Frequently asked questions about filming in Dubai and Abu Dhabi (UAE)
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Filming in the UAE offers a wide range of sceneries from modern, gleaming skylines, highways and massive infrastructure to traditional Bedouin and dhow (wood boat) shipping and natural desert and mountain scenes.
The UAE is keen on positioning itself as a global destination for film makers and the authorities there are helpful and welcoming.
As in all other countries in the region, you will require a permit to film in the UAE. Getting this takes about a week and must be done through a local production agency licensed to operate in Dubai (I usually use Bareface Productions). There are separate permits for Dubai and neighboring emirates and Abu Dhabi, but the procedures are about the same.
Permits in Dubai are issued by the Location Approval Services office at Dubai Film and Television Commission (DFTC) – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Permits in Abu Dhabi are issues by the Abu Dhabi Film Commission.
Both require around 5 working days.
o A letter on your letterhead introducing yourself addressed to :
Dubai Film and Television Commission / Abu Dhabi Film Commission in Abu Dhabi
o A brief synopsis of your project and a list of the sites you wish to film at
o The local production company
o List of all crew members
o Colour copies of all crew members
o Accompanying letter from local company
The local production company will apply for the permit and collect it.
You must carry your permit with you at all times. A good idea is to copy it and give a copy to every crew member. Then if one forgets it the other is likely to have a copy. Also good in case of separation of the crew.
Can we film anywhere in Dubai and Abu Dhabi?
Once you have the permit you can film in all public areas in Dubai. As in any country, you are not allowed to film military, police and other sensitive locations. You fixer will alert you to such locations even when they may not be evident.
In some public areas like the gold market it makes sense and courtesy to find and get a nod from security officials.
Filming in private locations
Malls will generally allow you to film though many of the high end malls may charge a fee. As a general rule it’s best to request prior permission. This usually depends on if the shoot is editorial or commercial.
Some of Dubai’s famous landmarks (Burj al Arab, Burj Khalifa, Ski Dubai) may allow filming but they charge high fees. They can be easier on access and budgets for editorial filming. Again it’s best to confirm with them before hand.