Spain’s Oscar entry, “The Endless Trench,” a multi-award-winning feature from the Basque trio of Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga, has also become a flagship production for the Andalusian film sector.
The film was set and shot in Andalusia, with Andalusian actors and co-produced by Seville-based La Claqueta. Released last year in Spain by eOne, the film was acquired by Netflix, and bowed in the U.S. on Nov. 6.
Inspired by real-life events after the Spanish Civil War, “Trench” mainly filmed in Huelva’s Higuera de la Sierra, Carboneras and Paymogo for its Andalusian leg. Olmo Figueredo and Manuel H. Martín’s outfit La Claqueta was key for “Trench’s” financing, documentation and narrative support.
“Trench” exemplifies the possibilities of inter-regional partnerships in the Spanish film industry, this time between Andalusia and the Basque Country. Co-produced by La Claqueta with Basque companies Irusoin and Moriarti Produkzioak, alongside France’s Manny Films, “Trench” project won support from regional public broadcaster Canal Sur in Andalusia and Basque Country’s ETB. In an advanced stage, nationwide broadcaster RTVE also joined the project.
Given the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, economic cuts will probably follow the health crisis in Spain. “My feeling is that the model of inter-regional co-production will be more necessary than ever to seek financing alternatives. And it is much more feasible to unite two regional operators such as Canal Sur and ETB and, once you have the film well assembled, to try for the support of RTVE, who finally entered the project,” Figueredo explains.
Co-production pumps money into the local business and “if the regional authorities understand it – and both Basque and Andalusian authorities do – it is easy to play this game in a natural way,” he adds.
La Claqueta has been producing inter-regional projects since 2012, when it teamed with producer Xabi Berzosa at Irusoin for “30 años de oscuridad,” then continued their partnership with HBO pickup documentary “El Estado contra Pablo Ibar,” handled by Filmax. It’s also co-producing the animated documentary “El viaje más largo,” alongside Basque studio Dibulitoon. Further Basque-Andalusian projects will follow soon, Figueredo says.
Beyond the Basque connection, La Claqueta has co-produced romantic melodrama “El verano que vivimos,” a Warner Bros. Pictures Intl. worldwide distribution pickup, directed by “Fariña’s” Carlos Sedes, co-produced with Atresmedia Cine and Bambú Producciones, filmed in Jerez de la Frontera.
“A model of decentralization is starting to take hold in the Spanish film production sector and new platforms and top free-to-air TV operators are going to support projects by talented filmmakers far from the usual production hubs in Madrid and Barcelona. That will make it easier to develop different film visions and ways of telling stories,” says “La Isla Mínima” producer Gervasio Iglesias.
“Thanks to two fundamental pillars, such as Canal Sur and the regional government, and to talented creators such as Alberto Rodríguez (“The Plague,” “La Isla Minima”) and Benito Zambrano (‘Solas’), the Andalusian audiovisual sector has placed itself in a privileged position,” says Áralan Films producer Marta Velasco, president of the Andalusian Film Academy.
In 1999, feature drama “Solas,” produced by Antonio Pérez at Seville-based Maestranza Films, inaugurated a new period of visibility of Andalusian film production. Later came the so-called “Generación Cinexin,” led by renowned filmmakers such as Alberto Rodríguez and writing partner Rafael Cobos and Gervasio Iglesias. They all decided to develop their film career in Andalusia instead of traveling to Madrid or Barcelona, the traditional hubs of the Spanish film industry, paving the way for a younger generation of film and TV producers and creators.
“These producers laid the foundations of the Andalusian film industry and showed us that there wasn’t a need to leave Andalusia to develop a professional film career,” Velasco adds.
“There is a wide background there, but above all, a very promising future,” Iglesias points out.
“Andalusia has always been a land of great talent in all artistic disciplines, due to the characteristics of the territory, because among other things, it is a borderland, and great things always happen on the borders. There are great stories here that are yet to be told,” he adds.
With the arrival in 2015 of tax incentives for film and TV projects in Spain, Andalusia rapidly attracted the interest of big international projects, which helped to form highly competitive crews.
“There is already a network of technicians and high-quality service companies that helps you to move very little from here and have very advantageous prices, so that while filming you don’t have to spend money, in most cases, on hotels and catering, given that both crew and actors are locals,” says producer Antonio Pérez.
In May, in the middle of the first coronavirus wave, heaven’s doors were opened for Andalusian producers – as for the rest of the sector in Spain – as the Spanish government greenlit a hike of the incentive up to 25%-30% for local and international productions.
“Any change like this puts us on an equal footing with the best countries and greatly benefits funding,” Pérez adds.
“Andalusia is not only landscapes,” said Málaga’s Tate Aráez, twice winner (2015, 2018) of the Location Managers Guild International Awards for Outstanding Locations in Period Television for “Game of Thrones.” “There is also a lot of historical heritage that helps [location managers] find a lot of locations from many stages in history. So apart from the landscapes – we have mountains, beaches, snow, plains, pastures… it is wonderful – but we also have a historical heritage from Roman aqueducts, through to the entire Arab world. And there are cities where you can recreate the 40s, 50s … there is a lot of variety,” Aráez argues.
“In ‘The Crown’ Season 3, partially filmed in Andalusia, you can see all the variety of countries and times that we were able to recreate in a single year of filming. We recreated the Bahamas Islands at the Cadiz Naval Base; a Caribbean island was filmed in Cádiz’s Atlanterra urbanization; Arizona was a Jerez farmhouse owned by bullfighter Fermín Bohórquez; the Beverly Hills Hotel was the Alfonso XIII in Seville … Everything that was not filmed in the U.K. we did in Andalusia. And for Season Four, we did a lot of things from Australia in Andalusia,” he explains.
In “Game of Thrones,” serviced in Spain by Peter Welter’s Málaga-based Fresco Film, Aráez worked on locations for fantasy scenes at the Roman coliseum in the Osuna bullring; an area where dragons lived in the Roman ruins of Italica and inside the Castle of Almodóvar, where the dragons were kept under lock and key.
“For next year it seems that three very strong projects are coming in which I am working on now. Of course, there is great expectation that big international filming will return for 2021,” Aráez says.
Andalusia not only brings to co-production projects rich locations but also the support of regional institutions and public broadcaster RTVA.
“It is crucial to value the support of Canal Sur and the regional government, which are contributing to a solid film and TV industry. This is a key moment to focus on development projects and our own productions,” says Piluca Querol, director of the Andalusia Film Commission, who is also successfully exploring the opportunities of film tourism in the region, such as the Sergio Leone trilogy in Almería.
Andalusia is also nurturing a generation of filmmakers with innovative voices. “There is a strong new generation of emerging talents who will become established names in a few years,” Figueredo says. Among them are Ángel Gómez Hernández, whose feature debut, horror film “Voces,” has been picked up by Netflix and is preparing “The Pope’s Exorcist;” David Sainz, creator of YouTube series “Malviviendo,” now directing comedy “Grasa” for RTVE’s Playz. There is also Laura Hojman, who directed “Antonio Machado. Los días azules,” a documentary recently nominated for the José María Forqué Awards.
At Áralan, Marta Velasco is producing “Rita,” actress Paz Vega’s helming debut, which will be shot entirely in Seville; “La maniobra de la tortuga,” by young talent José Miguel del Castillo (“Techo y comida”); and Jonás Trueba’s “Segundo Premio,” teaming with Toxicosmos. Velasco has just acquired adaptation rights to Eloy Moreno best-selling novel “Invisible” from Penguin Random House.
Meanwhile, Violeta Salama’s “Alegría” has already won support from RTVE and the Andalusian government, and “La Isla Mínima” producer José Sánchez Montes is preparing his first feature fiction project, animation “Noches de duende y luna.”
Esto También Pasará, led by Álvaro Ariza, is producing fantasy thriller “La Casa del caracol,” Macarena Astorga’s feature debut, starring Paz Vega and Javier Rey, which has been boarded by Amazon Prime Video.