Fair-weather filmmaking

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

“Magnificent, isn’t it?” glows Harvey Keitel, looking out from the terrace of Mallorca’s Maricel Hotel over a postcard blue bay.

Keitel was in Mallorca in July with his scribe-helmer wife, Daphna Kastner, to scout locations for Kastner’s “Holiday in Mallorca.” And he was right.

Spain’s attractions as an international shoot local have multiplied in recent years. But one has been around forever: The breathtaking locations. Like France and the U.K., Spain has a large historical heritage, including thousands of castles, and the climate is hard to argue with.

“Spain is a great global film set that brings together diverse scenery and culture in a very few kilometers, compared to the U.S.,” says Elsa Martinez, Spain Film Commission prexy.

“International shoots come to Spain for random reasons but one thing’s essential: the weather,” says line producer Jose Luis Escolar, who’s prepping the shoot of “Cloud Atlas” in Mallorca.

Spain’s predominantly Mediterranean climate guarantees nearly 300 days of sunshine a year, “which avoids risks in filming costs,” Martinez says.

“In an turbulent international environment, Spain looks like a safe country for international producers,” says Kanzaman’s Denise O’Dell, who’s servicing Paramount-produced Sacha Baron Cohen comedy “The Dictator” in Andalusia’s Seville and Canary Island’s Fuerteventura.

But efforts from various Spanish governments have as yet failed to extract full benefits from one of the most attractive international shoot locations in the world.

“We are living a high point in Spanish film talent — think Banderas, Bardem, Almodovar, Cruz, Amenabar, Fresnadillo, Bayona, Collet-Serra …,” says Fernando Victoria de Lecea, prexy of film and TV production professionals org Appa. “People worldwide think of Spain as a land of cinema. Now, the challenge is to capitalize as best we can on these advantages.”

Spain’s film industry is already getting to work. A lobby of film orgs, including the Spain Film Commission and Appa, has prepared a proposal for nationwide and automatic rebates, in line with France’s Tax Rebate, for international production. It should be ready for consideration by a new Spanish government after the Nov. 20 general elections.

In the meantime, there are a number of incentives that have been added to the mix.

Spain also has its first-ever first-rate macro studio facility, Alicante’s Ciudad de La Luz, which launched in 2005. And some regional governments have began to timidly back international film shoots. Valencia, which hosts the Ciudad de la Luz studios, gives up to 20% rebates on 80% of total region spend. And the recently launched Mallorca Film Commission operates an initial e350,000 ($504,000) fund to support international shoots on the island, says its director Pedro Barbadillo.

Since 2009, the Spanish film industry has offerred an 18% tax break on movie investment by private financial investors that is also available for international shoots if a Spain-based co-producer boards a movie.

Recently, Bruce Willis starrer “The Cold Light of Day” and Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures’ “Wrath of the Titans” have benefited from this tax-break formula.

Like “Clash of the Titans,” “Wrath” shot in Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands, whose unique tax regime offers up to 38% in tax breaks for islands-based companies.

But incentives and locations are only part of the picture — Spain also boasts an infrasctructure that improves with every major production to be housed there. Samuel Bronston’s epics, as well as David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Doctor Zhivago” not only helped to put Spain on the international film locations map, “they also trained high-profile crews which benefited the Spanish industry for decades,” says Jose Luis Escolar. In the early ’90s, Ridley Scott lensed here for “1492: Conquest of Paradise” and chose Spain again for 2005’s epic “Kingdom of Heaven.”

Spanish crews “are the most lovely I’ve ever encountered,” says helmer Kastner, who shot 1998 comedy “Spanish Fly” here. “They really help you, are really open, supportive, smart and sophisticated, and they get it on an artistic level.”

International shoots also favor Spanish production. Lensing in Catalonia, “Perfume: The Story of a Murderer” and “Vicky Cristina Barcelona” “trained a frontline crew that later made possible local films at a higher technical level,” says Adrian Guerra, producer of “Buried” and “Red Lights.”

And despite Spain’s increasing closeness to the rest of Western Europe in general pricing, country still boast lower fringes costs.

“In Spain, fringes represent 15%-to-20% of a total wage, while in Germany it’s 45% and 50% in France,” Escolar says.

Though challenges remain for luring international film shoots to Spain, the attractions they’ll find there cannot be doubted.

(John Hopewell contributed to this report.)

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