Neom launches 40%+ production rebate as facilities and studios officially open

Some 25 productions have shot in the region in Saudi Arabia over the past 18 months including Rise Of The Witches

By Michael Rosser 14 Sep 2022

Neom launches 40%+ production rebate as facilities and studios officially open
Bajdah Dessert. Credit: Neom

Neom, a futuristic megacity being built in northwestern Saudi Arabia, has announced its anticipated incentive for productions in the region that consists of a cash rebate of at least 40%.

The rebate will apply to feature films, TV drama, reality series and documentaries as well as commercials, with producers able to secure a higher percentage based on their “industry development contributions”.

These contributions include elements such as hiring of local production crew and investment in infrastructure, such as set building that can remain behind for use on future projects. A minimum expenditure of $500,000 in Neom must be met to qualify for the rebate.

Regional and international productions to have shot at Neom in the past 18 months have already benefited from a pilot version of the scheme and include Desert Warrior, a $150m feature directed by Rupert Wyatt and led by Captain America star Anthony Mackie, and Rise Of The Witches, a 10-part fantasy series from Saudi’s MBC Studios that is the biggest TV series to ever be made in the region.

Wayne Borg, managing director for media industries, entertainment and culture at Neom, told sister site Screen: “We're covering the entire breadth of the marketplace with a globally attractive incentive rate that industry should be looking to leverage given the opportunities that exist in the region.

“Unlike a lot of other jurisdictions, we've got the full package: incentives, infrastructure, crew depth and an international team who know how to make things happen.”

The announcement accompanied the formal opening of the NEOM Media Village and Bajdah Desert Studios, which together comprise the country’s largest sound stages and film production facilities.

Three sound stages across the two locations are already operational and a further seven are set to open by early 2023.

NEOM Media Village hosts one 2,400sqm sound stage, complete with back-of-house facilities comprising make-up rooms, green rooms and production offices, with three further stages under construction that includes a state-of-the-art volumetric production stage.

At Bajdah Desert Studios, there are two 3,000sqm sound stages, with a further four scheduled to come online by the end of 2022. Borg said these were “particularly for productions that want location-based activity” in the region.

The studios will include 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, tele-handlers, boom lifts, scissor lifts and trackway are available on both sites.

The production facilities will also offer a total of 350 accommodation units for cast and crew, and Borg said Neom “has the crew depth to support three to four productions”. “We’ve had large feature films and TV series running concurrently as well as a couple of international TV reality shows,” he added. “We’ve got the capacity and continue to build.”

As well as productions from the US and UK, Borg stated there were conversations ongoing with producers in Germany and India, given the proximity of the latter to the region. By the end of 2026, the ambition is to have somewhere around 37 soundstages, TV studios, gaming studios, industry learning facilities and production support facilities as well as incubation and start-up space.

Some 25 productions have shot in Neom over the past 18 months including Desert Warrior and Rise Of The Witches with further titles including reality survival series Million Dollar Island, which wrapped filming in July. High-end series in the pipeline include The Devil’s Promise from Tony Jordan, the creator of UK drama series Life On Mars, about a man who strikes a deal with the devil to protect his sick wife; and 1001 Nights, a contemporary crime-thriller developed with US producer and writer Thania St. John and writer-director Steve Barron.

Neom’s incentive launch follows a similar move by the Saudi Film Commission in May, which announced a long-awaited incentive to attract film productions to the kingdom, comprising a cash rebate of 40%.

The incentive underlines Saudi’s ambitions for its growing film and TV production sector as the kingdom continues with its Vision 2030 plan, resulting in the lifting of a 35-year cinema ban in 2017 and the opening-up of society. A target has been set to produce and shoot 100 films in Saudi by 2030, consisting of both local and international productions.

This article originally appeared on KFTV's sister site, Screendaily.

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