Ridley Scott films biblical epic Exodus Gods and Kings in the UK and Spain
Ridley Scott filmed on location in the UK and Spain for his biblical epic Exodus: Gods and Kings. The movie tells the story of Moses and his conflict with his brother, the future pharaoh Ramses, and doubled the deserts of Spain for ancient Egypt.
More than 1,000 art and construction crew were involved in building sets at Pinewood Studios in the UK and also for the extensive location filming in Spain. At Pinewood, sets were built on stages and on the studio’s back lot facilities, while the paddock tank became the River Nile.
The Spanish leg of the shoot took place on location in the deserts of Andalucia in the south of the country. Scott already had a history in the region, having filmed there for his medieval drama Kingdom of Heaven a decade before.
The Exodus locations team spent several weeks scouting southern Spain with the help of the Andalucia Film Commission and then Scott made a short personal visit to make the final selections. Twelve weeks of set construction followed, including an expansive facility at Sierra Alhamilla, a nature reserve near the city of Almeria.
Working in Alhamilla is like having your own huge back lot. The area is bigger than the 20th Century Fox back lot in California.
Arthur Max, Production Designer
“Our Sierra Alhamilla location was a square kilometre in size,” says Location Manager Felix Rosell: “First of all we had to fix the only access to the location and create new roads to the different sets. We had to build water lines, offices areas, construction warehouses, catering areas and zones for the horses and other animals. It was like a town with all the facilities.”
“Working in Alhamilla is like having your own huge back lot,” added Production Designer Arthur Max: “The area is bigger than the 20th Century Fox back lot in California.”
Spain does not currently offer a formal filming incentive to international productions. However, Fox partnered with Madrid-based production company Babieka Films for the Exodus shoot and secured a sizeable tax credit through a European Economic Interest Grouping.
“Many productions come to Spain asking for locations,” Rosell adds, “but even with the locations chosen they move to other countries because we do not have incentives. Apparently this is going to change next year when we will have better incentives and be more competitive.”
In recent months the Spanish government has drafted a new filming incentive designed to appeal to international producers. However, the national industry has criticised the draft for lacking a competitive edge when compared to Europe’s biggest production hubs.
The Spanish Canary Islands are a striking example of the potential regional impact of filming incentives. Producers filming on the islands get special tax discounts and the area has recently attracted high-profile shoots like Ron Howard’s In the Heart of the Sea, the BBC’s Doctor Who and also scenes for Exodus: Gods and Kings.
Some productions have not needed a formal incentive to come to Spain. Game of Thrones recently filmed in the country for the first time. The show had an instant impact on film tourism, and the local benefits are likely to grow when the new series is launched in the spring.
(Images: Kerry Brown / Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation)
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