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Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia 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 Saudi Arabia? Contact us for trusted fixers, producers, directors, DoPs, videographers, photographers, and full shooting crews tailored for the specific needs of your project.

Filming in Saudi Arabia

For an introduction to shooting in Saudi Arabia 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.

Saudi Arabia Film Locations

Once a nation known for restricting visitors and banning cinemas, Saudi Arabia is opening up to global filmmaking.

Saudi Arabia is known for its rich heritage, vibrant culture, and diverse and breathtaking landscapes, from the mountains of Abha to the beaches of the Red Sea to the shifting sands of the Empty Quarter.

Saudi Arabia is the world’s leading oil exporter. The kingdom has no lakes or rivers.

Malcolm X (1992) was the first non-documentary to be given permission to film in Mecca. Other productions of note that filmed partly in Saudi Arabia include and A Hologram for the King (2016), and Baraka (1992).

Film locations can be divided into the following regions:

Qassim

Located at the heart of the country, the region is known for its desert landscape, palm tree plantations, and production of dates.

Riyadh

Riyadh is the capital and main financial hub. The city skyline is known for the Kingdom Centre and Al Faisaliyah Center. Masmak Fortress is a clay and mud-brick fort located in the old quarters. On the outskirts of the city, the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center is an impressive example of modern architecture.

Tabuk

The northwestern region is known for its natural wonders such as Wadi Tayib Ism.

The Red Sea offers impressive underwater photography options minus the large number of divers found in Egyptian Red Sea dive sites.

Madinah

The city of Medina is home to the vast Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (Prophet’s Mosque), a major Islamic pilgrimage site.

Mada’in Saleh (also called Al-Ḥijr) is an impressive archaeological site. It was the Nabateans’ second-largest city after Petra. The location has yet to see major filming, making it a unique option for your next production.

Al-Ula is an abandoned warren of ancient mud-brick and stone houses.

Makkah

Mecca is the holiest city in Islam. Every year over 2 million Muslims undertake the Hajj. Pilgrims visit the Kaabah, the Mountain of Light, the Plain of Arafat and the House of Abdullah Bin Abdul Muttalib, where the Prophet Muhammad was born. Non-Muslims are strictly prohibited from entering the city of Mecca. Pilgrims must hold special visas issued by the Saudi government.

Jeddah’s is a Red Sea port city known for its coral houses and souqs. Of note for filmmakers is the old neighbourhood of Al-Balad. Once completed, the Jeddah Tower will be the tallest building in the world.

Al Wahbah Crater is also located in this region.

Northern Borders

The desert region is the least populated in the country.

Jawf

Marid Castle is located in this region.

Ha’il

A’arif fort is located in this region.

Bahah

The region is known for its mountainous landscapes and green valleys.

Jizan

The southern region is known for its mountainous landscapes, forests, and production of coffee, grains, and fruits.

‘Asir

The region receives more rainfall than the rest of the country and contains the country’s highest peaks and forests.

Najran

Located on the southern border, the region is known for its mountainous landscapes and green valleys.

Rijal Alma village is known for its traditional multiple-story buildings much like those found in Yemen.

Najran is a city where mud brick forts rise out of palm plantations and oasis.

Eastern Province

The Empty Quarter is largest sea of sand in the world.

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture is located in the city of Dhahran. 

Saudi Arabia Film Location Permits

Saudi Arabia is slowly opening up to global productions. That said, unauthorised photography of government buildings, military installations, oil facilities, and palaces is prohibited. Any photography that may be perceived as portraying the country in an unfavorable light can be shut down by the film police, even if you have a valid film permit. This can include filming people, mosques, souks, and impoverished areasOnly Muslims can enter the holy city of Mecca. Strict rules apply to filming of religious sites. Please contact us for more location specific information.

When To Shoot?

Most of Saudi Arabia has a desert climate with hot, dry days and cold nights. Coastal areas are more humid. Summer (May to September) is very hot with almost no rainfall. Winter (November to February) has mild days and chilly nights. For monthly weather statistics please see here.

Most festivals and events are based on the Islamic calendar. Ramadan is strictly observed with many services closed during this period. The Hajj pilgrimage is a religious duty undertaken by Muslims each year during the last month of the Islamic calendar year. As far as non-religious events go, the Janadriyah Festival, featuring horse and camel races, takes place in February.

Public holidays may affect timing, availability and costs. See here for public holiday dates in Saudi Arabia.

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.

Saudi Arabia Costs & Tax Incentives For Filming

Costs. Saudi Arabia is expensive with costs similar to Dubai. Since little to no filming infrastructure exists all key crew, equipment and talent need to be brought in from abroad which will add to the cost of filming. Our Saudi fixer / service producer will negotiate local deals and provide the appropriate level of production support to match every budget.

Tax Incentives. Saudi Arabia is planning a 35% cash rebate to incentivise international film production as well as a 50% rebate available for spend on Saudi labour.

Saudi Arabia Film Crew & Talent

Crews. Saudi Arabia has a very small pool of directors, videographers and stills photographers. Key crew should be brought in from abroad. Dubai is the closest major production centre.

Contact us if you are looking for a 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 Saudi Arabia.

Talent day rates and buyouts are negotiable. Saudi Arabia offers mainly Arabic looking talent. All other talent needs to be cast abroad. Given the conservative nature of the country, the pool of female talent is limited. In fact, filming women or places where women congregate without prior permission, can create problems.

Saudi Arabia Film Equipment

Equipment. Only the most basic camera, grip and lighting equipment is available locally. You will need to bring in most standard equipment from abroad. Saudi Arabia is not an ATA carnet country.

Communication. Some websites are blocked from access.

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.

Saudi Arabia Art Department, Studios, Backlots, & Post Production

Art department and set construction is very basic.

Studios and backlots. None exist at present.

Post Production. Post abroad.

Saudi Arabia Visas & Work Permits For Filming

Saudi Arabia is opening up to global productions and tourism. 90 day multiple entry tourist visas are available for western passport holders online, on arrival or at Saudi diplomatic missions. US passport holders see here for more information. Visitors holding passports containing any Israeli visa or stamp could be refused entry. There are no restrictions for unaccompanied women as in the past. Muslims can now perform Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca outside of Hajj season. Special visas are still required for Hajj. Wait times for any kind of visas tend to be longer during Hajj.

Saudi Arabia Transport & Accommodation

Transportation Infrastructure. Main roads are well maintained. Saudi Arabia is a large country so domestic flights are generally the best way to cover vast distances. Saudi Arabian Airlines is the main domestic carrier. Several international airlines service flights to Saudi Arabia.

Accommodation. Recommended film friendly hotels in Riyadh include:

Sheraton Riyadh Hotel & Towers
Al Faisaliah Hotel
Four Seasons

Please contact us for corporate rates.

For longer stays we can also organize serviced apartments.

Final Notes

Safety. See here for up to date travel advice. Alcoholic beverages are strictly forbidden throughout the country although this is rarely enforced in expat compounds.

Down Time.

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 Saudi Arabia, please see below:

Hire Saudi Arabia Production Support & Shooting Crew

If you are looking for a film or photographic production service company, line producer or fixer for your shoot in Saudi Arabia, please contact us.

If you are looking for a shooting crew for your shoot in Saudi Arabia, 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.

We are able to provide you with answers, references and bids quickly.