Expert location manager ‘Souheil Halloui’ tells us why Morocco is among the world’s most sought after filming location. He has worked on some of biggest films and TV shows that have been shot in Morocco (including Black Hawk Down, Game Of Thrones, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk, and 13 Hours) and loves the whole process of planning and organizing film production as a set manager.
In the past, on several occasions, Morocco has been used as a substitute for Afghanistan, because of the similarities in architecture and landscape. Here Souheil tells us what makes Morocco one of the most sought after filming locations in the world.
Morocco is the most effective option is as a double for the Middle East
Not many are aware of this, but in the past, Morocco has been used as a substitute to depict other countries in several blockbuster Hollywood films.
Morocco was used as a double for Arab countries in ‘Lawrence Of Arabia’. It has also been used to depict China & Tibet in the movie ‘Kudun’, as Mongolia and Tibet in ‘The Way Back’, as Somalia in ‘Black Hawk Down’, etc.
Also Read: Bollywood films shot in Morocco.
The advantage that Morocco has is that its a small country with many different kinds of settings that are very close together. Productions can shoot on beaches and deserts one day and on snowy mountains the next, and this makes Morocco an attractive destination for filming.
Suggesting specific locations for filming
Generally what I do as location manager is provide a variety of options to the Production Designers and explain to them what the advantages and challenges are with each one. However, the final decision of where to shoot is the responsibility of the director and producers.
Technical challenges faced
The one thing about being a location manager in Morocco that does not get talked about very much is that not only do you have to be able to find interesting and affordable places to shoot, but you must also be very good at communicating with the local communities and administrations in order to obtain the best shooting conditions and terms.
Some time back, an international incident made shooting in Jordan impossible, due to security and insurance obstacles. That is when I was asked to find a location that could double for Iraq, and I had to do it within 3 days. This was for the movie ‘Long Halftime Walk’.
Another challenge is to protect the crew and camera equipment from the extreme heat and dust. Many a times, I had to oversee the construction of buildings for all the departments and specially the camera department.
Which is your favourite filming location?
My favourite location for shooting in Morocco is in my own backyard, Rabat and Sale where we shot Black Hawk Down, The Situation, Rock The Kasbah, and 13 Hours. As well as Body Of Lies, Green Zone, and Homeland (though I was not involved). I love the Rabat area, not just because it is my home town but also because the people are enthusiastic, work well together and have a lot of experience with large international productions.
Aesthetically, Rabat has both modern and traditional architecture. It is on the ocean with beaches divided by a small river and surrounded by many different environments close together with is ideal for company moves. Finally Hotels, restaurants and the proximity to the airport offers productions many conveniences not easily found in other Moroccan cities.