Written by James Peak on Aug 3, 2010. Posted in On Location

Spain suffering without filming incentives

At the moment, the rain in Spain falls mainly on the filmmakers. The national Government has resolutely refused to match European neighbours with incentives for foreign co-productions, leaving one of the best European film infrastructures and most versatile of locations wondering if its production days are numbered.

Producers in Spain are angry that their Government is not levelling the European playing field by offering filming incentives that could make shooting in Spain competitive again. Belinda Lewin, Executive Producer of Bee’s Pics, based in Fuengirola near Malaga in the south of the country, is aggravated at the lost opportunities:
“It is proving to be impossible to get the Spanish Government to give any aid. I was supposed to produce a small Spanish part of an American feature film. The main shoot is in Morocco, but in the end they did all of it there.”

Local companies are still doing good business using the brilliant Spanish sunshine to their advantage, but clearly for producers like Lewin the national Government’s silence is deafening:

“Currently, co-productions don’t get off the ground. I have constant enquiries for feature films from the US that turn to nothing. Valencia seems to be the only place that is offering any incentives to shoot at the moment.”

Perhaps there is hope for producers through local and regional commissions. In much of Europe, especially France and Italy, local councils and commissions offer increasingly generous subsidies that work on top of national breaks.

The Parisian region of Ile De France has given out USD132 million in the last decade, for instance. In Spain it is the city of Valencia, on the western Mediterranean coast, that has led the way. In late 2009, it launched a USD26 million film fund for shooting in the region and funds will be available until at least 2011.

To access these funds, producers must work with a co-production partner from the region or set up an office in Valencia. And 33% of the film must be shot in the local area. Producers can claim up to 16% of local spend, which rises to 20% if they produce more than one film in the region and their expenses exceed USD17.7 million.

Valencia, close to Alicante’s enormous new USD447 million Ciudad de la Luz studios, has a glamorous image, good weather and a film-friendly environment. The studios have reinvigorated the locality over the last three years, and recently attracted Danis Tanovic’s Triage, starring Colin Farrell, and Mr Nice, starring Bernard Rose, as well as attracting Kodak and Panasonic to open local offices.

The city of Valencia itself recently reeled in a big budget ad for Swedish horse-racing firm ATG called Know Your Horses, which saw horses doing human activities all over the city. The production reportedly had no trouble filming horses, despite complex production needs. City authorities secured the central train station for a scene involving horses leaving the carriages like human commuters. Incentives like Valencia’s coupled with helpful, willing and organised local support for film, may help the industry in spite of the lack of governmental support.

Andrew T Keech, International Producer with Team Works Productions, has had a very busy time in 2010 so far with commercials, including two for car manufacturers KIA and Daewoo, both in South Korea, and also preparation for a Bollywood film. However, he agrees wholeheartedly that help is needed from the state:

“It would be helpful if the Spanish Government helped outside companies looking to film in Spain, with better tax incentives for foreign companies, maybe up to over 40%.“

A 40% incentive would put Spain up with the best of the US states and way ahead of German and French incentives. France's new tax rebate for international shoots, administrated jointly by Film France and the CNC, is a 20% award capped at USD5.8 million per production.

Germany has generous regional funds, coupled with a buoyant national one. It is administrated through DFFF, which has an annual budget of about USD80 million, and will reimburse 16% to 20% for large and small-scale productions.

Lewin has a very clear idea of what needs to be done to reinvigorate Spain’s production roster and insulate it against the loss of business to the rest of Europe:

“Let’s just copy them! We don’t need to invent anything new. Germany and France are good models – let’s offer what they are offering and see the business bounce back immediately.”

Cat Isakson, International Producer with AProductions in Madrid, where 70% of all Spanish production occurs, adds:
“A great location is nothing without great weather and we often have amazing sunshine all year round! For anyone that has shot here it’s no surprise that Spain is a very easy country to shoot in. Spain is one of the few European countries that combines highly professional crew and equipment with minimal bureaucracy. If you have last-minute changes, which is standard with most productions, the rules can be bent to accommodate clients.”

If Spain is to remain competitive, both national and local governments will need to think long and hard about pitching in with tax breaks in the near future, or risk seeing work evaporating in the heat of European competition.

Images courtesy of Seaquist A Company.

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