The Spanish film and TV sector is attracting increased investment from the government intent on ensuring the territory becomes a world-beating production hub. 

Photo Credit_El Deseo D.A. S.L.U., photos by Iglesias Mas

Source: El Deseo D.A. S.L.U., Iglesias Mas

Pedro Almodóvar (right) filming ‘Madres Paralelas’ with Penélope Cruz (left)

The Spanish film industry is emerging from the difficulties of the past year in good shape, with new films involving the likes of Pedro Almodovar, Penelope Cruz, Antonio Banderas and Javier Bardem in the works, and a generation of exciting filmmaking talent beginning to break through.

The government moved quickly in May 2020 to enhance the financial incentive designed to attract international productions to shoot in Spain (see page 28) and the country’s chameleon-like locations have heard the call of “action” ever since.

There is also a local production boom thanks to the US streamers and pay-TV giants drawn by the relative cost savings, wealth of talent and locations and the potential of the global Spanish-speaking market (see page 18).

In March, the government unveiled a $1.9bn (€1.6bn) investment plan for the local film industry from 2021-25 to increase production, attract international investment and talent, and strengthen the presence of Spanish productions in the international market. Although indie producers are sceptical of how much they will benefit from it (see page 22), it affirms how important the country’s audiovisual sector is viewed by the government.

Government backing

The plan aims to support film and TV production, digital platforms, video games, animation and special effects. The scope of its ambition is reflected in the amount earmarked for the industry, and by the involvement of various key government departments — such as the Ministry of Economy — which film professionals have wanted for a long time.

In terms of local production, the government strategy is designed to increase the number of productions by 30% over the next four years, taking into account the advantage Spain has for reaching the Latin American Spanish-speaking market.

Clara Roquet’s Libertad is screening in Critics’ Week, and there are also several shorts: Sycorax by Lois Patiño and Matias Piñeiro; The Windshield Wiper, an animation by Alberto Mielgo that plays Directors’ Fortnight; The Fall Of The Swift, in the Cinéfondation selection; and documentary Buñuel, A Surrealist Filmmaker in Cannes Classics.

The titles showcased by Cannes, few as they are, underline two areas full of promise for the Spanish industry: a growing new wave of indie filmmakers (with a significant number of women directors including Roquet); and animation. But long-established names are also contributing to a busy 2021, partly due to the traffic jam caused by the pandemic, with projects postponing shoots and delayed releases awaiting the full reopening of theatres.

One of the most anticipated is Almodovar’s Parallel Mothers (Madres Paralelas). The director’s production company El Deseo has confirmed the film will be released in Spain on September 10, suggesting it might make its debut at Venice (Almodovar premiered his short The Human Voice there last year).

Described by the filmmaker as an “intense drama” and “a return to the feminine universe, maternity and family”, Parallel Mothers stars Cruz in the pair’s seventh collaboration.

The actress has two further high-profile titles awaiting release: action thriller The 355, alongside Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o, Diane Kruger and Fan Bingbing; and Official Competition by Gaston Duprat and Mariano Cohn, the directing duo behind The Distinguished Citizen, in which she co-stars with Banderas. Official Competition was shot in Spain and is now in post-production.

Cruz’s next project at home will be On The Fringe by actor/director Juan Diego Botto, which she is producing with Alvaro Longoria of Morena Films.

Bardem has also finished a Spanish production, The Good Boss, teaming up again with director Fernando Leon de Aranoa after Mondays In The Sun and Loving Pablo; The Mediapro Studio produces.

Alex de la Iglesia’s Veneciafrenia and Jaume Balaguero’s Way Down are also due for release later this year and might find festival berths. Meanwhile Alejandro Amenabar is at the helm of a TV series for the first time with La Fortuna, a naval period drama produced by Movi­star+, AMC Studios and MOD Pictures with an international cast that includes Stanley Tucci.

The Lowdown

European status

Spain is a member of the European Union and a participant in the Schengen Agreement. Its currency is the euro.

Financial incentives

The rate of the national tax rebate was increased in May 2020 to 30% (from a previous 25%) for the first $1.2m (€1m) of local spend by an international shoot and 25% (from a prior 20%) thereafter. The cap for the total tax rebate on one shoot has also been increased from $3.7m (€3m) to $12m (€10m). The expenses will have to be at least $1.2m (€1m), and $243,000 (€200,000) in the case of animation and VFX projects.

There are territories within Spain with different tax regimes for international shoots: for example the region of Navarre has a 35% tax credit, while the Canary Islands’ rebate rate has risen from 40% to 50% for the first $1.2m (€1m) and 45% (from a previous 40%) thereafter. Full details:

Infrastructure and crews

Crews are accomplished and the feedback from international producers on production assistants, sound, art and cinematography crew is very good. Spain can also provide specialists for underwater shoots. Fresco Film partner Peter Welter notes: “Spain has excellent crews. We have often worked with Spanish crews only and the big studios have trusted us. It was the case with Sony’s series Snatch and it’s the case now with Netflix’s In From The Cold, made with a 100% Spanish crew, with Spanish DoPs and two out of four directors who were Spanish.”

Spain Film Commission offers free services and assistance for shooting all kinds of audiovisual productions. It also advises on financing, location scouting and administrative services.

Producers should note the autonomous communities in the country have their own film commissions too, and that Profilm, Spain’s international shoot sector trade association, can also provide information ( In addition to Secuoya Studios, where Netflix is operating in Spain (part of the bigger Madrid Content City facility currently in development), there are also studios in Catalonia’s Terrassa and in the Canary Islands.

Size matters

A high-speed rail network, 290,000 kilometres of motorway and roads, and 48 airports help international crews move around mainland Spain’s nearly 506,000 square kilometres, including 5,000 kilometres of coastline. Productions can swap snowy mountains for a city or the beach in a few hours. Transport is well developed between the mainland and the Canary and Balearic islands. Most of Spain’s islands have international airports, thanks to the established tourist industry, as well as a huge array of hotels and restaurants. Most offer good value for money. In times of pandemic, production service companies underline the fact the country has a good health system.

First person to contact: Dina Harovic, co-ordinator, Spain Film Commission