Qatar can be an amazing place to bring a film production. From the stunning natural sand dunes in the south of the country to the architecturally unique skyline of Doha’s West Bay district, the country can make for an impressive backdrop to any production.
But if you’ve ever tried to get anything done in the Gulf region, you’ll know that bureaucracy can bring even the best-made plans to a grinding halt, and the film industry is no different. Countless times, international crews come into Qatar, only to get caught up in more red tape than a marathon finish line. Luckily, Resolution Films has been working in Qatar for more than 12 years now, so we’re well versed in the maze of regulations that productions need to overcome.
Permits and Patience
The first thing you’ll need to be able to film in Qatar is patience. Nothing moves quickly when it comes to obtaining the right permits, especially if you’re coming in from outside the GCC. No doubt you’ve read some of the horror stories of crews filming without permits and ending up having their equipment confiscated, or even spending a night in Qatari jail.
If you’re planning to film in a public area, you’ll need a permit from the Qatar News Agency. This takes anywhere between 3 and 6 weeks, depending on the mood of the guy approving the application. Having a local sponsor is essential, and Resolution Films can facilitate this.
Some of the more photogenic areas of Qatar require additional permits – places like the Souq Waqif, Katara, The Pearl, any Qatar Foundation building or Hamad International Airport require extra permits, and sometimes there are big location fees involved.
Finally, don’t even bother trying to film Government Buildings unless you’ve been expressly invited by the Minister himself. It’s guaranteed one of the quickest ways out of the country!
Packing Your Bags
Many international crews like to bring their own equipment with them wherever they go. Most of the time, that’s not a huge issue. In Qatar though, it’s just more bureaucracy.
Importing any film equipment, like cameras, tripods, lights etc. are all going to be closely inspected by Customs officials. It’s completely their discretion as to whether or not a piece of kit will be allowed into the country, and it can get pretty arbitrary – even with all the other permits in place.
If you’ve got your heart set on bringing your own kit to Qatar, then you’ll need a local sponsor again, and we can help you with that. If you’re happy to hire locally, check out our Resolution Hire team. We have full kit and crew available for any size production and we’re always happy to lend our local expertise to make your shoot go as smoothly as possible.
As of September 2017, the Civil Aviation Authority has grounded all drones, except in special circumstances. Customs officials have also been informed to seize any drones being imported into the country.
Luckily, Resolution Films has one of the only commercial drones in the country, complete with a high-definition remotely-controlled GoPro camera attached. We also have highly experienced and qualified pilots.
Under normal conditions, drone filming requires a whole heap of paperwork to be submitted to the Civil Aviation Authority, with information about the model of drone, the pilot and what the drone will be used for. This permit tends to take around a month to obtain, and the Ministry of Interior might send someone along to your shoot, just to make sure you’re not filming anything you shouldn’t.
The most important thing you need when filming in Qatar is patience. Nothing happens overnight, so you just need to plan well ahead and leave plenty of time to get all your paperwork in order. Working with a local team like Resolution Films does relieve a lot of the stress as well – we have Production Managers who live for this sort of stuff (not really, but they’re very good at it…)
It might take a while to get everything sorted, but trust us – filming your production in Qatar will be well worth it!