While photos and virtual tours can provide a level of information, Lisa Cochran, Warner Bros. Television's SVP of production, was a supporter of FAM tours. "I mean this respectfully, every writer is a location manager because they have Google on their computers. And so, they saw the picture but they never saw what was on the other side or next to it," she said.
"By the time a project lands, there's no time for a FAM trip. This is our education so when projects land, by the way, this was just greenlit, now you need to get this on a budget, now, I'm older and wiser in the sense that, 'oh, I saw something that would work.'" she added.
Joe Malloch Searchlight Pictures' VP of Physical Production, agreed. "Without sounding too ridiculous, knowledge is power," he said. "To just be able to provide that context of being boots on the ground as opposed to just looking at photos gives you not only an understanding of what you're looking at but also the people and the logistics behind it in a way you wouldn't get from a half hour zoom call."
Spain has already played host to a wealth of productions, but in an ever-competitive landscape, having a first-hand experience of a place can make a production happen.
Nicole Beaudoin, physical production producer at Ubisoft agreed. "I think our creative team is always looking to us in physical production for where could we do this, what are the options that are going to be the best for this project so it's really helpful for me to go like, 'great, now I have a direct connection,'" she said. "I've actually seen it, I can visualize it, I can confidently speak to what we could do or couldn't do in any of these locations and like what's attractive about Spain as an option."
This kind of thinking isn't just theoretical. Kelly Mendelsohn, EVP of physical production at Revelations Entertainment, recalled at one time pushing back against the idea of Spain, "because I had no information about Spain, so we budgeted for New Mexico.
"I sort of did a top-line budget based on the information I could find for Spain and sought to match that in New Mexico. Now, being here and seeing the infrastructure and what's available I can confidently say, 'yes, we can do this."
In addition to learning about Spain's production infrastructure and the 10-studio complex at Madrid's Content City, the group were taken to a variety of Spain's diverse landscape from Madrid to Valencia. Producer Alex Boden described Valencia's "historical monasteries to amazing new buildings at the City of Arts and Sciences that are all very filmable.
"The variety offered in a small space of time here is really important. So that's the extra draw."
In addition to Boden, Mendelsohn, Beaudoin, Malloch, and Cochran, also in attendance were Shayne Fiske, Annapurna's EVP of physical production; Melvin Mar, producer at The Detective Agency and VP of Television at PGA; Cher Hawrysh SVP of Production at Walden; Debbie Liebling, producer at Inner Child Productions; Holly Peterman HBO, VP of production at HBO, Nigel Wooll, producer at Bardot Films, and Mark Hubbard, producer at Independent.