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.
Agricultural film locations include plantations of palm trees, olive trees, dates, wheat, and barley. The kingdom has no lakes or rivers. As the world’s leading oil exporter, Saudi Arabia is home to many oil facilities.
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 provinces:
The province of Riyadh is located in the central part of the country.
Riyadh is the largest city, the capital, and the main financial and production 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. Tuwaiq Palace was designed by Frei Otto. On the outskirts of the city, the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center is an impressive example of modern architecture. Qiddiya entertainment city is another interesting film location.
The Edge of the World, located outside of Riyadh, is known for its towering cliffs and vast desert landscape.
Located at the heart of the country, the province is known for its desert landscapes, extensive palm tree plantations, as well as its production of dates, grapes, lemons, grapefruits, mandarins, oranges, and pomegranates. The region is also home to one of the largest camel markets in the world.
The Ḥaʼil Province is located in the centre of the country.
Jabal Umm Sinman and Jabal al-Manjur are two important rock art sites in this region.
The province is also known for its old forts and castles such as A’arif fort.
Nafud al-Kabir is a striking sand dune desert film location. The sand in the Nafud is a brick-red colour.
The Al Jawf Province is located in the north of the country.
The region is known for its lava fields, rocky mountains, deserts, and valleys. One of the country’s most fertile regions, Al Jawf’s agricultural film locations include plantations of olive trees, palm trees, wheat, barley, and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
Marid Castle is located in this province.
This northern desert region is the least populated in the country.
The northwestern province of Tabuk is known for its natural wonders such as Wadi Tayib Ism.
The Red Sea offers impressive underwater photography options without the large number of divers found in Egyptian Red Sea dive sites.
Neom Media Village and Bajdah Desert Studios are located in this province.
The Medina Province is located in the west of the country, on the Red Sea.
The city of Medina is home to the vast Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (Prophet’s Mosque), a major Islamic pilgrimage site. The mosque piazza has convertible umbrellas that shade worshipers from the heat of the sun. Medina is the second holiest city in Islam.
Qasr al-Farid (The Lonely Castle) is a stunning ancient structure located in the archaeological site of Mada’in Saleh (also called Al-Ḥijr). 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.
Haramain High Speed Railway runs between Medina and Mecca.
The Mecca Province is located in the west of the country on the Red Sea.
Mecca is the holiest city in Islam. Every year over 2 million Muslims undertake the Hajj. Pilgrims visit the Kaaba, 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. The Jeddah Corniche Circuit hosts the Saudi Arabian Formula One Grand Prix.
Al Wahbah Crater is also located in this province.
This western province is known for its mountainous landscapes and green valleys.
Named after the ʿAsir tribe, this province is located in the southwest of the country, on the Red Sea.
The province receives more rainfall than the rest of the country.
Aseer National Park is home dense juniper forests and the towering Jabal Soodah peak.
The city of Abha is known for the restored mud-walled Shada Castle.
The Jizan province is located in the far southwest of the country, on the Red Sea.
It is known for its mountainous landscapes, forests, and production of coffee, grains, and fruits.
Farasan Island Marine Sanctuary protects coral islands, dugongs, green turtles, hawksbill turtles, manta rays, whales, dolphins, and a diversity of seabird life.
Located on the southern border, the province is known for its mountainous landscapes and green valleys.
Najran is inhabited by the powerful Yam tribe.
Rijal Alma village is known for its traditional well preserved multiple-story buildings much like those found in Yemen.
Najran is a city where mud brick forts rise out of palm plantations and oasis.
The spectacular al-Habala waterfall is located in Najran.
The Eastern Province is the easternmost region, located on the Persian Gulf.
The kingdom’s main oil and gas fields are located in the Eastern Province. Locations of note include the Ghawar Field, the world’s largest onshore oil field, and the Safaniya oil field, the world’s largest offshore oil field. Ras Tanura is an important oil port in the area.
The Rub’ al-Khali (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 areas. Only 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. The Saudi Arabian Formula One Grand Prix takes place in March.
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 offers a 40% cash rebate on qualifying production spend.
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.
Arabic is the official language.
Saudi citizens are ethnically Bedouin Arabs. The country also has large communities of guest workers from South Asia, South East Asia, and the Middle East. Most Westerners live in compounds or gated communities. All other looks need to be cast abroad. Given the conservative nature of the country, the pool of female Arab talent is limited. Note, 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. Neom Media Village and Bajdah Desert Studios offer state-of-the-art sound stages, complete with world-class production facilities, including set production offices, construction warehouses, prop shops, wardrobe, SFX facilities and backlot space to support complex set builds. Film and ancillary equipment including cameras; grip and lighting; shotover; heavy-lift drones, telehandlers, boom lifts, scissor lifts and trackway are available on both sites.
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:
Please contact us for corporate rates.
For longer stays we can also organize serviced apartments.
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. Go see the spectacular Qasr al-Farid.
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.