When Dune director Denis Villeneuve needed rocky desertscapes to double for the desert planet Arrakis, he turned to Jordan’s Wadi Rum valley. The Legendary Entertainment and Warner Bros feature shot against the valley’s iconic red sand dunes and granite rocks in early 2019, with the film’s Oscar-winning cinematographer Greig Fraser all too familiar with Jordan’s offering having shot some of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty here in 2011. Villeneuve and crew are set to return to Jordan for Dune: Part Two, although not necessarily to the Wadi Rum valley.
The Royal Film Commission (RFC) in Jordan provided logistical support with location permits, equipment clearance and access to military bases for both Dune and Zero Dark Thirty, and is front and centre for all international production demands. Previous large-scale titles to have shot in the territory include JJ Abrams’ Star Wars: The Rise Of Skywalker, Guy Ritchie’s live-action Aladdin and Ridley Scott’s The Martian. Jordan offers striking landscapes and sites, from its Dead Sea coastline to the ancient city of Petra to the modern capital Amman, which has doubled for Baghdad and Jerusalem. There are also industrial sites such as a decommissioned power station outside the capital.
Beyond the versatile settings, RFC managing director Mohannad Al-Bakri cites the cash rebate of between 10% and 25%, depending on the production spend, as making it a worthy filming destination. And there may be more to come. “We are working on additional financial incentives,” notes Al-Bakri. There is also the prospect of two new soundstages totalling 3,000 square metres (divided into two 1,500 square metre facilities) in Amman, on track to be open in the last quarter of 2022. As it stands, Jordan can accommodate two large-scale productions and four medium-scale productions simultaneously.
Over the last 12 months, the territory has played host to international films, TV programmes and big commercials, including Belgian feature Rebel, directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, which shot for five weeks. “We could not have been helped better,” says Dimitri Verbeeck, who produced the Cannes title alongside Rula Al Rawashdeh of Imaginarium Films. “The crew profiles that Rula suggested were spot on and amazing to work with.” With RFC help, Rebel secured special permission to shoot while the country was still in lockdown.
Imaginarium Films also served as local production services provider for Iran-born, Denmark-based Ali Abbasi’s serial-killer thriller Holy Spider. The Denmark-Germany-France-Norway-backed feature is the story of a man who kills women as part of a crazed mission to clean up the holy Iranian city of Mashhad.
On the TV side, both Hikayat Simsim, the Arabic version of Sesame Street from producer Khaled Haddad with Jordan Pioneers providing local production services, and UK reality series SAS: Who Dares Wins, in which contestants take part in elite military training, shot in Jordan. The latter series was directed by Christopher Bairstow for Minnow Films with Imaginarium Films’ Al Rawashdeh on hand to provide local production services.
There was also a brace of high-end commercials: a Louis Vuitton ad campaign directed by Viviane Sassen, with Fluid Productions providing local production services, and a campaign for Zara directed by David Sims and produced by Baron & Baron agency and North Six.
Most filmmakers are drawn to Jordan because of its stunning and varied scenery, which is for the most part easily accessed by road. The climate is dry in summer with average temperatures of 30 °C (86 °F). The weather can become relatively cool in winter, with temperatures averaging around 13 °C (55 °F). Areas around the capital of Amman have been known to see snowfall around November.
The capital city of Amman has served as a location for several feature films. It is home to several impressive historical structures such as the Amman Citidel, the Roman Theatre and the historic area of Jabal Amman. There are also modern areas of the city and a new high-rise business district is currently under construction.
The ancient city of Petra is also a major draw for filmmakers, including monasteries, tombs and temples hailing from the Byzantine era.
Other draws include unique natural landmarks such as the Dead Sea, the Jordan Rift Valley, the Wadi Rum (the Valley of the Moon), the desert castle of The Quseir Amra and the Neolithic structures of Jerash.
The Royal Film Commission has secured land midway between the main Queen Alia International Airport and capital Amman for the country’s first studio complex.
Jordan covers some 90,000 square kilometres and is bordered by Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian West Bank and Israel. Queen Alia International Airport is situated 35 kilometres from Amman. There is little public transport, but taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. “The maximum time needed for a company to move across Jordan is five hours,” says RFC managing director Mohannad Bakri.
Jordan covers some 90,000 square kilometres and is bordered by Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the Palestinian West Bank and Israel. Queen Alia International Airport is situated 35 kilometres from Amman. There is little public transport, but taxis are plentiful and relatively inexpensive. “The maximum time needed for a company to move across Jordan is five hours,” says RFC managing director Mohannad Al-Bakri.
First person to contact
Mohannad Al-Bakri, managing director, Royal Film Commission: firstname.lastname@example.org