In 2016, Egypt was ranked 4th by Freemuse among the top 10 censoring countries worldwide. Various artists, filmmakers and individuals frequently face issues when attempting to film. This project offers a glimpse into what it is like to be an artist in modern-day Egypt.
Every form of media plays a major role in shaping how viewers perceive locations they see on their screens.
Whether it is in films or TV shows, spectators are easily affected by what they see, with film-induced tourism on the rise.
A well-observed side to this is the negative effects of advertising on body image and mental health, but one often overlooked aspect is how scenes from foreign places can encourage travel among viewers.
The term “film-induced tourism” refers to the phenomenon of tourists visiting places and picking destinations based on what they see in cinemas and on their TV screens.
For example, visitation to the filming location of American Director and Producer Steven Spielberg’s 1977 science fiction film Close Encounters of the Third Kind in Wyoming in the U.S. increased by 74 percent following the release of the film.
In addition, one-fifth of respondents attributed their knowledge of Wyoming’s The Devils Tower National Monument, where the film’s climactic scene of the spaceship landing was filmed, to the movie.
It also increased the number of visitors and climbers to the national monument.
These findings were published by Professor of Tourism and Foundation and Chair of the College of Eminent Professors at William Angliss Institute in Australia Sue Beeton in a 2006 study titled Understanding Film-induced Tourism.
This research studied the effects of film on the tourism industry in a number of cities around the world.
In several case studies, there was proven to be a positive correlation between filming in a country and the increase in the number of tourists following the release of the film.
New Zealand witnessed a nine percent increase in tourism in 2003 following the filming of the world renowned, high fantasy adventure film series The Lord of the Rings.
Various countries were able to increase the number of visiting tourists based solely on the fact that they granted filmmakers - both local and foreign - license to film.
However, Egypt has yet to catch on to that trend.
Filmmakers in Egypt encounter a number of impediments when it comes to producing films, as the process of obtaining filming permits can, in some cases, complicate and hinder the process.
Research published by the Ministry of Tourism in its August 2013 print issue of the Tourism Research magazine focuses on how the film industry can help increase tourism in Egypt, while also focusing on obstacles filmmakers face.
The Ministry’s research found a strong correlation between exposure in films and TV shows and an increase in tourism.
They referenced Turkish dramas as a successful example in transforming filming locations into tourist attractions spots and increasing the number of Arab tourists visiting Turkey.
“And this points to the rise in Arab interests in Turkish television series, music and cuisine, leading to an influx of the number of Arab tourists to Turkey and the turning of filming sites into touristic areas.”
The Ministry randomly surveyed 150 individuals.
Of the sample, 25 were tourism academics, 25 media and cinema academics and 100 visitors to Cairo’s 2013 International Book Fair.
The research also concluded that governments play a significant role in supporting the production of films locally, like decreasing taxes on foreign film crews.
Morocco, for example, has become a filming hub for international films as the government extends access to nearly any resource that will ease and maintain the steady influx of tourists into the country.
“In our journal, every research has a recommendation. They are then sent to the designated parties. In order to attract international production to us, we need to implement those changes,” said Hassan Selim, Deputy Minister of Tourism.
“If someone came to make a song or film in Egypt, we can try to get them a discounted price, sometimes even free, in the filming locations. All to promote tourism in Egypt.”
Egyptian cinema has long been very influential in the Arab world, however, today’s filmmakers face several challenges. This audio feature sheds light on some of the issues content creators have to overcome.
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NGOs EFFORTS TO EASE PERMIT-OBTAINING PROCESS
In an attempt to ease the filming process in Egypt, several international and local organizations dedicate their services to help producers, filmmakers and photographers create the content they desire.
Among such organizations is NEEDaFIXER, a global London-based production house that operates in more than 100 countries, including Egypt.
Other than organizing shoots, connecting content creators with local experts, scouting locations and planning production, NEEDaFIXER also easies the permit-obtaining process in places like Egypt.
Ramy Francis, NEEDaFIXER’s Egypt representative, explained the process of obtaining film permits for foreigners.
Foreigners must go through the Press Center, the link between any foreign broadcaster or production company and the Egyptian government. They fill in a filming request which is sent to several security apparatuses, like the Ministry of Interior.
The press center then issues permit cards to film.
“This process used to take two or three weeks. Now it takes six or seven weeks. We are losing a lot of work because of that. Egypt is losing a lot of attention in the world, although we need it very much to accelerate tourism and to put focus on the major projects happening. They are not granting permissions and it is a big issue,” said Francis.
However, permits are not always granted.
According to Francis, a Chinese production company wanting to make a film about the Suez Canal’s silk transportation routes was not granted the required permission.
“[The company] wanted to talk about the new Suez Canal and how it is facilitating those routes and making it easier. We were granted to film everything but Suez Canal. They told us it is a military zone and we are not allowed … The boats passing by [in the Canal] all have cameras and are filming as they navigate. It was just a no with no justification.”
The number of organizations similar to NEEDaFIXER is currently on the rise after the tightening of permit allowances. Emerge Film Solutions, for instance, is another production house that operates in Egypt and several other countries.