OUARZAZATE, Morocco — “QUIET!” The cry rings out in English, French and Arabic across the cobblestoned streets of Jerusalem, as filming begins for a scene in the series “A.D. The Bible Continues.”
But while the arched doorways, balconies and furnishings all say Roman-era Israel, the real-life setting is southern Morocco.
Viewers in America and elsewhere in the world may not know it but they have seen a lot of Morocco in the past year. It has served as the Baghdad of “American Sniper,” the Tehran seen in TV series “Homeland,” the Mali of “American Odyssey” and the Egypt that will appear in the miniseries “King Tut.” Morocco has also been Somalia numerous times, including in the 2001 film “Blackhawk Down,” and more recently in the 2013 “Captain Philips.” And it will be Saudi Arabia in this year’s “Hologram for a King” starring Tom Hanks.
All in all, it has been a banner year for Morocco’s status as a gigantic film-set — with $120 million spent by foreign film productions in the country last year, more than in the past five years put together.
The North African kingdom is riding high on its reputation for stability and exotic locales, but industry officials say that Morocco needs to do more — and offer more incentives — to realize its potential as a filming destination. It is contending with increasingly stiff competition from South Africa and other countries that offer deep tax rebates.
For Morocco’s film industry, the future depends on the right package of sweeteners to persuade studios to do more than just film exteriors here but also use local facilities.