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Overview and productions

Spain enjoys a long tradition of attracting international productions, and in 2021 Wes Anderson took his Cannes title Asteroid City to Chinchon, 50 kilometres southeast of Madrid, 

doubling for the US. The introduction of elevated tax breaks that came into effect on January 1, 2023 is now turbo­charging the influx. 

Netflix, with its big base just outside Madrid, has brought in several productions over the past few years. Most recently The Crown shot some of its sixth season in Catalonia and Mallorca, while Charlie Covell’s reimagined Greek mythology series Kaos filmed in Andalusia, Aragon and Madrid. Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror series visited the Canary Islands, as did The Mother, the Netflix feature starring Jennifer Lopez. Spain’s JA Bayona filmed Society Of Snow in Granada’s Sierra Nevada mountains in 2022, telling the real-life story of the Uruguayan plane that crashed in the Andes in 1972 while carry­ing a Monte­video rugby team. MGM/STX’s The Covenant from Guy Ritchie, starring Jake Gyllen­haal, filmed mostly in Zaragoza, while Yash Raj Films’ Bollywood blockbuster Pathaan, directed by Siddharth Anand, shot in Cadiz, Andalusia in 2022. 

Despite the Hollywood strike action, the second season of HBO’s House Of The Dragon managed to finish its Spanish shooting this spring in the cities of Caceres and Trujillo, among other locations; Prime Video’s Wondery and Peacock-produced Dr Death shot scenes for its latest season in Catalonia; Valencia and Catalonia hosted partial shooting for the second season of the Disney+ Star Wars series Andor; while Guy Ritchie’s latest (currently untitled) action movie is shooting on the Canary Islands.

The latest boom in international film and TV shoots began in 2015, after Game Of Thrones filmed in Andalusia and a 15% tax rebate for international projects was established. In 2021, Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sanchez introduced a plan to invest $1.7bn (€1.6bn) to ramp up the audiovisual sector between 2021 and 2025. 

“This government has done a lot more than any previous one to bring inter­national shoots to Spain, as well as for the internationalisation of Spanish cinema,” says producer Peter Welter Soler from Fresco Film Services. The Barcelona, Lisbon and Malaga-­based production services company has worked on Kaos, season two of Netflix’s Warrior Nun, Game Of Thrones and House Of The Dragon, among others. “It has improved the incentives and modi­fied the working visa process, making requirements more flexible and streamlining the procedures,” he adds.

The production boom is also helping a generation of local technicians to improve their skills, which is benefitting homegrown films, as witnessed by the festival success of Spanish titles including Estibaliz Urresola Solaguren’s Berlinale 2023 award winner 20,000 Species Of Bees. 

Fernando Victoria de Lecea, a producer at Menakoz Films and also president of Profilm, the organisation of service providers in Spain, says the sector should not get complacent. “In terms of cost, we are average in Western Europe but expensive if compared with Eastern Europe,” he says.

In the short term, de Lecea suggests the incentives should be tweaked further to “raise the return caps a little more per film and series episodes”. At present, the national incentive allows eligible film and TV productions to receive a rebate of 30% on costs up to $21m (€20m) per film and $10.5m (€10m) for any single series episode. De Lecea would like to see the film cap raised to $31.5m (€30m), as long as it does not exceed 50% of the budget, and to reduce the qualifying mini­mum local spend from $1.05m (€1m) to $210,000 (€200,000) in the case of series, post-production work and visual effects. 

“We are very competitive in terms of quality crews, national cinema culture and diversity of settings,” he underlines. Productions apply through a local producer and receive the incentive within six months.

Local knowledge

New York-based Civilian 7 Entertainment went to the Canary Islands (see page 32) for Stuart Gatt’s Catching Dust, attracted by the “terrific tax rebate”, according to company founder Jon Katz. “The film is set in the desert of west Texas. We were amazed when our local team found a spectacular desert valley framed by mountains where we could shoot in 360 degrees,” Katz says. “We faced several weather-related equipment issues, but the local crews, via Volcano Films, were knowledgeable and easy to work with.” 

Demand is rocketing, however, and urgent training is required to create a wider pool of highly skilled technical crews, say local producers. 

There is cautious optimism regarding the reopening of Ciudad de la Luz (City of Light) film studios in Alicante. The facility was forced to close in 2012 following a European Commission ruling that upheld complaints from production studios, including Pinewood Studios, that public funds invested in the facility amounted to unfair competition. Its closure left Spain without a facility on the scale of other European studios for a decade. 

Ciudad de la Luz is owned by the Valencian government, which originally invested $493.5m (€470m) and has invested $26.3m (€25m) to update the complex. It now has six soundstages totalling 11,160 square metres, 9,930 square metres of workshops and storage and 29.2 acres of backlot as well as an exterior water tank.

Former Ciudad de la Luz director Antonio Rodes assured in summer 2023 that the Ciudad de la Luz complex would be operating at full capacity by the end of the year. However, in October 2023 Fermin Crespo was appointed the new director of the Valencian studios by SPTD, a board of directors depending on the regional government. The replacement was a consequence of a government change after the Valencian regional elections in May 2023.

Once fully open the local economic impact of the studios is estimated to be $892.5m (€850m) over the next five years.

First person to contact: Teresa Azcona, general manager, Spain Film Commission:


Overview and productions



Balearic Islands of Mallorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera

Just an hour’s flight from the major filmmaking hubs of Madrid and Barcelona, the locations to be found on Spain’s Balearic islands have become strategically important as the country works hard to accommodate the demand from international productions. Paramount+ thriller series Lioness, starring Nicole Kidman and Zoe Saldana, shot for seven weeks on the island of Mallorca at the beginning of the year, as well as in the US and France. It had a crew of about 450 people, split about equally between international, local and mainland Spain staffers.

Mallorca is the largest of the four islands, rounded out by Ibiza, Menorca and Formentera. It has recently hosted filming for the sixth season of Netflix’s The Crown and Clerkenwell Films’ UK series The Mallorca Files. The Balearics have a combined population of 1.2 million and a long history as cultural and tourism hubs. They are easily accessible from most of the big European cities, Spanish mainland airports and ferry lines, and there are plentiful options for accommodation and catering. Distances are short within the islands, enabling crews to move quickly from one location to the next.

Local crews speak English and there are specialists for underwater filming. Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca each have their own film commission, while renowned service producer Mike Day of Palma Pictures is based on Mallorca, working on the island and throughout Spain.

Mallorca has both MN Studios and Palma Pictures, which offer soundstages of around 1,000 square metres each, and plans are underway for a new facility, the Mallorca Green Film Studios in Marratxi, near island capital Palma, with 1,500 square metre stage that can be flooded. The project has the support of the local authorities and benefits from EU Next Generation funds, and it is due be open by the end of 2024. 






Almeria’s breathtaking Tabernas desert in the south has also witnessed more traffic than usual. Pedro Almodovar’s new film, the western short Strange Way Of Life (Extraña Forma De Vida) — starring Ethan Hawke and Pedro Pascal — shot there this summer, in homage to the area’s longstanding history with the genre. During the spaghetti western craze of the 1960s, locals say there were so many shoots that crews and extras would sometimes end up on the wrong set, and not realise their mistake until action was called. More recently, Almeria has doubled for Australia in The Crown and has hosted modern westerns such as Jacques Audiard’s The Sisters Brothers. The first season of Palomar and Bron Studios’ steampunk series That Dirty Black Bag starring Douglas Booth, Christian Cooke and Dominic Cooper, along with Showtime’s The Man Who Fell To Earth, starring Chiwetel Ejiofor, Naomie Harris and Bill Nighy, were shot there. 

The city of Cadiz, also in Andalusia, was used by Bollywood production Pathaan, starring Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone. “The key to our success is the institutional involvement and the fact the whole audiovisual ecosystem is working as one,” says Carlos Rosado, president of Spain Film Commission, who is pleased “global production companies have Spain in mind” when looking for locations. “Productions, big or small, can find everything they need in our country,” he adds. “We are extremely competitive and [have] proven production value, as Money Heist has shown. This is a key factor in attracting more and more shoots. “The list is impressive and the future full of promise,” adds Rosado on the increase of foreign projects. “Not only for international shoots, but local productions are also strong.” Spain’s film success in 2022 included Carla Simon’s Berlinale Golden Bear winner Alcarras, Alberto Mielgo’s Oscar-­winning short The Windshield Wiper, as well as Oscar nominations for acting talent Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem and composer Alberto Iglesias.

Studio space

The lack of sizeable studio space has long been a problem in attracting inward investment, but in March this year the European Commission gave the greenlight to reopen Ciudad de la Luz (City of Light) film studios in Alicante. The studio had to shut in 2012 because of a European Commission ruling, after Pinewood Studios complained in Brussels that the public funds invested in the facility amounted to unfair competition. The ruling has now been lifted, to the delight of many. However, line producer Jose Luis Escolar, head of production service company Calle Cruzada, suggests that “it would make much more sense to have a facility like that in Madrid or Barcelona.” 

On the subject of new studio space, Peter Welter Soler, partner and executive producer of service company Fresco Film, says: “I have it on good word that there is a lot of interest by international investors to open more filming facilities in Spain and Portugal. We need it. In order to make it happen, the government should consider lifting the €10m [$11m] cap because the type of productions these investors have in mind are really big budgets and long shoots. I’m thinking of an American major that is launching a series of say €100m [$108m] or €200m [$216m]. With a higher cap we could be even more competitive both in shoots and shooting facilities.”

Negotiations are ongoing but there is hope, with industry sources praising the current government for doing more for this industry in a year and a half than all the previous administrations, after Spanish president Pedro Sanchez went to Hollywood and talked directly with US studios. “The government finally sees the potential of an industry that employs a lot of people, is diverse, environmentally sound and promotes the country towards another key local industry — tourism,” says Escolar. The boom in international shoots has meant many crew members have a chance to be promoted more quickly, “getting to posts of responsibility in five months, instead of the five years it took me”, says Fresco Film’s Welter Soler, who is working on Sky series A Town Called Malice, created by Nick Love and starring Jack Rowan, Tahirah Sharif, Dougray Scott and Jason Flemyng, which has the Canary Island of Tenerife as its main location.

Welter Soler confirms the company is “busier than ever”, even more so than in 2020-21 when it worked on Uncharted, starring Tom Holland and Mark Wahlberg (which shot in Alicante, Barcelona and Madrid), Netflix’s In From The Cold and Palomar/Bron Studios’ That Dirty Black BagUncharted was one of the big-budget productions that shot in Spain between 2020 and 2021. Others included Net­flix’s Red Notice, starring Dwayne Johnson, Gal Gadot and Ryan Reynolds, and the BBC and Amazon series The English, an epic western set in 1890 starring Emily Blunt and produced by Drama Republic in association with All3Media International. George Clooney’s Netflix feature The Midnight Sky was another to visit in the Canary Islands, along with Apple TV+’s Foundation and Netflix’s Sky Rojo, the new show from Alex Pina (Money Heist), which also filmed on the mainland.

The improvement of financial incentives, the sooner-than-average restart of filming in Spain in the summer of 2020 and the increased demand for content by VoD companies were some of the reasons for the country’s rise in popularity. On a logistical level, while the difficulties of travelling during a pandemic have eased, the cost of fuel has increased across Europe, meaning service companies are dealing with unexpected rises in their budgets. “We are trying to juggle it the best we can, like we tried to navigate the lorry drivers’ strike in Spain in March,” says Welter Soler.

Another unexpected cost was the increase in Spain’s minimum wage, approved in February by the government, meaning producers like Escolar, whose company Calle Cruzada was working on the first season of NBCUniversal’s Vampire Academy, had to implement the changes mid-shoot, with subsequent impact on the budget. More recently, there has been an increase of requests to shoot in Spain following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, with Profilm trying to accommodate inquiries from big studios that are looking to avoid Eastern Europe. “Productions are understandably looking for safe destinations, like any other businesses that require big investment,” says Spain Film Commission’s Rosado. “But, most important is that peace prevails and Eastern Europe can go back to work. There’s room for everybody.

Infrastructure and crews

The affordable transport network and accommodation services are some of Spain’s major assets, thanks to a well-established tourism industry, not to mention its average 3,000 hours of sun per year. 

Major service providers include Babieka Films, Calle Cruzada, El Ranchito, Fresco Film Services, Meñakoz Films, Minded Factory, Nanu Films, Nostromo Pictures, Palma Pictures, Seven Islands Film, sur-film, The Mediapro Studio, Truenorth and Volcano Films, among others.

The Ciudad de la Luz Studios in Alicante is a 70-minute flight from Madrid or Barcelona. The high-speed train journey from Madrid takes just over two hours. The studios have six stages: two of which are 2,400 square metres and can be connected — the largest in Spain — and four stages that are 1,600 square metres. 

Madrid Content City is the headquarters of Netflix’s European Production Hub, located 25 kilometres from the city centre and launched by Spanish production services company Grupo Secuoya and publishing giant the Planeta Group. The whole complex offers 10 studios with soundstages ranging from 1,200 to 2,000 square metres. Among the facilities is a building that houses up to 23 post-production suites and an auditorium. It is set in Tres Cantos, 30 minutes by car from the capital’s centre.

As for Catalonia, Catalunya Media City is a planned digital hub for the audiovisual and video-games sectors in Sant Adria del Besos, close to Barcelona, which has just been officially approved. The investment is set at around $472.5m (€450m). The facilities will span 100,000 square metres and will be partially operative in two to three years, according to the Catalan authorities. Also planned is an expansion of Barcelona’s Terrassa Parc Audiovisual.

Travel and logistics

A high-speed rail network, 290,000 kilometres of motorway and roads, and around 50 airports allow international crews to travel easily around mainland Spain’s nearly 506,000 square kilometres, including 8,000 kilometres of coastline. 

The transport network is also reliable between the mainland and the Canary and Balearic islands, with a regular schedule of flights and ferries. 

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