Find international production companies, services and crew

Saudi Arabia


In September, it was announced Con Air director Simon West is set to film his upcoming historic drama Antara in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s purpose-built production city, Neom. Based on a true story, the film revolves around the titular Antara ibn Shaddad, an imprisoned warrior who won his freedom to become a knight (and one of the most celebrated poets in Arabian history). Production is scheduled for 12 weeks, starting early 2024. It will be based at Bajdah Desert Studios and set against the backdrop of Neom’s desert and mountain landscapes in northwest Saudi Arabia, as well as the Red Sea coastline.

Saudi director Abdulaziz Alshlahei’s also started filming his upcoming feature Hobal in Neom in September. Prior to these, Gerard Butler’s Kandahar took advantage of the incredible desert landscape, filming in both AlUla and Jeddah. In 2021, Jeremy Irons’ Cello, a horror movie based on the novel by Turki Al Alshikh, also called Saudi Arabia its home. 2022 saw Netflix’s psychological thriller The Matchmaker film in the desert of AlUla.

These productions come on the heels of Saudi Arabia’s strategy to develop its entertainment industry as part of its Vision 2030 initiative. The goal is to diversify the kingdom’s economy, while simultaneously loosening some of the stricter conservative cultural rules. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has set itself an impressive target of producing and shooting 100 international and local films by the end of the decade. Key to the success of the Saudi film industry is the development of studio complexes with state-of-the-art infrastructure and equipment in AlUla and Neom.

Neom, an urban development in the northwestern Tabuk Province, boasts world-class soundstages, a generous 40%-plus rebate and local talent and crews. Hobal will be able to take advantage of Neom’s production support, who are assisting with crew, location scouting, logistics and on-the-ground production expertise. Bajdah Studios features two 3,000 square metre soundstages, and four more are set to open soon. The complex also boasts production offices, prop shops, wardrobe, SFX facilities, backlot spaces for custom build and resort-style living for 200 people. 

Already open for business in Neom is a major media hub with two soundstages, each measuring 2,400 square metres, with make-up and green rooms and a media village that can host 144 cast and crew. A further 128 accommodation units are set to be added this year. Two more stages are currently under construction. 

In 2021, Bajdah was home to Desert Warrior starring Anthony Mackie, produced by Stuart Ford’s AGC Studios and Jeremy Bolt at JB Pictures in partnership with MBC Studios. The first domestic feature to be produced at Neom is Within Sand, directed by Moe Alatawi and produced by Reem Alatawi and Jana Dahlawi. The film is backed by the Saudi Film Commission, Neom and Riyadh-based production company AlSarid Films, and features an all Saudi-cast. The production was able to facilitate the use of a real wolf during filming, illustrating the expertise of all involved. 

Hindi language feature Dunki starring Shah Rukh Khan filmed at Neom alongside MBC Studios’ Rise Of The Witches, the biggest ever TV series to be made in the country. Also captivating productions is AlUla, which doubled for Afghanistan in Butler’s Khandar. Prior to this, 2019 saw Tom Holland’s Cherry, directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, shoot at AlUla as well as Irons’ Cello. Produced by Lee Nelson of Envision Media Art, with executive producers Sultan Al Muheisen and Niko Ruokosuo of Saudi outfit Alamiya, and Envision Media Arts’.

David Tish, Cello also filmed on location in the city of Riyadh. Riyadh was the location of choice for the Saudi Arabian remake of the hit TV series The Office, which filmed in 2022. Local debut Norah filmed at AlUla, a co -production between Riyadh- based Black Sugar Pictures and local service provider Nebras Films. AlUla provided the perfect atmosphere for thriller The Matchmaker, producer Mohammed Alhamoud said, which filmed between December 2022 and January 2023. 

Since AlUla opened in 2020, it has been the production home to five feature films, 35 TV series, 33 documentaries and 55 commercials. Saudi Arabia also has local production service companies to help. The local companies have a wealth of experience and a depth of understanding of the culture and language, essential for shoots in the Kingdom. 

First contact: Siobhan Berry, director of production at Neom:



Saudi Arabia has an incredible landscape that is more diverse than one might think. The northwest region of AlUla spans deserts, mountains, oases and ancient cities such as Hegra (a Unesco World Heritage site), while Neom’s backyard combines desert, craggy mountains and an untouched coastline. The country offers more than the unique, vast deserts and stunning sand dunes. It has green mountain retreats with date palms, and wild grasses and hyacinths that flourish around the oases. 

Arabian architecture and palatial villas juxtapose urban architecture in the bigger cities. Taif sits 1,700m above sea level and is the Kingdom’s unofficial summer capital, with a more temperate climate and wide, tree-lined streets. Al-Hasa is one of the greenest places in Saudi Arabia and will fulfil any filmmakers vision of a typical oasis landscape, whereas Madain Saleh is home to 131 tombs carved into its honey coloured rocks.


Traditionally, Saudi Arabia has been slow in granting permits. Different permits may be required for shooting in cities, in the desert, in national parks and on public roads. But that is improving. 

Most of the permits, visas and access can be issued and solved in an online advanced digital form, says Naboush from Insight StudiosBut it is worth noting that photographing government buildings, military installations, oil facilities and palaces is prohibited. 

If wishing to film in Saudi Arabia it is crucial to have proper local guidance and servicing, insist Chammas and Abou Zeid from Truffle

Crew and infrastructure

Another key aspect of the Kingdom’s plans to grow its film industry is the training of local crew. Saudi Arabia is working to train home-grown crew through dedicated courses and placements on productions. While filming Desert Warrior, executive producer Eric Hedayat observed that two cycles of up to 50 local crew-in -training were supplied, many of whom continue to build a career in the growing local film industry. 

Neom is working with the UK’s National Film and Television School to off er a certificate in filmmaking covering disciplines including writing, directing, cinematography, VFX and sound recording. In March 2023, AlUla launched a platform to support new film talent through a global network of mentorships as part of a continuing programme aiming to connect female filmmakers with industry professionals and access to development funds. “The film industry is rapidly accelerating as we continue to invest in training our local crews and developing our infrastructure to ensure we are in a position to support all productions,” said Saudi Film Commission CEO Abdullah Al-Eyaf. 

Travel and logistics

Saudi Arabia spans around 2.1 million square kilometres and most of the Arabian Peninsula. This makes it roughly nine times larger than the UK, but with half the population. The key cities are widely spaced out — capital Riyadh and port city Jeddah lie just under 1,000 kilometres apart — but there is an extensive network of airports, including nine with international flights. There is also a modern train network, but with only three routes. The easiest way to get around within regions is by road.

Size matters

Saudi Arabia spans around 2.1 million square kilometres and covers most of the Arabian Peninsula. This makes the country roughly nine times larger than the UK, but with half the population. The key cities are widely spaced out — capital Riyadh and port city Jeddah lie just under 1,000 kilometres apart — but there is an extensive network of airports, including nine with international flights. There is also a modern train network but with only three routes. The easiest way to travel within regions is by road.

Sign up for newsletter