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Making a Corporate Video in Morocco? Here are 16 Things You Need to Know

I just returned from a film shoot in Morocco. The country is beautiful, with a rich history, and accessible culture. But making a professional video there takes some doing. Here are 16 tips to help you get the job done.

1. No vaccines or visas required

If you’re a US citizen, you don’t need a visas if you’re staying fewer than 90 days. A fun fact: in 1777, the Kingdom of Morocco became the first country in the world to recognize United States independence, only a year and a half after the U.S. Declaration of Independence was issued. We’re friends.

2. Definitely hire a fixer

You need a local video production company. There’s no way around this. I worked with Casablanca-based Tswera Productions. They did a great job. I plan on writing a longer piece about the positive experience.

Spice vendor in Marrakesh’s medina (old city) at Jemaa el-Fnaa. Photo by Steve Dorst

3. Nabbing that elusive “authorization to film”

You’re going to need a letter from the company/organization you’re working for. Then your local Moroccan video production company will go to the Centre Cinématographique Morocain to get your permit. This process will take a while. You’ll provide a lot of info, including the CVs of your crew, list of equipment, list of interviews, interview questions, distribution plans, etc. You’ll be asked to specify the exact dates and locations of your shooting schedule, so be ready to be specific.

4. The police are trustworthy

I’ve been in a lot of countries where the police stress you out, but Moroccan police were great. They were ever-present. But several locals emphasized to me that the country had suffered far fewer terrorist bombings than their neighbors (or Paris and Madrid for that matter). Yes, the police stopped us every time we were filming outside, but they accepted our permits and let us continue. While driving throughout the country, we were stopped at multiple roadblocks, but they never hassled us. The roadblocks were there to stop the bad guys.

5. Sorry, no drones

There was a time that you could fly a drone freely in Morocco, but those days are long gone. We didn’t manage to get permission. Apparently, there’s a process, but you have to name the exact GPS coordinates, day and time, which leads me to this next one …

6. Stock footage resources

If you can’t get all the (drone) footage you want, there are some good Morocco stock footage resources.

In Tangier, with awesome driver Jawad and Unit Producer Zola. Photo by Jake Lyell

7. Adapting your plugs

You can use the same plugs you use in Europe (type C) and especially France (type F)

8. Brush up on that French!

This is a polyglot nation! Moroccan Arabic is the most widespread, with French and Berber right behind. In the north, a lot of people will speak Spanish. Some in more touristy spots speak English, but don’t count on it. My team spoke French, so that worked out well for us.

9. Fridays are holy days

When you’re making your shooting schedule, keep in mind that Friday is the holy day and many people go to the mosque. It’s their Sunday.

10. Clothes to wear

For b-roll outside, we wore shorts and t-shirts because it can get hot. For most interviews, we wore long pants, business casual. For interviews with government officials, we wore suits. The women on our team wore long pants and covered their shoulders.

11. Money: Haggling is a sport

The Moroccan currency is the dirham and is about 10X1 to the dollar. ATMs abound. People prefer cash. At most markets, the prices aren’t posted. Vendors didn’t mark up drinks and food for me, but for most everything else they name a price that is 3x or more what you should pay. Best strategy: go with a local and don’t do the haggling yourself. Second-best: treat it as a game, don’t take anything personally, remember that nobody is your friend despite the Oscar-winning performances, and always be willing to walk away.

12. Mosques are verboten

If you want to see a mosque in Morocco, you’re out of luck unless you’re Muslim. The sole exception is the Hassan II Mosque in Casablanca. It currently is the fifth-largest mosque in the world and has the second-tallest minaret. Visit, then watch the sunset from the promenade. Maybe play some soccer or take some tea with the locals. People are welcoming here.

In Casablanca, having a tea with some friendly locals by the Hassan II mosque. Photo by Zola 

13. Beer is (sometimes) hard to get

After a long day of filming in the hot sun, there’s nothing better than a beer … unless you’re in Morocco. Alcohol isn’t available on patios or rooftops. And a lot of establishments are dry. Hotels are a good bet, so if you’re hankering for a drink be sure to ask before you get settled in. Or better yet, be like the locals and drink mint tea: it’s a ritual and a pick-me-up. I was partial to the fruit juices, especially anything with avocado in it.

Avocado smoothie, lunch in Casablanca. Photo by Steve Dorst

14. The food is insanely good

Early in my career I worked with an American cameraman who’s go-to meal every day in Cameroon was grilled chicken and fries. It worked for him, because he wanted to stay healthy and do his job. But when I’m in a new place, I like to try new things. In Morocco, you’re in luck. First, look for tagine, pastilla, and couscous. Tagine is the name of the clay cooking pot and the amazing dish that includes spices, vegetables and either beef, chicken, or lamb. Pastilla is a sweet and savory pie that’s filled with meet, with a layer of sugar, ground almond, and cinnamon. Couscous is only cooked on Fridays to celebrate holy day.

15. Cell phone service

In Morocco, my AT&T did not offer the $10/day International Day Pass that allows you to use your phone normally (and not have to stress out about your data). So I had to buy a $60 1GB Passport that I exhausted in three days and then I upgraded to the $120 3GB Passport … on the other hand, my crew had Verizon and they had the day pass. Easy peasy. We all used WhatsApp to communicate with each other.

16. What to film?

Like in most countries, be smart and don’t film government installations or policemen. Our film permit didn’t give us carte blanche: the private security guards at several private buildings, including an outdoor mall in Casablanca and the marina in Tangier, didn’t let us film. And when photographing people, be cool and ask permission.

Well, hopefully a few of these tips will help you as you head out to make a great video in Morocco. Good luck!

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