What makes Spain so attractive to foreign co-producers? Chris Evans reports

Spain is one of the most appealing co-production territories in the world, thanks to attractive national and regional subsidies, private finance, excellent facilities and locations, and some of the hottest film-making talent around.

“International producers that come here and work with Spanish producers can potentially access about 50% of their budget from the funding sources available, which is huge compared with, say, New Mexico where you get about 10%,” says Denis Pedregosa, vice-president of productions at Kanzaman Films.

One of the biggest new developments for local and international producers came in January last year with the approval of a $125m (€85m) national film fund from the Spanish Film Institute (ICAA) designed to encourage international co-productions. The government-backed fund allows each film project to potentially access $2m (€1.5m) once it has been classified as Spanish, though international producers must work with a Spanish partner to access the subsidies.

“We want to bolster the local film industry through our subsidy system, while encouraging international interest in our projects and talent,” says Carlos Cuadros, the newly appointed director general of the ICAA.

“The new funds are great for medium-sized projects like ours, which have a strong Spanish influence but which often involve international partners and appeal to all markets,” says Gerardo Herrero, head of Tornasol Films, which produced the Oscar-winning Argentina-Spain title The Secret In Their Eyes and is currently working on a new thriller from Cell 211 director Daniel Monzon.

There are also several attractive regional subsidies, such as in Valencia, which offers up to 20% of local spend in the region to international producers with production partners in Valencia.

Both Juan Antonio Bayona’s The Impossible and Mabrouk El Mechri’s The Cold Light Of Day, an Intrepid Pictures project starring Bruce Willis, have been shooting at Ciudad de la Luz studios in Alicante, Valencia, which offer six film sets, two backlots and the largest water tank in Europe, which blends seamlessly with the horizon.

“We’re using the water tank to create the wave effect and flooding from the tsunami of 2004 for The Impossible,” says Ghislain Barrois, CEO of Telecinco Cinema.

But the region is not immune to the recession, with the Valencian film institute (IVAC) which administers the subsidy, having its fund budget reduced from $9m (€7m) to $3.9m (€3m) for 2010 and 2011.

“The regional subsidies are great and we are open to using them, but they are inevitably being affected by the crisis,” says Simon De Santiago, a producer at Mod Producciones, the company behind Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu’s Spain-Mexico drama Biutiful, which shot in Catalonia.

The Catalan government has, in fact, recently passed a new film law which approved funding for two international projects a year, with the support of broadcaster TV3, worth up to $1.5m (€1.2m) for each project. International producers can apply through ICIC (Catalonia’s government subsidy body) for the funding, which will be awarded on a selection basis.

Rodrigo Cortes’ drama Red Lights is due to start shooting in the region this month.