Spain is one of the world’s top filming locations, with a track record that goes back to the glamour days of cinema in 1960s and 1970s. Directors like Sergio Leone, with his Spaghetti Westerns, helped Spain establish its reputation and it has never looked back (though competition for work has intensified with the emergence of popular Eastern European locations). Iconic titles to have been shot there include Spartacus, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and a slate of James Bond films.
Spain’s strengths include the diversity of its locations, the quality of its crews, its climate, its transport links, the studio/equipment infrastructure and the fact that it is safe. It is also pretty cost-efficient. This is partly because of the European economic downturn and partly because it is easy for French and UK ad agencies and producers to get to (cheaper than flying specialist crew to locations like South America or Eastern Europe).
The biggest issue for Spain over the years has been the lack of filming incentives from central government. But that has now changed. Today, there is a range of incentives starting at 15% and rising to 35% for productions that base themselves in Gran Canaria. There are also some regional top-up funds on offer, with the result that Spain is once again a competition option.
Netflix set up a production hub in Madrid in mid-2018 and has since escalated its production investment in Spain, in the process becoming a key international investor in the country.
Recent international films shoots have included western movie The Sisters Brothers, which shot the Navarra and Zaragoza regions as the Old West, while a 2019 reboot of the Terminator franchise and scenes from Wonder Woman 1984 were also shot in the country.
Game of Thrones shot in Spain for the first time in 2014, supported by the Andalusia Film Commission, the Seville Film Office and the Osuna Film Office.
Filming in Spain is not a bureaucratic process – and there is often flexibility should the needs of a production change during shooting. But it makes sense to allow plenty of time for securing permits (particularly in summer when the holiday period can slow things).
At the outset, it is worth noting that all villages, cities and regions have distinct rules regarding the use of public spaces. Each council provides permits and may require a fee. Typically, producers hire a local service company to assist with applications. Public liability insurance for risks to third parties is a legal requirement. There is also legislation related to working with children and animals. For full details, you can gain access to 22 regional film offices via the Spain Film Commission website.
Spain has several studios, mainly located in Madrid and Barcelona. The best approach is to get advice from a local service company to ensure you get the right venue.
Among Spain’s biggest studio groups are Madrid’s Media Pro, which hosts a lot of output from broadcaster Antena 3, Valencia Studios and Barcelona’s Catalonia Audiovisual Park in Terrassa (30km from Barcelona. The Catalonia Park is a 4-studio operation with the infrastructure for TV, commercials and film. It is also home to dozens of companies in the sector.
Spain is well supplied by medium-sized studios that target TV commercials and music videos. A case in point is Marbella-based Mundo Studios, which has a wide range of stages managed by multilingual staff and supported by a range of facilities. Also worth noting is Adisar in Madrid, a 10-studio complex which handles some of Spain’s top commercials.
As for producers that want to base themselves out on the Balearic Islands, one option is Cinespot, which has the largest studio complex in Majorca. It says: “All of our facilities can accommodate any combination of production from a pack-shot shoot, to a feature film or a multi-episodic drama.”
The diversity of locations in Spain ranges from the Mediterranean coast to snow-covered mountains, along with islands, beaches, volcanoes, forests, rivers, deserts, farming landscape and cultural sites. Landscapes of historical interest with evidence of Greek, Roman, Moorish, Medieval and Modernist cultures, among others, can be found. Towns range from old rural or fishing villages to modern international cities. Spain also offers mild weather and good light all the year round.
While Barcelona and Madrid are most popular production hubs, Valencia, Seville, Malaga and the various Spanish islands are also busy. Tenerife, for example, played host to the reboot of Clash of the Titans and its follow up Wrath of the Titans. Other locations of interest include the Pyrenees, the Gaudi architecture of Barcelona, the Islamic influenced cities of Cordoba and Granada and the pilgrim destination Santiago de Compostela. Add to this events like Pamplona's Running of the Bulls and you have a unique mix of opportunities.
Not to be overlooked either are Spain’s 2500 castles, which the Spain Film Commission is keen to promote. The SFC is worth contacting first. It offers producers free services and assistance for shooting all kinds of audiovisual works. It also advises on financing, location scouting, and administrative services of all kind.
Spain is well equipped in the main production centres. In Barcelona, there are companies like Icon International (which also has a Madrid office) and Popular Pictures, service producers that also offer a wide range of cameras, lenses, VTRs and other related kit. In Madrid, another similar set up is Camara Rental. In Tenerife, Cactus Camera Rental can provide kit for use across the Canary Islands, while Cinemax Digital is based down in Marbella.
As explained earlier, crews are good but unlike some other shooting territories there’s also a good pool of directors, directors of photography, art directors and set builders. Spain’s big cities are also home to top-notch commercials, film and broadcast post-production houses, offering VFX services, colour grading and much more. Location services suppliers are also easy to find.