Spain Rebates Lure Productions From Abroad

Game of Thrones recap season 6
Courtesy of HBO

“Thanks to the foreign shoot tax credits, especially on the TV side, Spain is a big hot spot now,” says producer Adrian Guerra. That seems almost an understatement. Luring big shoots is a big growth industry in Spain. But every region is its own story. Beyond Madrid, here are some of Spain’s key filming locales:

CANARY ISLANDS

With one of the most attractive tax systems in Europe, the Canary Islands have become a top shooting destination. Per industry sources, foreign shoots have spent some €200 million ($218 million) in Spain since 2015. Of them, the largest part has gone to the Canaries.

Last year, 14 feature films rolled there, including Robert Zemeckis’ “Allied,” Rodrigo Cortés production “Down a Dark Hall,” and Sony Pictures-Atresmedia’s “Oro.” Among TV dramas: Netflix’s “Black Mirror” plus BBC’s “Doctor Who” and “Silent Witness.”

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Since 2015, the Canaries’ singular tax legislation has been offering a 35% tax rebate on foreign shoots’ spend — 20 percentage points higher than on the peninsula — capped at $4.9 million, and requiring a Canary Islands-based line producer.

Also available are tax credits for Spanish productions and co-productions of up to 40%, channeled — as in the rest of Spain — through Economic Interest Assns.

Plus, compatible with all the above deductions, there is a reduced rate of 4% corporate income tax.

Plans for big shoots continue. In March, the Fuerteventura Film Commission confirmed a Disney production, which will be a new installment of the “Star Wars” film franchise and will use Sur Film’s location services.

“I can only guarantee that the shoot we are going to carry out in Fuerteventura reaffirms the historic moment the Canary Islands are living,” says Juan “Nono” Cano of Sur Film, which has worked on recent Hollywood titles such as “Fast & Furious 6,” “Wrath of the Titans” and “Clash of the Titans.”
Film commissions from the seven Canary Islands are teaming under a common umbrella, Canary Islands Film.

“Now we can address foreign producers as a single territory, with a single spokesperson, who co-ordinates with other film commissions and links with local industry. This is much more attractive and easier,” says Natacha Mora, responsible for the Canary Islands government’s audiovisual department.
— Emiliano de Pablos

ANDALUSIA
Game of Thrones” production in Spain has provided a fresh boost to international shoots in Andalusia and Spain at large, marking a before-and-after moment for the local industry.

As a test run, the HBO flagship show lensed season five in Andalusia for three weeks in 2014.

Since the introduction of tax rebates for foreign shoots in early 2015, the show returned for seasons six and seven, spending respectively nine and 10 shooting weeks in the country, including four and three weeks in Andalusia.

“Without tax incentives there would not have been the sixth and seventh ‘Game of Thrones’ seasons in Spain,” says the series’ Spanish line producer Peter Welter at Fresco Film. Similar to the rest of the Spanish mainland, Andalusia offers 15% tax rebates on shoots’ total spend.

For its seventh season, the HBO show shot on location in the castle of Almodóvar del Río in Córdoba, the Itálica Roman amphitheater in Seville’s Santiponce, and the medieval shipyard Reales Atarazanas in Seville.

Though part of a more global trend, the “Game of Thrones” effect is certainly contributing to the growing number of TV series productions in the region, which increased 35% in 2016 to 50 in Andalusia; last year’s 31 feature film shoots represented a 6.5% uptick, says Piluca Querol, Andalusia Film Commission director.
“The Spanish landscape has been incorporated into series filming in a natural way,” Welter says.

Andalusia also hosted partial shoots of NBC’s “Emerald City,” Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful,” Disney’s “Still Star-Crossed” and Channel 4 and National Geographic’s “Crossing the Border,” plus “The Plague,” and the Fuengirola-set Mediterranean noir “The Paradise.”

The $100 million Oscar Isaac-starrer “The Promise”; conquistador epic “Oro”; and high-profile German movie “Ostwind 3,” figure among other recent shoots.
— Emiliano de Pablos

NAVARRE
Using Spain’s 15% rebate on local spend, “Game of Thrones” season six immortalized Navarre’s Bardenas Reales, shooting for nearly a week in its canyon badlands to track Daenerys’ journey to Khal Moro after she’s captured by the Dothraki.

As it develops as a shooting locale, however, Navarre is likely to focus on attracting shoots via a 35% corporate tax deduction for local companies, greenlit by the European Commission on Aug. 16. These tax breaks are likely to be used by Spanish movies — or international shoots that gain Spanish nationality — that spend at least 25% of their budgets in Navarre.

The main challenge is to persuade Navarre’s big industry to invest in movies. A first big milestone for Navarre’s film incentive, according to Javier Lacunza, general manager of Navarre Culture, Sports and Leisure, has been “Invisible Guardian,” a rural noir thriller produced by Adrian Guerra’s Nostromo Pictures and Atresmedia Cine.

Set in Navarre’s ancient, verdant Baztan Valley, “The Invisible Guardian” lensed completely in the province last year, even recording its score with the local symphonic orchestra.

“Navarre’s government, police, companies and people embraced us, made our work easy, helped make the film look big,” Guerra says.
Nostromo, the Navarre Film Commission, and Consebro, Navarre’s Assn. of Agro-Alimentary Industries, signed a framework co-operation deal in February at “Invisible Guardian’s” Navarre premiere.

“This is very important, giving us access to some of the region’s biggest companies which are very interested in using the tax shelter with us,” Guerra says.
According to Lacunza, Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” has shot in Navarre, using its 35% tax break. Joaquin Phoenix’s “Two Sisters” will lense in Navarre starting in late June.

“We have come a long way in a short time,” Lacunza says.
— John Hopewell

BASQUE COUNTRY
“Game of Thrones” set up a production office for four months between July and October in Bilbao for season seven scenes shot in Basque Country: In Biscay, the series shot in San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, a chapel built on a rock in the sea, and Zurriola beach; scenes were also shot on the Zumaia coast, in Gipuzkoa.
Other significant Basque Country shoots include “Guernica,” and, in 2017, ABC’s “The Bachelor” again shot at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.

International productions can tap into Spain’s 18%-20% tax payback against local spend. Producers outside Spain should note a recent 30% tax shelter for film investment in Biscay, centered around capital city Bilbao, which can be applied by Biscay-based taxpayers on up to 50% of production costs, rising to 40% for P&A, says the Bilbao Film Commission. Basque province Gipuzkoa, home to the San Sebastian Festival, is advancing a similar plan.

Available to Spanish productions and used by Biscay production since 2014, the incentive gives the Basque Country “an enormous advantage to make international co-productions in languages which aren’t dominant in Europe,” says Bilbao-based producer Eduardo Carneros, who is developing the Spanish-Icelandic “Red Fjords,” a 50/50 historical thriller co-produced by Iceland’s Baltasar Kormakur (“2 Guns,” “Everest”).

That public-sector commitment could now prove crucial. A next step would be a specific Basque Country film production fund taking advantage of the 30% fiscal incentive, Carneros says, adding that the plan has won favor with local institutions.
— Jamie Lang

CATALONIA
Although there are no regional tax breaks, projects shot in Catalonia can tap into national tax incentives offering 15% tax credits for international shoots or a 18%-20% tax deduction for Spanish taxpayers who invest in domestic productions and co-productions.

The incentive has led to a trend of foreign productions working with Spanish co-producers and filming in Catalonia has increased each year since.
From 2015-16, figures for shoots in the region of feature films and made-for-TV movies have increased by 30%, from 50 to 71, says Catalunya Film Commission’s Carlota Guerrero.

“Not all feature film shoots in Catalonia are Catalan productions, and not all Catalan production are shot in Catalonia,” she clarifies.
In 2016, Korean series “The Legend of the Blue Sea” shot in Castell de Santa Florentina and Tossa de Mar, co-produced locally by My Way Productions. “As we spent more than €1 million [$1.1 million] here in Spain, we applied for the 20% tax rebate,” says producer Tina Dobslaw.

Takashi Miike filmed much of his newest film, “JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond Is Unbreakable — Chapter 1,” with Catalan production company b-mount. They too applied for the 20% tax incentive.
— Jamie Lang

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