Hollywood Movies

Hicham Hajji, making Hollywood movies in Morocco

April 6, 20245 Mins Read

When he was 23 years old, he left for Canada, enrolling in a film school. To him, it was the start of everything, studying the ABCs of filmmaking and producing. After graduating film school, Hicham Hajji started his career, working on music videos for a small production company in Montreal.

Then, it was time to go back to his home country, Morocco. There, he learned from the grassroots. His first position in the industry was second assistant director, alongside Moroccan director Ahmed Boulane for his 2007 movie «The Satanic Angels» (Les Anges de Satan).

«I learned a lot from this movie; it was like an accelerated film school», Hicham Hajji told Yabiladi, in a phone interview. From there, he embarked on a local career, working with many Moroccan filmmakers as a second assistant director.

Shortly after, the young filmmaker founded his own company and made his first movie. «I did a short film called ‘Casa riders,’ and that’s where the dream began», he recalled.

«I am a biker myself, and I have a group of biker friends; we just took a camera and started to make a short film in Darija. We told ourselves that one day we would make a longer movie; we didn’t know when, where, or how, but we just knew we would make a big action movie», Hicham remembered.

Through his company, H Films, he also embarked on working with foreign film productions in Morocco. For years, he helped international movie producers shoot in the Kingdom, «providing them with a great service, great comfort, and taking care of everything for them».

«Because I shot everywhere in Morocco, I know all the locations; I know how to treat American productions in Morocco. If you want to shoot in a restaurant in Beverly Hills, you can perfectly do it in Marrakech or in Casablanca; the interior is the same», he explained.

Shooting in Morocco is also less expensive for these international moviemakers.  «If you live in New York and want to shoot in the desert, you have two solutions: you either go to Las Vegas or New Mexico and hire an American team, or you can go to Morocco and have the exact same setting while hiring a Moroccan team that costs you three or four times less than in the US», he signaled.

«There is a big advantage to shoot in Morocco, and we try to convince American, UK, and French producers. A lot of people find it attractive, and it is also my job to have a beautiful human and professional experience in Morocco», Hicham explained.

Moving to LA

During one of these shootings, Hicham had a sudden realization. Why not make movies in Hollywood ? In 2015, and while managing the shooting of a film starring Nicole Kidman, James Franco, and Robert Pattinson, Hicham was asked if he had ever been to Los Angeles.

«Nicole Kidman told me ‘next time you are in LA let me know so we can meet’, but I told her I had never been to LA. Everyone started to laugh at me nicely saying ‘how come you’ve never been to LA? You are making big Hollywood movies in Morocco; you must go there’», he recalled.

And so it was, Hicham went back with the crew to LA, where he was introduced to people from the industry. «I said to myself ‘I don’t know how or how much it’s going to cost, it’s a big step but I know I am going to live here and that’s the only way I am going to make my movie», he said.

Hicham decided to finally settle between Morocco and Hollywood. «It was very helpful because it allowed me to make my movie in English, catering to international audiences», he recalled.

«Redemption Day» was Hicham’s first Moroccan American movie. Shot in Morocco and starring Gary Dourdan, Serinda Swan, and Andy García. It is an action movie that tells the story of a US Marine who travels to Morocco to rescue his kidnapped wife.

«It is an international movie that talks about Moroccan stories and Moroccan subjects, even if the protagonists are American», he explained.

While working in Hollywood, Hicham is also doing what he does best, which is bringing foreign productions to shoot in Morocco.

«What made me want to go to the US is servicing American producers who wanted to shoot in Morocco. After working with so many of them, the decision was so obvious», the filmmaker said. «Right now, I am in Morocco shooting three commercials for major brands, including Hermes. We shoot in Merzouga and Marrakech», he told Yabiladi.

Speaking about the industry of movie shooting in Morocco, Hicham said that things have changed lately. While American producers used to come with 80 percent of their team to shoot and hire 20 percent in Morocco, today it is the opposite. «We now have very good workers in Morocco who have experience with Hollywood movies so it makes no sense to bring a make-up artist from the US and pay for their flight ticket while it would cost three times cheaper here», he explained.

After his movie Redemption Day, Hicham’s second movie «The Last Princess» will be world-premiered next month at the Beverly Hills festival and internationally released by this summer.

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