Screen talks to Palma Pictures MD Mike Day about his expanding business and working with recent local productions The Inbetweeners and Mad Dogs.
The quality of the light and the beautiful natural surroundings have long attracted artists and tourists to the island of Mallorca, Spain.
In the ’60s and ’70s Mallorca hosted major Spanish film productions, such as Luis Garcia Berlanga’s El Verdugo, but with no national tax incentive the territory hasn’t proven the most film-friendly destination in recent years.
However, the recent creation of a local film commission, campaigning from the Balearic Audiovisual Cluster and the ambitious expansion of local production services company Palma Pictures are indicative of a local industry on the up.
The Mallorca Film Commission was created eight months ago and is lobbying hard for the region to become Spain’s third with a local tax incentive. Bwark Productions’ The Inbetweeners has just wrapped after shooting in Magaluf’ Eduard Cortes’ drama El Palayo, starring Daniel Bruhl, is on its way; and there is a healthy flow of European TV productions and global commercials choosing Mallorca for shoots.
Palma Pictures has 850 commercials and 20 feature/TV films to its name since its creation in the early ’90s. While the company is a go-to services and equipment provider for the commercials industry it is also looking to expand its drama portfolio. We caught up with company MD Mike Day.
How did you come to Palma Pictures?
I started out at a Soho TV production company called Movie Screen whch had a contract with MTV Europe. I became a camera assistant, then sound recordist for MTV gigs and interviews but quickly realised I was interested in the production side of things.
Line producer Ronaldo Vasconcellos gave me a job on 1995 film Mad Dogs And Englishmen as an assistant director and I then went back to Movie Screen. Then I worked freelance on Michael Radford’s B Monkey and then as a production manager on various films and TV shows, such as Shane Meadows’ Room For Romeo Brass and Jonathan Creek. I came over here to make a feature in 1998 called The People’s Princess. Palma Pictures were only about five people back then but the company founder Ola Holmgren asked if I wanted to come back and work on commercials freelance as a first AD. That went well and he asked whether I wanted to set up an office in London to promote the company and the island.
In 2003 Ola suggested I come over and be his MD. We were doing commercials mainly but we did a nice TV drama called Sword Of Honour for Channel 4 in 2000.
In 2006 I was involved in a management buyout with two colleagues. Ola sold the majority of his shares and we came on as partners with some venture capitalists from Sweden.
Tell us about Palma Pictures.
In the last 18 years we’ve made significant investments in our own infrastructure. We’ve created a fusion between a traditional service outfit and equipment and studio rental, so we’ve got a fleet of vehicles, lighting and grip packages, camera packages and a 4,500m2 studio complex and a sound stage. We have an in house Arri 535 and 435 cameras, a couple of RED Cameras and we just got an Arri Alexa. Over the last year the demand for digital shoots has been huge. We’ve seen a 90-10, digital to film, ratio.
We’ve got a staff of over 60. We have a sales department with producers for different territories. They deal with commercials and Trent Walton and myself take a lead on the drama and feature side of things. We have up to 12 scouts out around the island at any one time and an image bank of around 250,000 photos of Mallorca and the other Balearic islands and mainland Spain. We also have an in house casting department, with a database of 15,000 locals.
We are a Kodak supplier and are in negotiations with some UK post production houses to expand this service here.
In 2010 from a commercials perspective we worked with 17 different nationalities. I imagine we’re one of the busiest companies in Europe in terms of what we do. Last year we pushed through €14m of turnover, with the company’s highest volume of commercials and drama to date.
Why does the area need a film commission?
We think Mallorca is a great destination to bring film. Mad Dogs could have shot in Malta, Valencia or elsewhere but we helped to convince the local government that this is a fertile shooting location and they invested in the production. We are lobbying for local incentives. A tax break would be the most sensible way to go and I think we will have something in place in the near future.
What are some of your biggest productions?
We work on some of the best commercial campaigns in the world, from Stella Artois and Becks, to McDonalds and Ferrero Rocher, Procter & Gamble and Vittel. We deal with the largest blue chips in the world.
In terms of drama we’ve seen a leap in interest over the last couple of years. We had TV show Mad Dogs shooting here in 2010, a Spanish film called El Perfecto Desconocido (The Perfect Stranger) with Colm Meaney at the end of last year, and now we have The Inbetweeners. We are hopeful for Mad Dogs 2 this summer.
How did you get involved with The Inbetweeners film?
Bwark got in touch with us at the end of last year and were looking for a destination for their script. It moved very fast. They came over here, we set up a scout for them, met with their team and one thing led to another. It’s a straight forward production services job.
How much work do you carry out in studio?
Most of our work takes place on location. 85% of the projects we shoot are location based and in truth we have a very nice studio but there is the one sound stage. We can’t compete with the big studios. We’re not going to be sitting on Harry Potter X, because we’re not a four-wall business. The occupancy is growing nicely but features generally come here for the location not to use our studio as a priority.
What’s coming up?
We are making sure we’ve got the latest kit. We’ve just bought the Arri Alexa. In terms of drama we’re looking to capitalise on the increase in activity over the last year. We’re looking for someone to head up a drama division in house and we will also be continuing to lobby the local government for some kind of local, embedded tax incentive. We also set up a media creation company in 2009 called Pathfinder. It’s a network for our commercial clients. So, we’ll be growing that.