Madrid is booming as never before in its 125-year film history; arguably, no other European site is currently transforming so quickly into a global production hub.
A 20-minute drive north of the Spanish capital, a large white-concrete hanger has been built beside the Madrid-Burgos motorway, at the entrance to Tres Cantos, a well-heeled satellite village and industrial estate. Welcome to Netflix’s Madrid Production Hub, its first in Europe, which opened April 4.
Five minutes away from that are the offices of Movistar +, the pay TV unit of Telefonica, Europe’s second largest telecom, which has produced and released 20 original series since September 2017.
A quarter of an hour towards the city, in the Fuencarral district, the Mediapro Studio opened its doors last month, announcing it had 34 drama series in phases of production this year.
A hundred yards down the road are the offices of Mediterráneo, the new content production-distribution center of Mediaset España, Spain’s top rated broadcaster.
Elsewhere, Viacom International Studios has set up offices in Madrid, while Dynamo, Colombia’s biggest production house which took a “Narcos” production credit, is enlarging theirs.
Also, European production-distribution giants Beta Film and Federation Entertainment are establishing Madrid-based operations as beachheads eyeing the Latin American market.
Before the arrival en masse of big international players, Madrid was the major production center of Spain’s film and TV industries, with a special emphasis, during the last two decades, on primetime series production for free-to-air TV.
That’s the origin of global phenomenon “La Casa de Papel,” which shot there in 2016-2017, produced by Alex Pina and Esther Martínez Lobato’s Vancouver for private network Atresmedia.
The heist thriller series’ third part, planned for a July 19 global release, is produced by Netflix at Tres Cantos, as well as the second season of teen drama “Elite,” another standout Netflix Original from Spain.
With 24 global originals in some phase of production or development in Spain, this year Netflix will employ about 25,000 actors, technician and extras.
“International companies’ decision to locate in Madrid means recognition for local talent, technical capacity and industry maturity,” says Samuel Castro, coordinator of Film Madrid, Madrid’s regional government initiative to promote and advise film and TV shoots.
Last year, over 40 international film and TV projects shot totally or partially in Madrid.
“Madrid has the chance to become a quality production center at a reasonable price,” says Fresco Film founder Peter Welter.
Like the rest of Spain’s mainland, Madrid can tap into a 20% tax rebate for international film and TV projects. It’s proving increasingly attractive as a destination for foreign shoots.
“The wonderful moment Spanish TV fiction is going through has turned Madrid into an essential reference for international shoots,” says Castro.
The rapid increase in TV series shoots has sparked a reaction from both local and regional authorities. Film Madrid kicked off operations in 2016; the City Hall has run a Madrid Film Office since last year.
Film Madrid has advised numerous Movistar + originals since the beginning of the pay TV’s fiction production in 2017. Enrique Urbizu’s thriller series “Gigantes” shot at multiple Madrid locations such as the traditional Rastro district and peripheral shanty towns. This spring, Movistar +, in partnership with Vaca Films, is also lensing Dani de la Torre’s cop thriller “La Unidad.”
Upcoming TV dramas by global SVOD players shooting in Madrid also include Netflix original mystery “White Lines,” produced by “The Crown’s” U.K.-based Left Bank Pictures, and executive produced by Alex Pina; Alex de la Iglesia’s exorcism series “30 Coins,” produced for HBO by Pokeepsie Films, and Amazon Original series “La Templanza,” an Atresmedia Studios-Boomerang TV production.
“In Madrid, like the rest of Spain, the number of TV drama shoots surpasses those for film. However, the flow of film shoots is also growing, often via strong international titles,” Castro says.
Last summer, “Terminator: Dark Fate,” a Paramount-Tencent-Fox production toplining Linda Hamilton and Arnold Schwarzenegger, filmed its U.S.-Mexican border-set scenes in Madrid, line produced by Fresco Film.
Serviced by Babieka Films, Shaw Brothers Hong Kong rolled in March on “Line Walker: Operation Midnight Shadow,” a sequel to action-thriller “Line Walker,” which scored $90 million at the Asian box office in 2016.
Big Spanish shoots with international appeal are common. In early April, Jaume Balagueró’s English-language bank heist thriller “Way Down,” starring “The Good Doctor” lead Freddie Highmore, closed down Madrid’s iconic Plaza de Cibeles for scenes involving some one thousand extras.
Produced by Fernando Bovaira at Mod, Alejandro Amenábar’s “While at War,” one of the most anticipated Spanish films this year, based its shoot out of Chinchón, a town southeast of Madrid with a large tradition in Hollywood shoots such as Henry Hathaway’s “Circus World.”
The castle of Manzanares El Real, where Charlton Heston’s “El Cid” filmed in 1961, hosted Fresco Film’s shoot of the Bud Light “Game of Thrones” commercial crossover which aired during Super Bowl LIII.
Film Madrid also supports the local independent film production sector with promotional initiatives across international markets.
At Cannes, on Saturday May 18, it will organize an event with Tornasol Films’ producer Mariela Besuievsky, Ferdidurque Films’ Fernando Franco and Film Lab’s Julio Soto – all presenting respective feature projects in which Film Madrid is involved.
John Hopewell contributed to this article.