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“Al-Ula Film” expands visual production in the region


“Al-Ula Film” expands visual production in the region

The Royal Commission for Al-Ula Governorate is seeking to attract major international production companies to film in its territory, through the “Al-Ula Film” agency, which was established in 2020, and was assigned the task of promoting and supporting local, regional and international film and television productions in the region.

In this context, Charlene Jones, the executive director of the agency, confirmed, in an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, that “the goal is to create an important gateway and destination in Al-Ula for talented and aspiring producers in the film and television sectors, in addition to preparing soon to open a global production facility that provides integrated services. It includes a 30,000-square-foot filming site.

Charlene Jones, Executive Director of Al-Ula Film Agency.

Movies from the world between the mountains of Al-Ula

Jones indicated that the agency has so far hosted 694 production days for a number of films, including the action movie “Kandahar” starring Gerard Butler, and the drama movie “Cherry” by the Russo brothers, starring Tom Holland, to “Nora” by Saudi director Tawfiq Al-Zaidi, who is The first Saudi feature film to be filmed in the province with a team of Saudi actors, and more than 40 percent of the crew are from the people of the Kingdom.

As for the television productions filmed in Al-Ula, they include the British series “Expedition” with Steve Backshall, and “National Geographic” documentaries, to commercials, promotions, photo sessions and short films.

Jones added that work is underway on more international productions, including important films from Hollywood, Bollywood and South Korea, to be announced within the next two months.

Regarding the agency’s strategy to attract filmmakers to the region, Jones affirmed, “Continuing work to develop an attractive and conducive environment for film production, supported by strong infrastructure, high-quality services, and other encouraging factors,” adding: “The film industry is an investment and commitment; Therefore, we are keen to give all the various stories and novels a fair opportunity to be completed in Al-Ula.”

She revealed that the agency provides a cash discount of 40 percent in order to stimulate all types of production in Al-Ula, and to provide complete logistical needs.

The “Al-Ula Film” agency builds studios equipped with the latest artistic production techniques (Al-Ula Film)

She stated that production works employ Saudi talents and staff, present the culture of Al-Ula, its history and the beauty of its nature, and can also benefit from in-kind incentives, as well as financial support by securing travel and accommodation costs.

On the logistical level, Jones confirmed that they have a team of experts on the ground, and they can be contacted at any time to support production operations. The team provides troubleshooting assistance, from work preparation to delivery, as well as assisting with obtaining cash discounts and other administrative tasks such as production regulations, customs clearance, visa applications and filming permits, to assisting with the selection of locations and hiring talent.

A giant production city in Al-Ula

Touching on the infrastructure, Jones revealed that they are nearing the completion of the first phase of building a global production facility that provides integrated services, including a 30,000 square foot filming area, supported by advanced audio equipment, an external filming location, production support buildings, workshops, warehouses, And a recording studio, places for training and rehearsals, a cafeteria, a space for events, and an administrative building.

Large parts of the film were filmed in Al-Ula, northwest of Saudi Arabia (Al-Ula Film)

The filming space will be only 14 minutes away from the accommodation buildings for “Al-Ula Film” and the crew designated for this purpose, through 300 high-quality accommodation units, fully furnished residential units, with office space for short and long stays for film works, and a group of hotels. High-end, mid-range accommodation options.

In her speech, she dealt with supporting talents, and said, “The agency aims to build a solid base of diverse talents to promote the growth of film production in Al-Ula, and support and accelerate the development of the film sector in Saudi Arabia.” She stressed: “We make every effort to include vocational training programs in the works that are filmed in Governorate”.

The agency also gave a green light to programs aimed at raising the level of Saudi talent, including the training camp that was held for 10 days earlier this year, with the participation of 100 students, and in cooperation with the Creative Media Skills Institute from Pinewood Studios in London. The trainees are all about scripting, make-up and web design.

Al-Ula innovates

In addition, the agency launched the “Al-Ula Innovates” project, a platform that aims to promote talent and creativity and support future generations in the fields of cinema, art and fashion.

In its first phase, the platform cooperated with the British Fashion Council, the Saudi actress Mila Al-Zahrani, and the founder of “Close Films” Alec Maxwell, with the fashion icons Helena Christensen and Eva Herzigova, and chose them as ambassadors to support the project’s journey in achieving its vision.

Among the achievements, Herzigova and Christensen wore designs from the Saudi fashion brand “Atelier Hekayat”, which was founded by Saudi fashion designers Alia and Abeer Arif, and “Aram” by fashion development consultant Arwa Al-Ammari, during the “Oscar Vanity Fair” awards ceremony in Los Angeles. . As for the second phase, director, producer and actress Katie Holmes will identify three emerging Saudi female filmmakers to train and mentor throughout the year.

The Royal Commission for Al-Ula aims to attract the largest production companies to film in the region (Al-Ula Film).

It is noteworthy that the development of Al-Ula as a destination for filming comes to achieve the comprehensive strategic goals of the Royal Commission for the Preservation based on diversifying the economy, which reflects positively on defining Al-Ula as a global tourist and cultural destination that achieves the economic impact of its residents in the services sector.


Al-Ula hosts “Kandahar”, the latest Hollywood production

Banyan Tree Resort AlUla hosted an exclusive screening of the new movie Kandahar; The first American film with a large production to be filmed in Saudi Arabia, specifically in Al-Ula Governorate; In the presence of Bollywood actor Ali Fadl, one of the main stars of the film, as well as representatives of the Saudi Film Authority and

The Royal Commission for Al-Ula Governorate.

Kandahar is one of the most anticipated suspense and thriller films of 2023, co-produced by Eagle Films, J-Pace and Thunder Road, along with Capstone Studios and MBC Studios.

The film is directed by Rick Roman Waugh and stars Gerard Butler, who plays Tom Harris, a secret CIA agent trapped in Afghan territory. His story revolves around Harris’ perilous journey, accompanied by his Afghan interpreter, to reach the evacuation point in Kandahar City.

Al-Ula, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, was an ideal location for filming the film thanks to its stunning natural surroundings, rolling dunes, desert oases and stone age ruins.

The city also represented, through its distinguished location, a major element in Saudi Arabia’s strategy to achieve sustainability and excellence in the field of film industry, as it will host many international films in the coming period as part of a broad plan to develop the sector, which began to flourish locally.

The artist, Ali Fadl, told Asharq Al-Awsat that it is amazing to watch what is happening in Saudi Arabia in recent years, and he believes that the film industry is thriving in it, and that it is “smart” for filmmakers to go to it to explore it more and contribute to conveying the stories in it.

And about the landscapes that he saw in Al-Ula, Fadl described them as “breathtaking”, and the director succeeded in highlighting them perfectly, which contributed to the formation of stunning scenes in the film’s clips that helped increase its aesthetics.

“The goal is to create an important gateway and destination in Al-Ula for talented and ambitious producers in the film and television sectors, in addition to preparing soon to open a global production facility that provides integrated services, including a 30,000-square-foot filming site.”

Charlene Jones, Executive Director of Al-Ula Film Agency.