries-old fort. The museum features regional history and archaeological exhibits. Nearby is the large, traditional Mohammed bin Salem Mosque. Northeast, the mountaintop Dhayah Fort dates from the 19th century.
Visiting productions must apply for permits through a local production house who take responsibility for the production. The Emirates are film-friendly, so permits are generally a very quick and easy process. Privately owned locations such as the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall require additional permits. Unauthorised filming of sensitive government locations as well as oil and gas facilities, is illegal. Projects that involve nudity or promotion of alcoholic drinks may not be filmed in the Emirates. Drone filming is possible in the Emirates. Please contact us for location specific information.
Most of the Emirates has a desert climate characterized by extreme heat during the day and an abrupt drop in temperature at night. June to August has very high temperatures with dust storms common. October to March has milder conditions and is the best time to shoot for weather. For monthly weather statistics please see here.
Many services close during the holy month of Ramadan, making filming during this period more difficult.
The Emirates World Series Horse Race is the world’s richest horse race, takes place in April.
The camel racing calendar runs from September to March.
Public holidays may affect timing, availability and costs. See here for public holiday dates in the Emirates.
Costs. The Emirates are one of the more expensive countries in the Middle East. Hotels during peak season can get very expensive. Standard shoot day costs are comparable with South Africa. Our Emirati fixer / service producer will negotiate local deals and provide the appropriate level of production support to match every budget.
Tax Incentives. The Abu Dhabi Film Commission offers a 30% cash-back rebate on productions, including feature films, television dramas (including series), commercials, music videos, other television formats, such as lifestyle, reality, game shows and entertainment programmes, post-production, digital content services and visual effects (PDV) services for projects shot inside or outside Abu Dhabi. For more information see here.
Crews. The Emirates has a good pool of local and expat directors, directors of photography and stills photographers. Many experienced foreign crew have relocated to Dubai so there is a good depth of impressive locally based crews. Both key and supporting crews speak fluent English and work to an international standard. Crews are non-union.
Contact us if you are looking for a Dubai or Abu Dhabi based director, DP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, or any other film crew for your shoot in the Emirates.
Talent is non-union and buyouts are negotiable. Talent costs are by western standards quite competitive. The Emirates has a very good variety of locally based multicultural talent. Many are foreigners who have relocated to Dubai. There is a shortage of good talent over the age of 50.
Equipment. Arri, Panavision, and RED equipment is available locally. All standard camera, grip and lighting equipment is available including more specialised equipment such as Russian Arm, Technocrane, and gyro heads. The Emirates is an ATA carnet country if you’re looking at bringing in your own gear. Drone equipment can only be rented from a local supplier that is registered with the General Civil Aviation Authority. It is not possible to bring in your own drone equipment.
Art department and set construction. The Emirates has reasonably good set design, dressing and SPFX crews. There are three good locally based production designers.
Studios. Dubai Studio City is home to the most advanced soundstages in the Middle East and North Africa. The studio complex also includes modern editing suites, production offices, hair and make-up, dressing rooms, workshops, warehouses, water tanks, and a backlot.
Backlots. The Khalifa Industrial Zone has a 19th century Jeddah, Saudi Arabia backlot with a town centre, stores, mosque and houses. The backlot offers a safer and easier alternative to filming in other Middle Eastern locations.
Post Production. Good standard of local post facilities including animators, editors, colorists, and visual effects teams. There is no film lab in the Emirates. Mumbai has the closest lab for film processing 35mm and 16mm.
Crews travelling on most Western passports can enter the Emirates visa-free or obtain visas on arrival. There is no need for work permits.
Transportation Infrastructure is all up to known and expected world standards. The Emirates have a very new and modern transportation infrastructure. Many airlines service the Emirates internationally including direct flights from Los Angeles to Abu Dhabi.
Accommodation. Peak season from November to May can be very expensive for hotels. It is more cost efficient to book hotels online than to book through the Emirates. Contact us for recommended film friendly hotels in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. For longer stays we can also organize serviced apartments. Accommodation of note include:
If you are looking for a film or photographic production service company, line producer or fixer for your shoot in the Emirates, please contact us.
If you are looking for a shooting crew for your shoot in the Emirates, such as a director, DoP, photographer, videographer (cameraman / camera operator), camera assistant (focus puller), sound operator, grip, gaffer, stylist, hair and makeup, PA / runner, production driver, please contact us.
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