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Case Study: Shooting in the Emirates

Abu Dhabi, Dubai provide locations and resources

When Tom Cruise and James Cameron recently visited the United Arab Emirates, they helped put the region firmly on Hollywood’s radar as well as on the list of hot (literally) new international locations and potential production hubs.

Two states in the federation — Abu Dhabi and Dubai — have emerged as filming centers. Cruise went to Dubai last year to shoot “Mission Impossible — Ghost Protocol” and during production performed his own risky stunts, which included perching on top of the world’s tallest building, the 2,717-foot Burj Khalifa skyscraper.

The decision to shoot parts of Paramount’s big-budget actioner in UAE boosts the region’s profile on the global production map.

“Studios in the U.S., Europe and India are actively scouting locations in the UAE for films that might have once been shot in the elsewhere in the Middle East, Europe or the U.S.,” says David Shepheard, director of the Abu Dhabi Film Commission, reporting that “just about every Hollywood studio has come to the UAE to scout locations.”

He notes that in March, James Cameron presented 3D training sessions in Abu Dhabi for local filmmakers and visited the set of a production by Bollywood filmmaker Priyadarshan. “Big media companies like News Corp. and Viacom are setting up state-of-the-art production and broadcast facilities here.”

Shepheard adds that since the establishment of the Abu Dhabi Film Commission two years ago, the permitting and logistical process has been streamlined and the number of film permits has skyrocketed (there have been 400 permits issued since 2010).

ADFC and its counterpart orgs across the UAE provide assistance with script clearances and advice on approvals, location scouting, discounts and special deals.

Shepheard also cites “a fantastic variety of potential locations, from the fast-rising cityscapes of downtown Abu Dhabi and Dubai to the varied coastline, desert islands, the garden city of Al Ain and the dunes and oases of the Western region.”

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