The tax incentive offered by Spain since January 2015, giving film and TV producers a 15% rebate (up to 35% in the Canary Islands and 35% of tax credit in Navarra), is drawing more international shoots than ever to the country.
Spain boasts an architectural heritage well suited to period films. The diverse landscape of mountain ranges, forests and deserts, tropical-looking beaches and dramatic rocky sea-cliffs makes the country an attractive destination for international scouts. A good-value transportation network, as well as the ability to hire well-trained crews, is also part of Spain’s appeal.
The country has a long history as an international location of note. David Lean shot most of Doctor Zhivago at various locations throughout Spain, while the Almerian desert often doubled as the American West in spaghetti westerns. Spain is increasingly being rediscovered, and many service producers and film commission officials credit this to Ridley Scott. The UK filmmaker used Spain as a location, even before the new tax policy, for Kingdom Of Heaven (2005) and more recently Exodus: Gods And Kings (2014).
“Spain is always Ridley Scott’s first choice,” says Jose Luis Escolar, a line producer and second-unit director on international productions including BBC’s The Night Manager and ABC’s Still Star-Crossed. “He always tries to come here first. My experience is that directors and producers that come to work in Spain always want to come back. The locations are interesting, there’s good value for money and things work, from the transport network to hotels, crews and extras.”
But, he adds, an enhanced tax incentive and investment to build decent studios — Spain’s biggest facility, Ciudad de la Luz in Alicante, has now closed — are crucial for Spain to remain competitive.
HBO’s Game Of Thrones has become a regular around the country, including in Andalucia and Navarra, while the BBC’s Doctor Who team has used the Canary Islands and visited Valencia for season 10. Productions that shot in the country in 2016 included international features such as Open Road Films’ The Promise, starring Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac, and A Contracorriente Films’ Argentinian title Black Snow, with Ricardo Darin.
Later this year, the Canary Island of Fuerteventura will be one of the main locations for Disney/Lucasfilm’s as-yet-untitled Star Wars spin-off focusing on Han Solo, while Navarra is hosting the shoot of Jacques Audiard’s western The Sisters Brothers and Terry Gilliam’s The Man Who Killed Don Quixote. Catalan locations are standing in for Japan in Takashi Miike’s JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure.
Spain offers a 15% tax rebate to films and TV series with a minimum local spend of $1.06m (€1m). This may not exceed $2.64m (€2.5m) per production. This rises to 35% in the Canary Islands, also with a minimum spend of $1.06m (€1m) but with a limit set at $4.75m (€4.5m), and Navarra offers a tax credit of 35% of eligible expenses.
Infrastructure and crews
Technicians are accomplished and the feedback from international producers on production assistants, sound, art and cinematography crews is very good. Spain can also provide specialist crews for underwater shoots.
Most of the Canary Islands have experienced local companies that have worked recently on Lucile Hadzihalilovic’s Evolution and National Geographic documentary Atlantis Rising, among others. However, not everyone speaks English and the country desperately needs a decent studio facility of size.
A high-speed train network, 180,000 miles of motorway and roads and 48 airports help international crews move around Spain’s nearly 200,000 sq miles, including 5,000 miles of coastline. The chance to move from snowy mountain peaks to a big city or the beach in a few hours is one of the country’s major selling points. The majority of Spain’s islands have international airports, thanks to the country’s well-established tourist industry, as well as a huge array of hotels and restaurants. Most offer very good value.
Tracie Simpson, production executive, Doctor Who, says:
“My experience in shooting in the Canary Islands is really, really good. We went to Tenerife three times and it gave us the vistas that we needed, from the Teide National Park in February, which we later CGI-ed to make our Dalek City, to Garachico, which gave us more of a Continental-type look. The local production company organised things seamlessly. The people were absolutely fantastic. I truly cannot think of any cons.”
First person to call
Need to know
- DO get in touch with companies offering underwater shoots in the Canary Islands, such as Qstar or Aquawork in Gran Canaria, or Alfa Rec in Lanzarote.
- DO contact Spain Film Commission and check the individual regional or local commissions for facilities and experienced service companies in the area.
- DO try Atrio restaurant in Caceres, a gastronomic experience.
- DON’T forget the rich architectural heritage of Spain such as the monumental compound of the Alcazar of Seville.
- DON’T miss two spots in Extremadura: Monfrague National Park and Jerte Valley, especially if the cherry trees are in bloom.
Ivo van Vollenhoven, Twentyfour Seven
Why does it make sense to shoot a commercial in Spain?
“Spain is perfect for car commercials and ideal for vignettes and sports advertising, offering pan-European and US talent and locations. There are 247 flights a week from Barcelona to London and eight airlines fly direct between the two cities. Spain has an advanced high-speed train connection connecting all major cities, with hourly departures.
“In terms of locations we have classic and modern cosmopolitan cities, breathtaking coastlines and spectacular mountain ranges. Spanish deserts have hints of Arizona and we have snow in the winter and endless days in the summer. We are able to shoot on the beach in the morning and the mountains in the afternoon.
“Spain has the deepest crew available in Europe, rivalled only by Paris or London, and many of them work internationally.”