Saudi Arabia’s Neom attracted its first Bollywood movie shoot starring Shahrukh Khan. Dunki became the first movie to be filmed at the location.
A new sound stage in the area will also be used to film the 200-episode-per-year Saudi soap opera “Exceptional,” which is produced by MBC. Wayne Borg, managing director of Neom, announced at the second Red Sea International Film Festival in Jeddah.
The sprawling region located along the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia at Tabuk, in the northwest of the kingdom, served as the backdrop for a very modest amount of the movie “Dunki,” which is set all over the world. But Wayne Borg, who oversees the startup media hub, said that it was crucial because of “the amount of production that it delivers” and because it served as “an entree to start presenting to the Indian market what we can offer.”
Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates, which is close by, has recently become a popular location for Bollywood blockbusters to be filmed, partly because of its 30% production budget rebate and other benefits. Neom, which has a 40%+ cash rebate production program and is constructing infrastructure, is rising to the top of the competition, especially for Indian and global productions.
Regarding the UAE, Borg said, “I think our objectives are considerably larger than theirs.” Over the following four years, he claimed, Neom will be home to more than 40 sound stages. Three of these are already in use: the first three. By Q1 2023, seven more, including a sophisticated volumetric sound stage, are expected to be operational.
A sizable crew and cast headquartered at Neom will be arriving with MBC’s “Exceptional,” the specifics of which are being kept under wraps, “demonstrating that this isn’t simply about fly-in, fly-out production,” Borg noted. We’re enhancing our capacity to draw talent for these programs because they see the value of consistency in work.
There are already direct flights from Dubai to Neom, and in late December, there will also be direct flights from Dubai to London. Straight into Neom, it’s a four-and-a-half-hour flight, according to Borg. The Airport is a 10-minute drive from our media village, making it a very convenient location. That, in my opinion, is a significant advancement for producers.
Over the past 18 months, 26 productions were hosted, including the $150 million Hollywood tentpole “Desert Warrior,” which has an international all-star cast, including “Captain America” star Anthony Mackie and is directed by Rupert Wyatt (“Planet of the Apes”). It would be intriguing to see when and if they can start luring Hollywood shoots.
Sharukh Khan on Filming Dunki in Neom
Speaking about his experience filming in the nation and its developing film industry, Khan said he was inspired by the determination of the regional industry to develop and expand.
“Whenever you have a country that starts shooting, and they are not used to making films, you have some teething problems, so I went back to the Ministry, and we spoke to them once on the phone, and they were so kind,” said Khan. “I think the nicest part is that they want to do it. When trying to make films, I think half the battle is won if you just want to do it.”
Khan continued by praising Saudi Arabia’s “beautiful” landscapes and “hospitable people,” emphasizing the country’s “great cultural affinity” with India and highlighting KSA’s passion for Bollywood movies.