'Detective Toure'

Source: Bilbao, Bizkaia Film Commission

‘Detective Toure’

Bilbao, and its territory Bizkaia, is now offering one of the highest tax incentives in Europe, amounting to 60% if the expenses exceed 50% of the total budget, and 40% if between 20%-35%. In the rest of the Spanish peninsula (with the Canary Islands being the exception), the tax breaks range between 25%-30%.

The tax credit is even higher when productions are shot entirely in the Basque language, reaching 70%. This applies to national and international features, short films, TV shows, animation works, documentaries and other new digital formats. Deduction limits are set at 50% of the global production’s cost, including all other grants, and 60% in the case of European co-productions.

The new tax break policy came into force on January 1, 2023, and results have been dramatic. The overall figure for direct shooting spent in the last year was $62.6m (€58.5m), a staggering 324% up on data from 2021.

In all, shooting days totalled 1,026, 74% more than in 2022. And according to Bilbao Bizkaia Film Commission, 151 shoots were filmed in Bilbao-Bizkaia, 76 from the territory, 47 from Spain and 28 from abroad.

Feature shoots increased from five in 2022 to 12 in 2023, while series climbed from five to seven over the same period. With the new incentive system firmly in place, the film commission expects the region will soon attract even more Hollywood heavy­weights, after Bizkaia’s San Juan de Gaztelugatxe featured as Dragonstone in Game Of Thrones’ seventh season.

Spanish studios and production outfits such as Toboggan, Tornasol and Buendia Estudios already have established quarters in the territory, while Basque production companies and service providers are organised under the Basque Audiovisual umbrella.

Bilbao City Council, in partnership with Bizkaia’s provincial council, is developing a 1.1 million square foot audiovisual hub in Punta Zorrotza, three kilometres from the Guggenheim museum in the city’s downtown, which is expected to open in 2026.

Gipuzkoa and Alava, the two other territories of the Basque Country, are hoping to employ the same alluring incentives as Bilbao-Bizkaia once they are expected to be passed by the region’s legislative body. The EU greenlit the autonomous government proposal in December 2023.

Bordering France, the Basque Country covers 7,234 square kilometres with a population of 2.2 million. The territory was granted the

status of nationality within Spain by the Spanish Constitution of 1978. This allows the Basque Country a higher degree of economic independence, which has made these new regulations a possibility.

Steps back in time

The landscape is similar to both Brittany in France and the Welsh coast, and showcases enchanting ancient hamlets, old industrial centres and postmodern cities with emblematic architecture.

The Basque Country is just under two hours by air from London, with frequent services from Bilbao and San Sebastian airports. The region is connected with Madrid and Barcelona’s audiovisual hubs via a 70-­minute flight.

Some of the features shot recently in the area include The Platform 2, the follow-up to Net­flix’s 2019 worldwide hit directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, and Nina directed by Andrea Jaurrieta, a Screen International Spain Star of Tomorrow in 2023.

The latter is from production company Irusoin, which is also behind Marco, directed by Aitor Arregi, Jon Garaño and Jose Mari Goenaga. Additionally, producer and director Ibon Cormenzana (who produced the Oscar-­nominated Robot Dreams) recently shot Cuatro Paredes, while Marina Seresesky has just finished Sin Instrucciones, produced by La Pepa Films and Basque Films.

Expected to shoot soon is Baltasar Kormakur’s Whalemen — At The Ends Of Earth (Baleazaleak), a co-production between Basque producer Eduardo Carneros’s Euskadi Movie, A Contracorriente Films and Kormakur’s RVK Studios.

Productions for television have included Daniel Ecija’s The Other Life for Disney+, Norberto Lopez Amado’s Ángela, Miguel Angel Vivas’s Cicatriz (Prime Video and RTVE), Alauda Ruiz De Azua’s Querer (Movistar Plus+), and David Perez Sañudo and Carlos Vila Sexto’s Detective Touré (RTVE and Basque broadcaster EITB).