New tech facilities enhance Spanish film biz

For anyone eyeing a Spanish escape, the lures of Barcelona are more than adequately spotlighted by unofficial tourist ambassador Woody Allen in “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”: Gaudi architecture, sun-dappled romance and cutting-edge cityscapes.

But Barcelona has plenty to offer behind the scenes, too, as the Catalan capital revs up studio infrastructure and grooms topnotch tech talent to support its growing film industry.

Consider the new studio city Audiovisual Park of Catalonia (PAC), which opened in the satellite town of Terrassa, adding to a studio cluster owned by conglom Imagina-Mediapro, which co-produced “Vicky.” Located near woodland, PAC spreads over 13.6 acres and has seen $43 million in investment to date, 80% from Terrassa’s city council and 20% from the Catalan Institute for Cultural Industries (ICIC).

“We don’t want to compete with megastudios,” says technical director Jordi Hernandez. “Our aim is to boost local industry networks.”

VSN, a Just Edit brand developing end-to-end digital and automation software platforms for TV, has just installed at PAC.

“PAC is conveniently located. The surrounding industries supply most film needs,” Hernandez says.

The plan envisions six soundstages. Two, at 6,500 square feet and 13,500 square feet, are up and running, hosting shoots for multiple commercials and the Filmax feature thriller “Paintball.” PAC looks to offer highly competitive prices for shoots and office space.

Mediapark ranges over Sant Just Desvern and Cornella, two outlying towns. The facility boasts six soundstages, ranging from 1,076 square feet to 19,375 square feet, as well as modern post-production services. It also recently added four city-center soundstages.

“Everything ran smoothly on ‘Vicky.’ It’s increasingly easy to find good technicians who speak (other) languages and have new-tech experience with Red One and 3-D,” explains Mediapro producer Bernat Elias.

According to the Barcelona Film Commission, the city offers more than 600 production companies and 370 services companies.

Tech standards are pushed by Catalan film schools, the Escac and ECIB. Of the key crew on smash hits “REC” and “The Orphanage,” nearly everyone studied there. David Marti and Montse Ribe, who won Oscars for their makeup design on “Pan’s Labyrinth,” are Barcelona-based. So are Escac alum Bernat Vilaplana, who edited “Hellboy II,” and Xavier Gimenez, d.p. on Alejandro Amenabar’s “Agora.” And Barcelona’s Apuntalopospo performed post-production on Jordi Llompart’s “The Magic Tale,” Spain’s first large-format 3-D fiction film.

New Catalan state aid measures, tabbing subsidies according to a pic’s Catalan input, will likely attract more shoots.

“On a $15 million co-production, where a Catalan producer takes a 30% stake, he can access about $450,000 in Catalan subsidies — about 10% of his investment — if he uses local crews, which gains him subsidy points, and from distribution aid,” explains Xavier Parache, ICIC film/audiovisual

finance director. “Also, the Catalan producer is eligible for potential subsidies from the ICAA Spanish Film Institute and pickups from pubcasters TVE and TV3.”

“Financially more ambitious projects will boost industry standards,” Llompart predicts.

Some, thanks in part to Allen, may already be on their way.

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