Spain is no longer a distant country for international film and TV shoots, as the industry builds dramatically amid a flash flood of public financing.
In May 2020, as the first wave COVID-19 roiled the country, Spain’s PSOE socialist government raised the cap from €3 million ($3.6 million) to $14.4 million for both tax rebates for international projects and tax credits for local productions. Deduction rates edged up from 25% to 30% of investment.
In March, prime minister Pedro Sánchez raised the ante with a $1.9 billion AVS Hub Plan for 2021-25 to power up the local film and TV production industry and encourage big foreign players to shoot and set up production offices in Spain.
Already, thanks in part to a vaccination drive decimating infections, international shoots in Spain surpass pre-pandemic levels.
“Even in such a globally competitive marketplace, Spain remains one of the world’s leading destinations for producers wishing to capture content,” says Mike Day, CEO of Palma Pictures, whose Mallorca-based company has provided production services on “The Night Manager” and “The Crown.”
“With rebates rising, creators wanting to shoot in Spain today can more easily justify it to their respective financial and production departments,” says line producer José Luis Escolar at Calle Cruzada.
The number of international productions in Spain grew “exponentially,” despite the pandemic. “Now that it’s remitting, it’s increasing much more,” adds Escolar, who is preparing Universal Television’s Julie Plec series project “Vampire Academy.”
Day lists the combination of extensive and diverse location backdrops, great climate, multiple airport hubs and depth of tourism infrastructure as factors making the country a premium choice for visiting producers.
“For the past few years Spain has been at the forefront in terms of international shoots,” says Babieka Films producer, Denis Pedregosa. “The filming incentives’ increase in 2020 had further positive impact.”
Such is the international shoot restart boom that, as in the U.K., Hungary, Italy and Croatia, it’s becoming hugely difficult to find first-class crews and book facilities.
“The volume of work is almost unsustainable and the number of professionals you need can’t be trained so quickly,” says “Game of Thrones” line producer Peter Welter.
Here the AVS Hub initiative may come to the industry’s midterm rescue, as it aims to invest $17.9 million in boosting Spain’s talent pool.
Talent indeed is beginning to mark Spain apart. The global success via Netflix of not only Spanish drama series (“Money Heist” and “Élite”) but also movies (“The Platform” and “Below Zero”) has raised the international profile of local talent, becoming a pillar of the industry growth.
“As Spanish creators exploded, they’ve added even more value to coming to shoot in Spain. International producers already know the top-level crew and ask for them to be incorporated into their projects,” Escolar says.
Renewing its faith in the future of Spain’s film-TV industry, Netflix announced in April that it is doubling its studio capacity in Spain, increasing its soundstages from five to 10 at its Secuoya Studios complex in Madrid’s Tres Cantos.
Netflix’s Spanish complex forms part of an audiovisual hub that has been building organically in Spain for several years, also powered by Movistar Plus, the Mediapro Studio and networks Atresmedia and Mediaset España, all located within a 20-minute drive of one another in northern Madrid or the dormitory towns of Tres Cantos and San Sebastián de los Reyes.
For Spain’s government, the strong international presence of national film and TV productions is an added value proposition to the industry’s economic weight. With the launch of the AVS Hub, it aims to enhance Spain’s competitive advantages, increasing the international reach of its content.
“The government’s AVS Hub Plan is a clear indication that it has finally understood the importance of our sector and the benefits it brings on all levels,” Pedregosa says.
“The government must go hand in hand with private companies to design the economic empowerment of the shoot sector,” says Lucía Álvarez, director at producers’ association Profilm.
“I have high hopes for the Spain AVS Hub plan, but it needs to work hard,” says Peter Welter, co-founder of Fresco Film. “Actions speak louder than words.”
Welter has just finished filming on Netflix thriller series “In From the Cold” in Madrid, as well as the Bron Studios-Palomar Spaghetti Western series “That Dirty Black Bag” and a new season of Netflix English crime TV drama “Top Boy,” both in Andalusia.
The local industry does, however, continue to face challenges, mainly related to further regulatory issues.
A major destination for Hollywood and European shoots, with a special fiscal regime, the Canary Islands’ deductions for both Spanish and international productions rose to an extraordinary 45%-50%. However, an awaited hike of these incentives’ ceiling to $21.5 million has yet to be confirmed, with the current rate staying at $6.4 million, while Spain’s mainland offers a $12 million cap.
“We’ve been waiting more than a year to know what the limit is and an amendment has still to be approved to correct it,” says Juan “Nono” Cano, co-founder of Tenerife-based Sur-Film, a services provider to shoots such as “Jason Bourne” and “Fast & Furious 6.” “From our point of view, there is a total discrimination.”
Another issue is IP ownership. Many platforms fully finance and 100% own productions. “We are fighting so that part of the IP of the content we produce remains in Spain, generating cultural and economic value, allowing indie producers to be internationally promoted,” says Jordi B. Oliva, president of producers federation Proa.
The transposition to Spain of the E.U. Directive on Audiovisual Media Services regulating global platforms investment in content may bring some sort of early solution to this issue.
Spain AVS Hub, A Turning Point for the Industry
Launched in March, the Spain Audiovisual Hub sets out to become a turning point for Spanish film and TV industry.
The Hub establishes a common strategy not only for film and TV, but also for animation, VFX and video games sectors.
Funded by both European Recovery Funds plus Spain’s national budget, the AVS Hub plan will mobilize an estimated €1.6 billion ($1.9 billion) in financing over 2021-25.
Of them, 15% ($286.5 million) will serve to support and promote film-TV productions, digital technology integration plus broadening the international reach of industry and talent.
83% of resources, $1.6 billion, will go to financing lines such as low-interest loans from state bank ICO, further loans from ENISA, risk coverage from CESCE and bank guarantees from Crea SGR.
It will also dedicate $17.9 million to create highly qualified professionals with digital skills demanded by the film-TV industry and $21.5 million to regulatory reforms and removal of administrative barriers.
The first commission handling the Hub involves representatives of the Ministries of Economic Affairs and Digital Transformation, Industry and Culture. It has already kicked-off with the creation of four workshops (on tax incentives, training, internationalization and foreign investment).
In a second stage, the hub will involve further national, regional and local administrations and, as a third and final step, add private sector orgs.
“This is the most important strategic action plan in Spanish history designed at a national level to promote the development of the Spanish audiovisual industry,” emphasizes Carlos Rosado, president of the Spain Film Commission.
The ambitious plan also sees the creation, in partnership with ICEX Spanish Institute for Foreign Trade, of a Spain AVS Hub Bureau, a single window entity that will act as a facilitator for the production sector, attending internationalization needs, processing filming permits and providing tax incentives information.
“If both public and private sectors respond, the objective of raising audiovisual production by 30% will be surpassed and Spain will be taken to a level which was hitherto unthinkable,” Rosado says