Saudi Arabia’s push to become a major production hub has taken another step forward.
Neom, the coastal region due to be home to a proposed $500 billion megacity, has announced the formal operation opening of its Neom Media Village and Bajdah Desert Studios, which together comprise Saudi Arabia’s largest sound stages and film production support facilities. Some 25 productions have already been supported there in the last 18 months.
Alongside the opening, Neom has formally announced its 40 percent-plus cash rebate production incentive scheme for feature films, TV (drama, reality, documentaries) and commercials, with producers able to secure a higher percentage based on their industry development contributions. Although Neom is set to operate as its own semi-autonomous jurisdiction, the 40 percent incentives scheme put it on the same level as that announced by the Saudi Film Commission last year.
“Clearly production incentives play a vital role in terms of attracting productions but are best leveraged when the entire package is in place: infrastructure, on-the-ground international production expertise, crew depth and ease of doing business,” said Wayne Borg, Managing Director for Media Industries, Entertainment and Culture at Neom. “Neom is now in the position to offer this competitive package.”
Alongside the three operational soundstages at Neom, a further seven are set to open by the first quarter of 2023.
The Neom Media Village currently features one 2,400-square-meter sound stage, complete with back-of-house facilities comprising of make-up rooms, green rooms and production offices, with three further stages under construction. At Bajdah Desert Studios, there are two 3,000-square-meter sound stages, with a further four scheduled to come online by the end of 2022.
“This is an important milestone in realizing our aim of becoming the epicenter of the regional media industry,” added Borg. “Our team, facilities and diverse filming locations mean we can provide a seamless, world-class production experience and use our capacity and capabilities to become the focal point of collaboration among talent, creators and key contributors within the global media industry.”
Among the productions that have already shot at Neom is Desert Warrior, the big-budget epic directed by Rupert Wyatt and starring Anthony Mackie, Sir Ben Kingsley and Aiysha Hart.