Morocco is one of the most popular destinations in the Middle East and North Africa for international film and high-end TV productions. The country’s key draws include its varied picture-book Middle Eastern backdrops and landscapes, ranging from the historic medinas of cities such as Marrakesh to the teeming streets of Casablanca and Tangier, and the Sahara desert and Atlas mountains.
“There is also the light, which is very good, with longer days and very little rainfall,” says Morocco-based location manager Christian McWilliams, whose recent credits include The Old Guard and John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum. “You don’t go to Morocco to shoot inside; you go to shoot outside. It’s very rare you’ll ever lose a day because of the weather.”
Added to this is the country’s reputation for relative political stability in an otherwise turbulent region, and established production services ecosystem.
Morocco may have seen a 17% drop in spending by international feature films in 2019 but this came after an exceptionally busy 2018; overall the total amount of international investment grew. According to figures released by the Moroccan Cinema Centre (CCM) in March 2020, 22 feature films shot in the country in 2019, spending $26.4m (mad256m) against $33m in 2018.
Total international production spend rose to $82m (mad796m) against $75.5m (mad731m), with TV dramas leading the way. There were 16 incoming TV dramas, with spend increasing by 34% to $52m (mad504m), against $39m (mad378.4m). Morocco also hosted 11 short films, 39 advertising shoots, 30 institutional films, 29 music videos and 43 documentaries.
The country boasts a slew of mainstream and boutique hotels across the country to keep incoming stars happy. “Most productions prefer to be based in Marrakech because it is quite a multicultural city, with a variety of accommodation and restaurants,” said McWilliams.
The country’s appeal was further enhanced in 2018 with the introduction of a 20% rebate on qualifying spend for international productions shot wholly or partly in the country. Productions can also benefit from exemptions on VAT, running at 20%, on all expenses above $520 (mad5,000).
International features that visited in 2019 include Cannes 2020 selections Last Words by Jonathan Nossiter and Home Front by Lucas Belvaux. The big spenders were Gina Prince-Bythewood’s action thriller The Old Guard, starring Charlize Theron; Italian director Luca Medici’s hit immigration comedy Tolo Tolo; and Disney/Marvel’s Black Widow, directed by Cate Shortland and starring Scarlett Johansson.
The country also welcomed a rare Asian production in 2019 in the shape of Korean director Ryoo Seung-wan’s Somalia-set action drama Mogadishu. TV dramas including French series Mirage and The Bureau, and season eight of Homeland.
Productions hitting the territory more recently and not featured in the 2019 figures include Lionsgate’s John Wick: Chapter 3 — Parabellum, which shot in several Moroccan cities including Rabat, Casablanca, Marrakesh, Ouarzazate, Fes and Essaouira in January, and German director Hermine Huntgeburth’s rock biopic Lindenberg! Mach Dein Ding. John Michael McDonagh’s indie feature The Forgiven, starring Jessica Chastain and Ralph Fiennes, also shot in Morocco earlier this year. Production was halted in mid-March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The producers are planning to return to finish shooting as soon as possible.
CLA Studios and Atlas Studios are close to Ouarzazate, and Cinedina Studios is in Casablanca. The country boasts a pool of experienced crew across all departments including cinematography, lighting, sound, set design, costume and hair and make-up. Most incoming productions bring in HoDs. Well-regarded line production companies include Dune Films, Zak Productions, K Films, Kasbah Films Tangier, Agora Films, H Films, BO Film Services, Ali N’ Films, Lion Production & Service and Mont Fleuri.
Slightly larger than California, Morocco is a compact country with good rail, road and air networks.
First person to email
Laila Tounzi, chief production control services, Moroccan Cinematographic Center firstname.lastname@example.org