Khadija Alami plans big studio near Marrakech as uncapped discount speeds up overseas filming scene[EXCLUSIVE]



Morocco has been attracting a growing number of high-profile foreign shoots since March 2022, lured by the country’s locations, qualified crews, competitive rates and its revamped cashback program, which has grown from 20% to 30% of spend eligible.

Crucially, the cap on the discount available for each film has now been removed, providing a major boost to long, large-scale productions.

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Previously, the maximum discount per film was capped at $1.8 million. The total amount available per year for all projects is $10 million, awarded on a first-come/first-served basis.

Other advantages offered to foreign shoots include exemption from sales tax and no marginal payments for crews.

To qualify for the discount, productions must have a minimum Moroccan production spend of $1 million, an 18-day Moroccan shoot, a local crew of at least 25%, and a local executive producer.

Morocco’s previous 20% regime was introduced in 2016 and fueled a gradual increase in visits from foreign productions, until strict COVID-19 related containment measures were introduced in 2020, including border closures. national to foreign visitors.

The situation only started to normalize completely at the end of 2021, but with the opening of the borders, foreign filming came back in force.

The main line producers in the country are Agora, K Films, Moroccan Productions & Services (Mps), Dunes Films, Kasbah Films, Zak Productions, H Films, Bo Film Services, Lions Production & Service and Mont Fleuri Production.

Zak Productions

Zakaria Alaoui, CEO of Zak Productions, has been producing foreign shoots on a chain since 1995.

Following the lifting of lockdown restrictions in late 2021, Lucasfilm’s ‘Indiana Jones 5’ began filming, with a 100-man crew and a 3-week shoot in the historic city of Fez.

To enable scouting during the lockdown, the Moroccan government facilitated permits, allowing a team of 40 people to travel to Fez for tech scouting.

Filming had already been stalled several times before the target in Morocco, due to COVID restrictions and after Harrison Ford suffered a serious shoulder injury while filming in the UK, in June 2021.

In mid-2022, Zak Films handled a two-week shoot for the final episode of Season 3 of Netflix’s fantasy series ‘The Witcher’, which shot in the Moroccan desert near Erfoud for scenes featuring Freya Allan (Ciri).

Alaoui has just produced a six-week Moroccan shoot for Disney India’s “The Freelancer,” which has filmed in Tangier, Marrakech and Ouarzazate and is currently continuing to shoot in India.

Other recent projects include a two-day shoot in Marrakech for Legendary’s “Godzilla vs Kong 2” and another shoot for Legendary based on Jeymes Samuel’s biblical tale, “The Book of Clarence,” which was partially filmed in Morocco. .

Prior to the pandemic, Zak Films produced several shows in 2019, including “The 355,” which was shot in Marrakech, Marvel Studios/Disney’s “Black Widow” which shot in Tangier, and Netflix’s “Inventing Anna,” which filmed in Marrakesh. filmed in the iconic La L’hôtel Mamounia, which hosts the festival’s top guests.

He was also involved in an eight-month prep for independent production “The Alchemist” which suffered repeated postponements due to the pandemic.

Alaoui sees a major upside in the wake of the new 30% uncapped cashback program: “It’s a game-changer for us. Now we have all the tools to compete with other countries. It was one of the first measures introduced by Mohamed Mehdi Bensaid, our new Minister of Culture and Communication who really understands how cinema works.

He nevertheless identifies several bottlenecks, including the sharp rise in prices for studios and hotels in Ouarzazate, which is a key location for foreign filming.

wheel of time

wheel of time


Khadija Alami’s K Films is preparing a two-week Moroccan shoot on the television series “The Lioness”, with Zoe Saldana.

During the lockdown, special permits issued by the government allowed a handful of foreign filming to occur in production bubbles. For example, Alami produced a two-week shoot in 2020 in Marrakech for Apple’s “Invasion.”

In 2021, she takes care of the filming in the desert of the British mini-series “SAS Rogue Heroes”, shot in Erfoud, El Jadida and Essaouira.

Alami is currently developing the “Bilqiss” project in co-production with Kennedy/Marshall, based on the book by Franco-Moroccan writer Saphia Azzedine, which will be directed by Oualid Mouaness.

She is also working with another American company, Danny Glover and producer Joslyn Barnes’ Louverture, on Moroccan-British director Tala Hadid’s second feature, whose Alami produced “Narrow Frame of Midnight” in 2013.

She is also developing a Moroccan television series and is looking for an international co-producer.

Alami has her own studio, Oasis Studios, in the Ouarzazate desert, and is president of the Ouarzazate Film Commission.

Alami is also the president of the association Mediatalents based in Ouarzazate, which organizes four writing laboratories per year.

After developing Oasis Studios in 2016, she is now preparing a more ambitious project: building a major studio near Marrakech.

“Morocco needs large-scale sound stages,” she says. “At the moment, big budget foreign productions usually film their exterior scenes in Morocco and then shoot the interiors in sound stages such as Pinewood or Shepperton. With the new 30% uncapped cashback program, we can attract much larger projects. »

In collaboration with four partners, it is planning a brand new studio near Marrakech, with four sound stages, the first of which it hopes will open at the end of 2023.

Negotiations are underway with the Moroccan authorities to build a large ecosystem around the studios which will also include film schools and technology schools.

The project also plans to include virtual production facilities and will target not only film and television, but also video game production.

Alami says the four stages will be a 4,000 square meter (sq ft) stage (Pinewood Stage 007 is 5,000 square meters), complemented by 3,000 square meter, 2,000 m2 and 1,000 m2 stages.

“When I talk about a project, I believe in it and I will do everything to make it happen,” she says.

Kasbah Movies

Kasbah Films, co-managed by Karim Debbagh and Michael Dreher, co-produced the “Wheel of Time” television series, which was the second major project made after the end of the pandemic, and was shot at Oasis Studios, Ouarzazate, between February and May 2022.

This was followed by Netflix’s romantic pic Morocco segment, “Lonely Planet”, featuring Laura Dern and Liam Hemsworth, who is now in the cast.

They handled the two-week Moroccan shoot for Apple’s sci-fi thriller “Constellation,” starring Noomi Rapace and Jonathan Banks and directed by Michelle MacLaren (“Breaking Bad”). He filmed mainly in Marrakech and Erfoud in the desert.

Major Kasbah Films projects just before the pandemic included “The Way of the Wind,” Terence Malick’s “Men in Black,” and the Russo Brothers’ “Cherry.”

Debbagh and Dreher stress the need for a major new studio near Marrakech and are currently in negotiations with several partners for such a project.

When the first lockdown was imposed, they were producing ‘The Forgiven’, starring Jessica Chastain and Ralph Fiennes, which had to be postponed and then returned to summer 2021.

At the end of 2021, they managed the Moroccan shooting of “Seneca – On The Creation Of Earthquakes” by Robert Schwentke with John Malkovich.

The company also has a base in Germany, where Dreher most recently served as production manager on “Tar,” directed by Todd Field, starring Cate Blanchett and Noémie Merlant.

Kasbah Films produced online the Moroccan set of Fatih Akin’s latest film, “Rheingold”, for which the scenes in Kurdistan and Syria were shot in Marrakech, and the picture will now be screened at the Marrakech festival.

In addition to managing foreign shootings representing more than 40 million dollars of Moroccan production expenditure. they have produced six two Moroccan films since August 2021.

Their in-house projects include 2021’s pic, ‘Life Suits Me Well,’ by Al Hadi Ulad-Mohand and this year’s ‘The Damned Don’t Cry,’ by British-Moroccan filmmaker Fyzal Boulifa, which premiered in Venice. and will now screen in Marrakech.

“2023 will be another busy year for us,” says Debbagh. “The 30% cashback is a key factor, but to be honest, the biggest change is that there is no longer a cap on the maximum cashback amount. ‘Wheel of Time’ has reached the cap. If they come back, they will have access to a lot more money!

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