In the wake of energizing tax incentives for international productions that launched in Spain in early 2015, the region of Madrid, the country’s main film-TV hub, is undergoing substantial growth as a home for foreign shoots.
The Madrid region has a long history in international film production. But arguably it has never been more attractive than today.
As with the rest of the Spanish mainland, Madrid offers 15% tax rebates for international shoots, calculated against spend, and an 18%-20% tax deduction for Spanish investors in local productions and co-productions that was introduced in 2008.
Although not Europe’s most generous, the measures are proving a ground-breaking move for the Spanish industry.
“Fiscal incentives are a definitive step forward,” says Denis Pedregosa at Babieka, co-producer of “The Promise,” a $100 million production that partially shot in Madrid in 2015, accessing Spanish tax deductions.
Like Spain at large, Madrid boasts a wide range of locations and architecture, an ultra-modern communications infrastructure, plus stable weather.
The region, however, has several competitive advantages.
“A large majority of Spanish department heads and technicians live in Madrid. While shooting there and in surrounding areas, they stay at their own homes; you don’t have to pay that expense,” says Carlos Ruiz Boceta, production head at Calle Cruzada, the company run by José Luis Escolar, a regular partner on Hollywood shoots.
As Spain’s biggest audiovisual industry center, Madrid also gives “an easier access to equipment and materials,” Pedregosa says.
The robust production services infrastructure includes renowned Madrid-based suppliers such as equipment house EPC, wardrobe outfitters Cornejo, VFX company El Ranchito and Rafael Catering, all regulars on high-profile Spanish and international productions.
Set in the middle of the Iberian Peninsula, Madrid is among Spain’s smallest regions, occupying some 8,000 square-kilometers (3,088 square miles). Its landscape ranges from the pine forests of the Guadarrama Sierra in the north to the more desert-like south, bordering Castille-La Mancha.
“The region offers a diversity of locations with minimum displacement,” says Samuel Castro, coordinator of Film Madrid, a recently launched agency aimed at promoting and advising film and TV shoots in the region.
A historical drama about the Armenian genocide carried out during WWI, Terry George’s “The Promise” filmed the battle of Musa Dagh, between Armenians and Turks, in the rugged mountains of northern municipalities of La Cabrera and Valdemanco.
French cruiser Guichen, which helped evacuate Armenian resistance fighters from Musa Dagh, was replicated by art director Benjamín Fernández (“Gladiator”) in the eastern city of Rivas Vaciamadrid, nearly 10 miles from downtown Madrid. Sea scenes were completed on Almeria’s coast and a water tank at Malta’s Mediterranean Studios.
The co-production with Kirk Kerkorian’s Survival Pictures spent €15.2 million ($16.6 million) in Madrid on technical crew, according to Babieka.
Fresco Film, the services provider on “Game of Thrones’” shoots in Spain, was also behind last year’s European co-production “Tom of Finland,” a biopic on Finnish gay icon Touko Laaksonen.
Production houses Helsinki Films and Fresco lensed several scenes covering Laaksonen’s life in the U.S., including a mock-up of an L.A. setting, a rural road and the exterior of a hospital during an anti-gay demonstration.
“The choice of Madrid was due to a combination of factors: Locations matching the production requirements, production costs and fine weather,” says Fresco’s line producer Luis Montalvo.
Often, Madrid works as a complementary film set, taking advantage of a competitive studio offer. “You can shoot outside Madrid and then finish the shoot in a Madrid-based studio,” Ruiz Boceta says.
On Xavier Gens’ Kinology-sold “Cold Skin,” a sci-fi thriller with David Oakes and Aura Garrido, Babieka combined locations in Canary Islands’ Lanzarote with Non Stop Studios in Madrid’s Fuente El Saz.
Some 70% of lensing in the Madrid region takes place in the capital, whose municipal government is reportedly preparing the launch of a Madrid Film Office to satisfy growing shoot demands. Past international productions that rolled in the city in search of cosmopolitan landscapes include Bruce Willis-starrer “The Cold Light of Day” and the Paul Greengrass-directed “The Bourne Ultimatum.”
In “The Cold Light of Day,” a 2012 urban thriller, Calle Cruzada arranged a chase down Madrid’s Gran Vía main street and for a car to drive through the arc of the Puerta de Alcalá in a spectacular scene. “Bourne Ultimatum,” serviced by Kanzaman, filmed star Matt Damon in the Atocha train station and the
district of La Latina.
In the Focus Features-distributed “The Limits of Control,” Jim Jarmusch directed in the bohemian Malasaña district, while taking advantage of modern buildings such as Torres Blancas and the Reina Sofía Museum.
Madrid has even been part of the script on some international projects, such as Fox’s “Deception” with Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman. Pic was filmed in the Paseo del Prado, Plaza Mayor and Instituto Cervantes.
“Easing action production shoots in emblematic locations has helped to put Madrid in line with other big international cities for filming,” Ruiz Boceta says.