Location report: Filming in the Canary Islands
The Canary Islands comprise a sub-tropical archipelago situated 100km off the west coast of Morocco. KFTV takes a look at the regional production industry.
Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera and El Hierro offer year-round sunny weather and long, warm summers. Their film-friendly climate has a comfortable 23ºC average temperature in summer with hardly any rainfall and a mild 19ºC winter and very little rainfall. The islands get the most daylight hours of anywhere in Europe.
The Canary Islands are quite similar in terms of geography, with Lanzarote and Fuerteventura being dryer with spots of desert-like conditions, while the islands of La Gomera and La Palma to the west are greener with lush tropical forests and spectacular mountains.
Locations and local support
A huge variety of location types are on offer, often within a small geographic area. The Canary Islands’ great natural versatility lets you convincingly recreate the look of a Brazilian favela, rainforests, the arid Sahara Dessert, the Grand Canyon, Mediterranean villages, Greece’s golden beaches or a Martian landing scene.
The large variety of natural location types includes forests, mountains, waterfalls, volcanoes and sand dunes, all complemented by modern cities, picturesque villages and areas of heavy industry.
Separate island film commissions independently control and advise on all aspects of local production. Producers have access to a thoroughly modern, European infrastructure including advanced transport links and will find they are just a couple of hours from the Spanish mainland and just a little longer to central and northern Europe.
Filming incentive support
The Canary Islands offer a tax rebate of up to 35%, capped at €4.5m per production. This financial support has played a major role in boosting the islands' international appeal in recent years.
Every island has its own international airport (apart from El Hierro which is limited to iter-island travel and flights to the Spanish mainland), and there are daily flights to major European cities including the Spanish capital Madrid. There are also flights to and from Africa and the US.
There are good connections between the islands via domestic flights that depart frequently, with a maximum journey time of 45 minutes. There are also boats around the ports with inter-island crossings, transporting passengers and merchandise efficiently and frequently.
As a popular international tourist destination, the Canary Islands have a huge range of hotels and temporary accommodation to meet cast and crew needs. Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Tenerife have over 300,000 hotel beds between them, while the islands of La Palma and La Gomera are known for their high-end hotels.
A great starting point for productions planning a local shoot is Canary Islands Film, which offers details about the different islands’ offerings, tax incentives, logistics, services and procedures.
From there you are strongly advised to visit each island’s individual film commission website for greater detail and essential information on locations, facilities, local services and municipality.
The islands’ proximity to the Spanish mainland, great inland and overseas transport links, ideal climate and a generous 35% tax rebate for international productions have made them a popular choice for major foreign film productions, TV companies and big name commercials.
The islands have some of the greatest commercial hits of recent years to their credit including Clash of the Titans which was shot in Tenerife and the gripping car chases of Fast and Furious 6 (filmed partly on Tenerife and Gran Canaria, and pictured below centre).
Ridley Scott filmed scenes on Fuerteventura for his biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings. Other major film credits include Before the Dinosaurs (Walking with Monsters), while The Titan and Spanish horror REC 4 filmed on Gran Canaria, action sequel Jason Bourne filmed on Tenerife and Robert Zemeckis' Second World War movie Allied (pictured below right) shot scenes on both Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura with Brad Pitt and Marion Cotillard.
Prominent TV productions have included the dystopian anthology drama Black Mirror and the BBC's Doctor Who, which used landscapes on Tenerife as stand-ins for the moon.
Gran Canaria’s open roads perfectly lend themselves to car commercials. The island has recently attracted global names such as Bentley, Mercedes, Porsche, Jaguar, Lexus and Volkswagen among others, while the bountiful daylight has tempted the fashion and beauty names of Nivea, Fanta and H&M among many others.
There is no central authority on the islands for permits and each island film commission which independently handles permit applications and enquiries. There is currently a concentrated effort by various relevant authorities to simplify the permit application process by creating a single permit application contact.
It is important to note that at the moment, the film commissions themselves do not issue any film permits, but instead provide you with the relevant contacts and information you need in order to apply.
The procedure for requesting permission for filming depends on the municipality in which you wish to film and your best port of call remains the relevant island’s film commission.
Local producers and production companies are an ideal source of practical help and information for finding the best relevant bodies to approach. They can also break down language barriers, help with paperwork and advise on the actual application procedures.
A local producer could save a great deal of trouble and cost by clarifying the overlap which sometimes occurs between authorities, where several local administrators cater for single locations.
A local producer might also know of certain production companies which hold a yearly permit to locations, allowing you to film without any specific authorisation.
Foreign productions come to the islands for their outdoor beauty and versatile landscapes, and so it's mainly local TV companies that use studio facilities.
One established studio is Plato Del Atlántico TV Sudios in Tenerife, while Gran Canaria offers the professional Doble Diez and several small-scale operators such as EspacioDigital (Sound studio and projection rooms).
Gran Canaria plans to open another small-scale facility at the start of 2018, but the Canary Islands' raw natural locations and urban centres will be the central appeal to international producers for the foreseeable future.
Preparation is of particular significance as different location types can often be found on the one island within short proximity, saving the production a great deal of unnecessary effort and transport costs.
On Tenerife you can find exotic beaches, deserts, volcanic areas, colonial towns, luxuriant forests, pine tree forests, remote lighthouses as well as modern architecture.
Gran Canaria offers deserts, sandy and rocky beaches, a lighthouse, cliffs, a modern built up city, libraries, motorways distinctively built to the side of the mountains, a harbour, a modern vast, American-style open roads, vast green meadows, a thick forest, a picturesque village, golf course, waterfalls, an industrial area, old churches, a selection of buiding interiors including fetching staircases, a huge auditorium, large San Francisco like open space houses with open landscape as far as the eye can see, private swimming pools and much more.
Some islands offer unique locations such as La Palma’s volcanoes, or El Hierro’s Sabinar where trees grow distinctly twisted, shaped by the wind.
A number of service and equipment hire companies operate on the different islands, offering high-end production services.
Each island’s film commission produces its own production guide which includes a list of local equipment providers. Gran Canaria’s production guide provides listings for production services, audio visual equipment, casting, studios, animation and even stunts.
Some production companies will consider filming on a different island or ship equipment to a location on a different island if needed.
Allied image: Paramount Pictures. Fast & Furious 6 image: Universal Pictures