Canary Islands expected to resume international productions from July

The Spanish archipelago has raised its filming incentive from 40% to potentially 50% 

By Chris Evans 12 May 2020

Canary Islands expected to resume international productions from July
Netflix series The Witcher filmed on the Canary Islands. Credit: Netflix

The Canary Islands in Spain are expected to open up to outdoor shooting “imminently” under strict safety measures, the Canary Islands Film Commission confirmed to KFTV.

International productions will be able to fly into the islands with no need to quarantine from July 1.

Shooting indoors is already permitted as the Canary Islands have done a good job of containing the coronavirus with no new infections or deaths in the last couple of weeks.

This will be great news for the production industry, already boosted by the local government’s decision last week to raise the Canary Islands’ filming incentive from 40% to 50% for the first €1m spend by international productions on the Islands, and 45% for the rest. This makes it "the best filming tax incentive in the World,” enthused Lorena Martin at the Canary Islands Film Commission to KFTV.  

Much like the rest of Spain, the Canary Islands are going through a phased approach of lifting restrictions on activities with the intention of returning to a “new normal” by the end of June.

The film permit office is already open, there are domestic flights happening, and some equipment rental houses have also opened, eager to rent out equipment with added discounts.

Hot projects

Two of the most high-profile international productions to recently shoot on the archipelago are the hugely popular Netflix fantasy drama series, The Witcher, starring Henry Cavill, which filmed in La Palma and Gran Canaria, and Marvel’s hotly anticipated film The Eternals, starring Angelina Jolie and Richard Madden, which shot on Fuerteventura at the end of last year.

“The passion that they have for the islands shows through. And it´s winning. I think that´s why it’s not just the tax breaks in the Canaries, but also the crews that are actually fantastic,” enthused Mally Chang, a unit production manager for The Witcher and The Eternals.

Other high-profile recent productions include Lionsgate and Millennium Films’ Rambo V: Last Blood, starring Sylvester Stallone and Spanish star Paz Vega, which shot scenes on Tenerife for three weeks using a range of urban and desert locations to stand in for Mexican story settings.

Warner Bros’ Wonder Woman 1984 also spent a week on Tenerife supplementing locations shot on mainland Spain and used ravine and valley locations. Director Patty Jenkins and her crew also spent a month on Fuerteventura shooting deserts and plains.

“There are an increasing number of US productions coming here,” said Martin at the film commission. “All the majors have already shot here, and even repeated. While most of the European productions come from Germany, the UK and recently also an increasing number of Scandinavian films.

“The production companies on these projects are hiring a lot of local workforce, and so we need to prepare our local talent to continue to meet the needs of these projects.”

Volcanic appeal

Tenerife is known for its volcanic topography and dramatic mountain ranges. A particular favourite is Fuerteventura, with its plains and coastal mountain ridges, which drew the production world’s attention when it hosted Lucasfilm/Disney’s Solo: A Star Wars Story a couple of years ago. Dunes on the island were used to portray a desert planet. Sets were transported from the production’s base in the UK and set up on the dunes as a 360-degree immersive structure.

Other popular locations include…

  • El Hierro, one of the smaller islands of the archipelago (awarded Best European Location 2019 by the European Film Commissions Network), which became the set for Movistar’s drama series Hierro.
  • Roque de los muchachos observatory on the island of La Palma. At its highest point, over 2,400 meters above sea level, the Observatory rises above the “sea of clouds” where the atmosphere is clear and stable thanks to the Atlantic Ocean. It was used in The Witcher series.
  • Volcán del Cuervo (Ravens Vulcano), Tinajo in Lanzarote. Located in a unique, somewhat apocalyptic setting, the volcano has an unmistakable profile and faces, on one side, Montaña Negra and Montaña Colorada, and on the other, the Timanfaya National Park. The site was used for The Eternals.

On top of the great locations, there’s also the appeal of the mild climate (average 19 degrees in the winter and 23 in the summer), and more than 3,000 hours of sunlight throughout the year.

“There are hardly any locations in the world where you shoot 30 days and there is almost no bad weather day. That was really nice and impressed me,” enthused Andreas Wentz, CEO at local production outfit Sur-Film, which serviced The Eternals, Wonder Woman 1984 and Solo: A Star Wars Story.

The first port of call for location and production needs should be the Canary Islands Film Commission, who can offer information on incentives, location options and broader filming logistics. The organisation acts as an umbrella company for smaller film offices throughout the Canary Islands.

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