Filming on location with Llucià Homs of the Barcelona-Catalunya Film Commission
Llucià Homs is Film Commissioner and Director at the Barcelona-Catalunya Film Commission (BCFC) in north-east Spain. He is also Director of Cultural Industries at Barcelona City Council’s Cultural Institute. The film commission helps organise shoots around Barcelona and Catalunya.
The Barcelona-Catalunya Film Commission promotes the territory of Catalunya and focuses its permitting operation in Barcelona. The permits for the rest of the territory are coordinated with our territorial film offices in 170 different municipalities.
We offer a wide range of locations including 580 kilometres of coastline with beaches and towns, 230 kilometres of mountain ranges with mountains of up to 3,000 metres high and more than 25 nature parks. Architectural styles range from prehistoric constructions and Greek and Roman ruins through to Mediaeval, Baroque and Renaissance churches, as well as castles and examples of modern and contemporary architecture.
There are large cities, picturesque little towns and rural areas untouched by the passage of time.
Catalunya offers more than 150 feature film production companies and 2,000 companies linked to the audiovisual sector. There are over 20,000 skilled and specialist audiovisual professionals, connectivity through four international airports and port facilities.
What locations are most commonly used by film and TV crews?
Barcelona is the main focus, with around 2,000 productions a year. The city centre and old-town quarters like El Raval, El Gòtic and Barceloneta are popular, as are the coast and beaches, the Park Güell by Gaudi and the Ciutadella Park in the city centre, or the Olympic Stadium and the Forum.
The city of Girona offers an old district and coloured houses by the Onyar River. Tarragona has Roman heritage and there are spots like Cadaqués, which has probably the most popular coastal village for shooting in Catalunya, followed by Sitges, which is a paradise for commercials.
What are the more unusual locations that our readers would not necessarily associate with the region?
We have extensive mountain ranges by the Pyrenees that are covered in snow, as well as deep forests in the interior areas of the region like the National Park of Montseny or Aigüestortes. There are volcanoes in the Garrotxa region and beautiful expanses of sand like North African deserts in the south by the Delta of the River Ebre.
There are subway lines with abandoned stations, or brand new modern high-tech ones in Barcelona, not to mention the large number of 19th Century colonies spread around Catalunya where factory workers and their families used to live.
What has been your most difficult location assignment to date?
Large cinema shoots are challenging as it’s not easy to fit in a city like Barcelona, with very busy and narrow streets, compared to big cities like London or New York. It is also tricky to close streets and shoot at night since a lot of people live in the city centre.
Filming feature The Perfume was a particular challenge. We had to turn one of the busiest and most touristic streets of the centre of Barcelona into an 18th Century Parisian street. The ground was covered in mud for days, the street lamps and modern signs were all removed, and the front of the houses and shops and restaurants were all turned into the 18th Century Parisian look. Ikiru Films was very professional. We had meetings six months in advance in order to co-ordinate with all the city departments. It was a brilliant and very didactic experience.
We have extensive mountain ranges by the Pyrenees that are covered in snow, as well as deep forests in the interior areas of the region like the National Park of Montseny or Aigüestortes.
Other challenging projects were Biutiful, by A. González Iñarritu, Red lights, starring Robert De Niro and Sigourney Weaver, that doubled Barcelona for a US city and The last Days, a virus thriller that features a burnt-down Barcelona.
What types of production do you work on most?
Commercials are the most common, followed by TV, documentaries and then features.
Are there any tips you would like to share with our audience about filming in your region?
Barcelona had the first film commission in Spain, created 16 years ago, and one of the first in Europe, even before London or Paris. We need time to prepare big shoots. Easy shooting permits need between 48 hours and five days to be processed, but when shooting more complex scenes (closing streets, large parking necessities, night shoots with big crews), two or three weeks’ notice is advisable.
Such timings are not so necessary in the less busy cities Catalunya, but they’re still a factor when shooting on roads and coasts, where it takes about 15 days to get a permit.
Which are the best airports to use to film in your region and who flies there?
Catalunya has several airports. The main one is in Barcelona, where filming is allowed and frequent, thanks to its nice architecture by Ricardo Bofill. Since the opening of the new international terminal, the old terminal has become less busy, which is useful for filming.
For filming in Girona and Costa Brava there is the Girona airport and the airport in Reus, next to Tarragona in the south. Finally there is the very new Alguaire Airport, which at the moment is actually out of use and is becoming a real set for commercials and films that need an airport. Costs are reasonable and it’s not far from Barcelona.
What would you recommend crew and cast do to have fun and relax locally?
There is building work from Spanish Catalan architect Antoni Gaudi both in the capital and outside, there’s the Costa Brava, the Ebre Delta in the south or the old town in Barcelona, all of which are places not to be missed, plus the fun and night life in Sitges.
It’s also worthwhile discovering Catalan gastronomy, with the Boqueria market in Barcelona, or the fishing markets in the coastal villages. I would also recommend restaurants such as Tickets (by Ferran Adria), Gresca and Isop.
What do you do to relax after work?
With good weather I like having something to drink, preferably a good Gin & Tonic, on a terrace - there are great ones on the rooftops of many hotels of the city. When I’m at home, I read.
To contact Llucià click here.
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