Country establishs itself as Morocco alternative

Few features come with more anticipation and a higher profile than helmer Michael Bay’s sequel “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.”

So when Jordan beat out most of its rivals in the region to secure four days of principal photography there, it was a symbolic statement that the country was well on the way to establishing itself as a serious alternative to Morocco in the eyes of Hollywood scouting chiefs.

With a total crew of 160 technicians – 60 sourced locally and the remainder from overseas – the “Transformers” shoot was a huge challenge for Jordan’s Royal Film Commission. The complete support of the commission’s chairman, Prince Ali, helped the org meet the challenge. The Jordanian Air Force was enlisted to aid the shoot as Bay lensed in the ancient city of Petra.

“We were able to get Michael Bay and his crew up to the top of a mountain in Petra by sunrise and back down again by sunset with the help of five helicopters from the air force,” says the Royal Film Commission’s George David. “No one has ever shot there before.”

Bay also lensed in the valley area of Wadi Rum as well as the famously fertile city of Salt.

Being able to offer local crews used to the demands of foreign productions was key in enabling Jordan to attract a production of the scale of Bay’s summer tentpole. Having enjoyed a boon in foreign productions lensing in the country thanks to the likes of helmers Kathryn Bigelow, Nick Broomfield and Brian De Palma, the country now has a number of seasoned production companies able to service most needs. And the success of Jordanian helmer Amin Matalqa’s “Captain Abu Raed” in 2008 has helped stir aspiring filmmakers in the country to seek employment on visiting film sets.

“The entire experience of being in Jordan, from our scouts months ago to our recently completed shoot, has been a total creative and production success,” says Bay. “The people have been incredibly welcoming, the film commission was a hugely helpful daily presence, and the country, especially Petra, inspired everyone in the cast and crew.”

Jordan wasn’t the only Middle Eastern country to benefit from the “Transformers” shoot. Pic’s crew also lensed in Egypt for three days at the pyramids and the ancient picturesque city of Luxor.

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