With its raw and rugged beauty, Jordan attracts film productions from across the globe to shoot here. And get this – it’s no stranger to Indian filmmakers.
There is something to be said about the beauty of a rustic background and one of the less-explored gems in this category is the Middle Eastern country of Jordan. After the formation of the Royal Film Commission of Jordan (RFC) in 2003, Jordan has been gaining popularity year after year and has now become a coveted location for small, Indie films as well as big-budget features. The RFC has been very encouraging to international filmmakers to use this scenic country as a shooting location.
Noted Hollywood films Alladin (2019), Roads To Olympia (2018), X-Men: Apocalypse (2016), War Dogs (2016), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and The Martian (2015) among others have been shot there. And in Bollywood, we have a few films like the Hrithik Roshan starrer Krrish 3 (2013), Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam (2013) and Pooja Bhatt’s directorial Kajraare (2010) that were filmed in Jordan.
Jordan is bordered by Saudi Arabia in the south, Iraq in the north east, Syria in the north and Israel as well as Palestine in the west. The unique locales of the Dead Sea, which lies along the country’s western borders along with the Red Sea in the extreme south west is also a fantastic filming location.
Jordan’s climate varies greatly depending on the region one is in. One can experience a warm, Mediterranean climate along the mountains of the Dead Sea and Wadi Araba to the southern region till Ras Al-Naqab. And then there is the beauty of the vast desert backdrop in the eastern and north eastern areas.
There are times when the desert regions are very hot and thus unsuitable to shoot in but the heat is usually manageable as it is moderated by low humidity and daytime breeze. Filmmakers who want to capture the rawness of the desert in the night can easily do so as it cools down towards the evening.
Summers last from May to September and winter extends from November to March. Interestingly, one can also experience frequent light rainfall as well as some occasional snowfall during winter in the western, elevated areas.
The city of Amman, which is also the capital of Jordan, boasts of historical structures like the Amman Citadel, the Roman Theatre and Jabal Amman. Over the years, Amman has gone through many modern changes and can be a good locale for a city-like situation too.
Then, of course, the country has the ancient city of Petra, which is not only a major tourist destination but also draws many filmmakers. It boasts of rock-cut monasteries, temples and tombs, all from the Byzantine era.
As mentioned earlier, there is also the Jordan Rift Valley and Wadi Rum, also known as the Valley of the Moon, and the Quseir Amra, which is a castle in the desert. There are many Neolithic structures in the area of Jerash, presenting Jordan as a strong package, location-wise.
Apart from this, it is a major draw for filmmakers who want authentic locations for war films. As shooting in Iraq is difficult for safety reasons, Jordan can come as a close alternative to it, providing a similar landscape.
The RFC helps in providing foreign production companies with comprehensive services which include:
Provision of detailed and fast information about filming in Jordan
Assistance in obtaining necessary permits
Assistance in location scouting with knowledge of all locations
Assistance in customs clearance for technical equipment
Assistance in casting and recruiting local crew and extras at competitive rates throughout the Production Directory
Facilitation access to production services, facilities and equipment
Liaison with private and public sector entities
It is not difficult for foreign filmmakers to get permissions to shoot in Jordan. The time frame to obtain permissions depends on where the shoot is taking place. The permissions for general areas and street shooting scenes can be acquired in two days while border locations take more time, about two weeks. Permits to shoot at historical places and tourist areas can be obtained within a week. The longest time will be taken by the RFC to grant permission to shoot in places like refugee camps, airports and military base camps. These permits can take up to a month.
As of 2018, the eligible production houses shooting their films in Jordan can have a 10-20 per cent of cash rebate on their expenses in the country. This rebate will be applied to all the qualified expenses that the filmmaker has incurred in Jordan. If a film is eligible to get the cash rebate incentive then an agreement will be signed between the respective production house and the RFC. Another incentive offered to filmmakers by the government in Jordan is that the country’s military services can be used at a significantly low cost.
The productions which are eligible to this rebate should be related to film production, TV production, radio production, ad commercials and photography among other things.
A filmmaker can acquire the rebate through their production company which can apply for it by providing all the relevant information in a form that is available on the website of the Royal Film Commission – Jordan (http://www.film.jo/).
Guidelines To Apply For Rebate:
The expenses should not go above 75 per cent of the total budget or the total global value of the entire production of the film
20 per cent of the total budget should be spent by the production in Jordan to avail this rebate
The production should have at least 50 Jordanian crew members on set as well as train 20 local interns
The rebate is provided through a production services company that is registered in Jordan. Indian filmmakers can tie-up with the local production companies in order to avail the rebate.
The logo of the film commission, RFC should be included in the final credits of the film and any promotional activities taking place in Jordan.
Many local production companies are present in Jordan but not many equipment rental services. It is best for filmmakers to take the necessary filming equipment with them when they go for a shoot in Jordan.
There is also additional exemption offered by the government to filmmakers who bring their own equipment into the country. It is done to keep the costs down. The process of Customs clearance is also fast and goes without hindrance provided the paperwork and permits are in order.
Jordan is a budding nation and may not have the infrastructure of rental equipment, studios and film labs but the country has its charm and this attracts foreign filmmakers to shoot here. Add to this a helpful government, political stability and safety along with fabulous and varied locations, and the country becomes an irresistible filming location.
- Bhakti Mehta