Navarre has never had such a prominent presence at the San Sebastian Festival as in this year’s lineup.

Five linked-to-Navarre productions – three films, a TV series and a documentary – will screen at the Festival, highlighting its status as a standout hub for the Spanish audiovisual industry.

Navarre’s higher-profile at San Sebastian, the biggest movie event in the Spanish-speaking world, is no coincidence.

Since 2015, the northern Spain region has attracted Spanish productions and co-production shoots thanks in part to a 35% corporate tax deduction for Navarre-based companies investing in productions that spend at least 40% of their budgets in the territory.

Productions such as HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” Terry Gillian’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote,” Asian B.O. hit “Line Walker 2: Invisible Spy,” Netflix hit prison drama “La noche de 12 años,” and local blockbuster “Ocho apellidos vascos” (“Spanish Affair”) filmed there in recent years.

The region is taking advantage of accessible, unique and diverse locations and a strongly committed professional sector, organized around regional cluster Clavna and producers org Napar. In parallel, it is benefiting from a growing influx of production companies setting up in the region. In addition, it’s nurturing talent.

“All this is reflected in our productions at San Sebastian,” says Iñaki Apezteguía, Culture managing director in the Navarre government.

COVID-19 shoot restrictions has slowed a year that promised to break records for the region. Despite this, “we have managed to make 2020 a fairly active year,” says Sara Sevilla, at the Navarra Film Commission.

Key Spanish film productions now at San Sebastian shot in Navarre.

Competing in the festival’s Official Selection, Pablo Agüero’s Spain-Argentina-France co-production “Akelarre” filmed in the Urbasa mountain-range, in a place known as Balcón de Pilatos.

The main reason to lense there was, according to Lamia Producciones’ Navarre-born producer Iker Ganuza, “the excellent locations we found in the territory.” The Urbasa locations play a very important role in the film, providing a backdrop to its final scenes.

“Akelarre” also filmed some indoor sequences in an old house in Lesaka, where Orson Welles is said to have lensed a scene from “Chimes at Midnight” in 1965.

“The projects that come to Navarre not only look for the St. James Way or Sanfermines, we can also replicate locations found throughout Spain,” Sevilla says.

Navarre’s industry build is yielding further results, despite pandemic.

A key move for the Navarre industry is the launch of the Centro Navarro para la Producción Cinematográfica, a five-company production services and training consortium led by Tornasol Films, producer of Oscar-winner “The Secret in Their Eyes.”

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AKELARRE Credit: San Sebastian Festival

Having shot seven movies in Navarre over the last three years, Tornasol has become a crucial driver for the sector.

Led by Gerardo Herrero and Mariela Besuievsky, Tornasol filmed multiple scenes in Navarre of its musical comedy “Explota explota” (“My Heart Goes Boom!”), a co-production with pubcaster RTVE and Italy’s RAI and Indigo Film which screens in San Sebastian as part of the festival’s RTVE Galas before its Oct. 2 theatrical release.

Filmed in part at Pamplona airport, giving a new lease of life to a former passenger terminal, “Explota” sowed the seeds for CNPC” Besuievsky says.

“Explota” tapped Navarre tax advantages via a Pamplona-based tax vehicle El Sustituto Producciones AIE, but Tornasol is going further in its commitment with the region.

Located in Berrioplano, a town near Pamplona, the CNPC aims to create a professional network empowering Navarrese technicians and human capital,” she says.

At a time when it was proving increasingly hard to crew up un Spain before COVID-19 struck, “This also means that highly-integrated technical teams trained at CNPC can also shoot in other Spanish regions, which will allow them to ramp up their professional expertise in the fastest way possible,” she adds.

Another industry highlight has been the launch in December of facilities and training company Estudios Melitón.

Built on the business campus of Lekaroz in the stunningly beautiful Baztán Valley, Estudios Melitón has already offered services to Amazon-Ficción-Beta mini-series “3Caminos” and Netflix-Rodar y Rodar’s feature “Dos,” directed by Mar Targarona. It is now preparing sets for horror film “La pasajera.”

Melitón has also teamed with Canary Islands’ Macaronesia Films and fiscal advisor Bestax to form joint-venture Melitón Films, aimed at offering access to regional tax breaks, with plans to produce and co-produce audiovisual contents, according to CEO Joaquín Calderón.

Synergies takes in the opportunity to combine in the same project locations and tax incentives from both Navarre and Canary Islands territories and boost homegrown talent, Calderón adds.

There is also Navarre talent that has carved out a career in other regions but still maintains links with local industry. That’s the case of Félix Viscarret, a Pamplona-raised filmmaker, and now director of HBO Europe’s banner series“Patria,” created by Aitor Gabilondo at Alea Media, whose anticipated world premiere takes place at San Sebastian as a special screening in the Official Selection.

“Patria’s” Navarre locations takes in the small town of Dantxarinea, on the Spanish-French border.

Viscarret, in what will be one of the earlier shoots scheduled for next year in Navarre, has joined forces with Tornasol on the film “Desde la sombra,” based on a Juan José Millás novel that has already won support from RTVE.

Imanol Rayo, another Pamplona director, and winner of San Sebastian’s Zinemira Award with “Bi anai” in 2011, returns to the festival with his second feature, New Directors player and rural tale “Hil Kanpaiak” (“Death Knell”), an Abra Prod production filmed in the San Esteban Church at Vera de Bidasoa.

As part of Basque showcase Zinemira, Navarre production house Narm Films will present Natxo Leuza’s feature debut “El Drogas,” a bio-documentary about Spanish-language rock icon Enrique Villareal, located in places such as El Drogas’ hometown of Txantrea, a Pamplona neighborhood.

Both “Hil Kanpaiak” and “El drogas” have received Generazinema grants from Navarre’s government.

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Hil Kanpaiak Credit: Navarra Film Commission