World Report: Spain - How to Shoot a Film in Spain

In 2005, the Ciudad de la Luz studio complex opened, overlooking the Mediterranean near eastern Spain’s Alicante region. It was described as the most advanced in Europe.

And since then it has hosted shoots as diverse as Bruce Willis starrer “The Cold Light of Day”; Gallic tentpole “Asterix at the Olympic Games”; Francis Ford Coppola’s “Tetro”; Juan Antonio Bayonas’ “The Impossible,” with Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor; “Mr. Nice,” toplining Rhys Ifans; and Nia Vardalos vehicle “My Life in Ruins.”

But to really compete with the U.K.’s Pinewood-Shepperton or Germany’s Babelsberg, Ciudad needs more high-profile movies, a larger Alicante talent base and nationwide rebates for international shoots.

The studio’s technology can handle complex shoots. Paid for by Valencia’s regional government, the Ciudad complex cost €300 million ($432 million), says Ciudad director Elsa Martinez, who is also prexy of Spain’s film commish.

Some tech highlights:

  • Set on 740 acres, six soundstages cover 120,000 sq. ft., boast wooden light grills, mute air conditioning and NC-25 soundproofing. Elephant doors connect the biggest stages creating a 50,000 sq.-ft. macro-stage.

  • Complex houses an 86,000-sq.-foot water tank plus greenscreen, which rivals Malta’s pool as Europe’s premier tank facility. “The tank’s so huge that we used real water movements to create the impact of a wave hitting a hotel and the flood,” says Telecinco Cinema CEO Ghislain Barrois on the tsunami opening to “Impossible.”

  • Two backlots, covering 30 acres, with water and a fiber-optic ring, capitalize on Spain’s ample hours of sunlight.

  • An on-site daily rush lab, Deluxe Alicante, backed by full-service companies in Barcelona and Madrid, accelerate delivery of digital/35mm dailies and “make director-production contact far more fluid,” says Deluxe’s Vanessa Ruiz-Larrea.

“It’s very, very comfortable to work there. Everything’s very centralized,” says Mariela Besuievsky, at Tornasol Films, which has shot 17 films at Ciudad.

Valencia’s government offers rebates at 16%-20% on spend at the Ciudad or in the region. These can combine with 18% Spanish tax breaks, local authority tax exemptions and central government subsidies.

Aggregating key costs — accommodation, set construction, car and van rentals, technician hire, soundstage rentals — Ciudad undercuts Pinewood rates by more than 50%, estimates Amparo Castellano, at Aguamarga, the Ciudad management company.

That said, Ciudad rebates are discretionary and pale beside Babelsberg’s financial lures.

A Ciudad school is now turning out tyro technicians. Spain has “colossally talented” key crew, says Barrois, but most live in Barcelona and Madrid.

To attract a critical mass of big shoots — and top tech talent — to the region, the Ciudad needs nationwide rebates for international shoots, like Germany’s DFFF or France’s Trip rebates.

Attaining them will be its next crusade.

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