United Arab Emirates Film & Photography Production Services & Camera Crews
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? Contact us for trusted fixers, producers, directors, DoPs, videographers, photographers, and full shooting crews tailored for the specific needs of your project.
Filming in the United Arab Emirates
For an introduction to shooting in the United Arab Emirates see below notes on film locations, permits, when to shoot, unique local stories, costs, tax incentives, crews, talent, equipment, communications, art department, studios, post facilities, visas and work permits for filming, transport, film-friendly accommodation, and safety advice.
United Arab Emirates Film Locations
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. Abu Dhabi is the largest emirate. The remaining six emirates are located in the north-east.
Given the country’s wealth and rapid pace of growth, there always seems to be a supply of newly built cutting-edge modern architecture. Beyond the cities, the Emirates also offer beautiful natural locations including white sand beaches, desert sand dunes, wadis and arid mountains. Newly built roads and tunnels cut through spectacular rocky landscapes.
Oil and gas facilities are the main industrial film location. Date palms are the main agricultural crop. Commercial fishing boats are also available for filming.
European productions flock to film in the Emirates given the warm climate, short flights, and a reliable established film infrastructure.
The Emirates have hosted films such as Dune (2021), Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018), Star Trek Beyond (2016), Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015), Fast & Furious 7 (2015), Mission Impossible Ghost Protocol (2011), The Kingdom (2007), and Syriana (2005).
As well as unique film locations, the Emirates is also are a popular destination to double Middle Eastern looks. War Machine (2017) filmed Abu Dhabi for Afghanistan. Baby (2015) represented Abu Dhabi for Istanbul. Syriana (2005) doubled Dubai for the Iranian desert.
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:
Dubai is the main business centre and film production hub. A city that keeps setting records, Dubai is home to the world’s tallest building; The Burj Khalifa, and the world’s only 7-star hotel; The Burj al Arab. Palm Deira, Palm Island and Palm Jumeirah are man-made, palm-shaped islands visible from space. The World Islands and The Universe are constructed in the shape of their namesakes. The Atlantis Hotel offers underwater suites. The Dubai Marina is home to Dubai Internet City, Dubai Media City and the American University in Dubai. The Dubai Mall is one of the world’s largest malls. Ski Dubai is an indoor snow skiing facility located in the Mall of the Emirates, where a short walk will take you from snow to hot desert sand. The Dubai Fountain is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system. The Green Planet building houses a vertical tropical rainforest. Dubai Miracle Garden is the world’s largest flower garden. Aquaventure Waterpark has an underwater slide (Leap of Faith) and free-fall slide (Poseidon’s Revenge). Wild Wadi Waterpark has a heated or cooled wave pool, two artificial surfing machines, and numerous water slides. The Musuem of the Future is a unique structure. The Dubai Frame is the world’s largest picture frame at 150 metres offering views of the modern and old city. Mohammed bin Rashid Library is another contemporary film location of note. As is the Dubai Opera building. The Dubai Gold Souk and Spice Souk are interesting locations. Al Fahidi Historical District is a beautiful location. The Dubai Museum is the oldest building in Dubai. The Satwa District is a lower-income area known for its ethnic diversity. The Meydan Racecourse accommodates over 60,000 spectators. The Al Qudra Cycle Track is a 100km track designed for cyclists. Deep Dive Dubai is a pool that goes to a depth of 60metres (196ft). Dunes can be found within an hour of the city.
Heading out of Dubai, Hatta Heritage Village is a reconstruction of a traditional mountain village located in the Al Hajar Mountains.
Other locations of note include Wasit Natural Reserve, Snoopy Island, and the oasis city of Al Ain.
Abu Dhabi is the capital and main cultural centre. The city’s museums have some of the world’s most impressive new modern architecture. Museums of note include the Louvre Abu Dhabi, Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Zayed National Museum, Maritime Museum, and Performing Arts Centre. Other structures of note include Qasr Al Watan, Emirates Palace Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, Al Dar HQ, and Capital Gate Building. Yas Marina Circuit is home to the F1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Abu Dhabi’s islands also offer beautiful aerial shots. Masdar City is the world’s first zero-carbon city.
Heading out of the city of Abu Dhabi, Al Madam is a ghost village that has been consumed by desert sands.
Liwa Oasis featured in Dune (2021).
Emirates Film Location Permits
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.
When To Shoot?
Most of the Emirates has a desert climate characterized by extreme heat during the day and an abrupt drop in temperature at night. Summers from June to August are humid and have very high temperatures. Thunderstorms and dust storms can strike suddenly and impact visibility. October to March has milder conditions and is the best time to shoot for weather. For monthly weather statistics please see here.
Events of interest to filmmakers and photographers include the following:
• 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.
The Emirates are a predominately Muslim country. Many services close during the holy month of Ramadan, making filming during this period more difficult.
Public holidays may affect timing, availability and costs. See here for public holiday dates in the Emirates.
Unique Local Stories
Brands are looking for local stories that match their brand narrative. Our local teams are a great lead for sourcing those unique stories and characters.
If you are looking for stories for your next shoot, send us your brief and we will pitch you ideas.
If you have a unique story you would like to pitch to a brand anywhere in the world, pitch us your idea. We have well-established processes to ensure that your ideas are properly seen and protected.
Costs & Tax Incentives
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.
Film Crew & Talent
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.
Arabic is the official language although English is also widely spoken.
Citizens are ethnic Emirati Arabs, although they only make up a small percentage of the people living in the Emirates. The majority are expats from South Asia, Egypt, Philippines, and Caucasians from all over the western world. As such, the Emirates offers a very good variety of locally based multicultural talent.
Emirates Film Equipment
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.
Communications. Communication is key. Our agility and global experience allows us to customise the right communications systems for every shoot.
Web posted casting, scouting, and videoconferencing.
For clients that are unable to attend set we offer a virtual video village solution. This dedicated and secure high-resolution video streaming platform allows clients from one or multiple timezones to view setups without compromise and to participate in real-time with the team on set. Separate systems can be set up for the discrete conversations that are required to make a job run right. Working remotely with our local teams reduces your content production costs, turnaround times, carbon footprint, and risks associated with unpredictable global events.
Art Department, Studios, Backlots, & Post Production
Art department and set construction. The Emirates has reasonably good set design, dressing and SPFX crews. There are several good locally based production designers.
Studios. There are several good studio faciltities. The largest is Dubai Studio City which is home to the most advanced sound stages in the Middle East and North Africa. The studio complex includes modern sound studios, production offices, hair and make-up, dressing rooms, workshops, warehouses, water tanks, a backlot, and post production suites. Abu Dhabi’s Yas Creative Hub has state of the art studio facilities.
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.
Visas & Work Permits
Crews travelling on most Western passports can enter the Emirates visa-free or obtain visas on arrival. There is no need for work permits.
Transport & Accommodation
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:
Safety. The Emirates is a very safe and reliable filming centre. See here for up to date travel advice.
Down Time. Unique architecture. Luxury hotels. Shopping. Entertainment.
Projects. For an example of TV commercials, stills campaigns, online content, corporate videos, virtual reality 360 content, feature films, TV series and documentaries shot in the Emirates, please see below:
Hire United Arab Emirates Production Support & Shooting Crew
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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