Producers, showrunners, line producers and location managers all agree: When it comes to shooting a production in Spain, they need a bridge with local administrations.
As film and TV shoots ramp up to historic heights — doubling expenditure in 2021 vs. the average spend for 2016-19 — Spain’s intoxicating mix of historic cities, natural parks and intricate local regulations means that the role of the film commissions has become crucial in successfully carrying out production.
To date, there are 37 film commissions or offices across Spain, forming part of the SFC Network. “Film commissions have come a long way in recent years and have understood what their role is,” says Meñakoz Films’ Fernando Victoria de Lecea, president of the Profilm line producers’ body, who fulfilled that role on Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City.”
“When a location manager doesn’t control a region too much, the film commissioner offers a large database. Then, he helps immensely with guidance about how the territory is organized and identifies the different opportunities available to carry out the production,” says “Game of Thrones” location manager Tate Aráez, a triple winner of the Location Managers Guild Intl. Award.
Film commissions act as a vital link between the public administration — and also often private institutions — and a production company. Among other reasons, producers cannot know all the legal ins and outs of a country with diverse regulation. Once the location team has decided on sites, managing permits is another important task.
In addition to Aráez’s A Film Location Co., the August filming of Netflix’s series “Kaos” was supported by the Málaga Film Office, which contacted the urban planning and transport offices at Málaga’s city council to close off a key city artery for several hours.
“If you have to do it yourself you can, but with a lot more effort and time; they did a great job,” Aráez says.
Palma Pictures, the physical producer in Spain of Leftbank Pictures/Netflix’s “The Crown,” was recently in close contact with both the Catalunya Film Commission and the Barcelona Film Commission in relation to Leftbank’s series “Palomino,” shot entirely in Barcelona.
“It’s been an ongoing contact over the past months and they’ve been valuable intermediaries with the local authorities,” Palma Pictures’ CEO Mike Day says.
A third leg of the film commissions’ activity is their presence at international markets to promote the territory as a lensing destination, an initiative often channeled by the SFC through the Shooting in Spain brand.
“Internationally, they work hard to drive awareness of all that Spain has to offer visiting productions; and nationally, they strive to enhance regional support, access and collaboration from the varied stakeholders that a film or television project will interact with during its time in Spain,” Day says.
More large international productions, boosted since 2015 by Spain’s increasingly attractiveç tax incentives, generated a turning point in the way the country tackles big shoots.
“The volume of foreign shoots is increasing, that’s obvious. But the large number of national shoots for years has also been fundamental: There are already many trained professionals with years of experience,” says Kike Gutiérrez del Amo, location manager on HBO-Álex de la Iglesia series “30 Coins.”
“Both regional governments and city councils realized that if they facilitated a shoot, it would have positive repercussions afterwards, once the film was released. They started to provide more facilities,” Victoria de Lecea adds.
With the big shoot locations industry increasingly focusing on Spain and Spain’s AVS Hub Plan supporting the sector going forward, the future looks bright for Spain’s film commissions. “As the hub develops over the coming period, I have no doubt that the SFC will play an integral role in assisting in its evolution and implementation,” Day says.