It’s an iconic scene when dashing anti-hero Ser Jaime Lannister charges his white steed up the grand Baroque steps leading to the Sept of Baelor in Episode 6, Season 6 of HBO’s wildly popular “Game of Thrones.” But the locale is actually in front of the Cathedral of Girona, Catalonia. In fact, a number of Girona’s streets and locations stood in for Braavos and King’s Landing in “GOT.”
In another scene, the Arab Baths of Girona, ensconced in a late Romanesque-style building built in 1194, stand in for the Braavos Baths where a persecuted Arya takes refuge.
“Having ‘GOT’ film some Season 6 scenes in Girona in 2015 was a defining moment and marked the beginning of an era,” says Catalan Film Commissioner Carlota Guerrero. “It was the same year when Spain launched its tax incentives and when international productions began to explore Spain alongside new production service companies and discover a rich diversity of locations.”
It has since been followed by the prequel “House of the Dragon,” which also used Girona to double for King’s Landing.
More high-profile shows have discovered Catalonia, including Netflix’s hit show “The Crown” where Barcelona stood in for Paris, feature “Uncharted,” HBO’s “Westworld” and more recently Netflix’s upcoming “Palomino,” retitled “Where Is Erin,” from “The Crown” producers, Left- bank. Some 80% of the crew on “Palomino” were from Catalonia, notes Guerrero.
“The heads of department were a mix of U.K. and Spanish,” says Yousaf Bokhari, head of production at Palma Pictures, which provided production services on “Palomino” as well as “The Crown,” “Hanna 2” and “Culprits” in Barcelona.
BBC’s six-part series “The Diplomat,” Warner Bros.’ “Mrs. Davis,” Apple TV+’s “Land of Women,” Lionsgate+’s “Nacho” and Amazon’s “Awareness” are just a few of the productions that shot in Catalonia last year.
Thanks to a robust local audiovisual industry, Catalonia has been luring more international shows because of its cost-effective production offers, generous federal incentives and a wealth of highly experienced creative and tech talent as well as top-notch equipment supplies and ancillary services. Add to that stunning locations.
Catalonia’s notable tech talent include location manager Marc Fábrega, who worked on “GOT,” Westworld” and “Uncharted”; cinematographers Xavi Giménez and Oscar Faura; and production designer Alain Bainée.
Local productions have made waves internationally. “Through My Window” rates as the sixth-most-watched non-English film ever on Netflix. “Alcarràs,” Spain’s official submission to the Oscars by Catalonia’s Carla Simón, won Berlin’s 2022 Golden Bear.
The most recent dramatic development, which is likely to lure more international productions to Catalonia and the rest of Spain, is the government’s decision in December to raise the cap on tax breaks — credits and rebates — for international TV productions to €10 million ($10.9 million) per episode.
In addition, the total tax relief for international movie productions shooting in Spain has been boosted from $10.9 million to $21.8 million. A ceiling for deductions given to a project’s top creatives, previously set at $106,000, has also been removed.
While it’s too soon to see an impact yet, it certainly bodes well for Catalonia, as well as the rest of Spain.