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4 diciembre 2022

Teresa Azcona: “In Spain we compete internationally to attract filming and we are one of the most attractive destinations”

The general director of the Spain Film Commission, the entity in charge of facilitating the arrival of filming in our country, talks about the benefits that these recordings generate in the territory. We asked her about the economy, employment and depopulation.

For those who don’t know it, what is the Spain Film Commission?

It is an entity that has existed in Spain for more than 20 years and brings together all the territorial public entities that want to work to promote their territory as a destination for filming without investment in the audiovisual sector. In the end, it is a network that currently has 36 members, including autonomous communities, provinces, islands, cities, etc.

What professional profiles does the Spain Film Commission encompass?

The members of the association are ‘film commissioners’. These are people who work for a city council, an autonomous community, a provincial council, etc., with the aim of facilitating the activity of the private sector in their territory thanks to the audiovisual sector. So that, for example, local production companies have more work. It is a sector that encompasses many possibilities: cinema, advertising, fiction and non-fiction television, animation, etc.

What does filming bring to an area and what are the benefits it generates?

The filming industry generates an important impact on the economy and employment of a territory. It also influences its visibility, the possibility of attracting tourism and the good image of the area. Not all productions generate the same impact. There are productions that bring the whole team, as happens a lot in advertising productions, for example, when they come to shoot an advertisement, while there are others, especially those of long duration, such as the filming of a series that can last several months, where it is usual that some workers come from abroad and others are hired in the territory where the filming is going to take place. There are many different types of hires, from extras to people with other roles of greater responsibility, such as assistant directors, production assistants, etc.

What does a territory need to have in order to attract filming? Does Spain have these factors?

We in Spain compete internationally to attract film shoots and we are one of the most attractive destinations. This is because we have the necessary combination of factors: diverse locations – landscapes, natural scenery, historical heritage that can be used as sets -, professionals who can support the production, a wonderful reception system – hotels, restaurants, etc. -, and finally, something fundamental to compete internationally is the economic issue. Countries with good tax incentives, such as Spain, are always more attractive.

Is that how you have managed to attract international filmmakers?

That’s right, they have been coming since always, in the 50s and 60s they were already coming from other countries to shoot in Spain, but this has accelerated especially since 2014. In 2015 they came to shoot Game of Thrones, and that is closely linked to an adequate fiscal framework so that these shootings can be developed.

Madrid Film Office
You say that for a production company to choose a territory for filming, the locations offered by the area are very important. How are they in Spain and more specifically in Aragon compared to the rest of Europe?

We have a very competitive positioning. In fact, we compete not only with the rest of Europe but also with North Africa and other destinations that may have locations similar to ours. In terms of locations, in an arid territory we can compete with Morocco. If you are looking for a villa on the sea, we can compete not only with Italy but also with Malta, for example. The competition, then, is very high. But we are in a very good position. Firstly because the locations are very varied, secondly because of the daylight hours compared to northern countries -which is very important because you generally shoot when there is light-, thirdly because of the very competitive tax framework and, in addition, the conception of Spanish talent is helping us a lot, both in creative and technical personnel. Each Spanish project that achieves international scope helps us to attract more shootings to the country, because it transmits to international production companies the perception that there is a lot of talent here.

In recent years we have heard talk of “film tourism”. Does it really exist? What is the relationship with Tourism like?

The relationship has been very intense since the start of the Spain Film Commission in 2001 because there are two moments in which we connect: one is during the shooting, because when 200 people travel for a filming that obviously has an impact on accommodation and tourist services in the area, and on the other hand there is the impact afterwards, when the film is released. This is greater or lesser if the production is successful. If a film or commercial has shown a territory and goes viral, suddenly thousands of people will know it and will want to go there. And that’s happening. People are changing the planning of their trips to Madrid to see the sets of the series La casa de papel. The same happens with the locations of Games of Thrones in the Basque Country. The relationship is absolute.

You have been working in the audiovisual sector for some years now, holding positions of responsibility. Is this a demanding sector?

Everyone says it’s a complicated sector, but I think we are very lucky. Normally, we work with very passionate people. Recently José Velasco at an awards ceremony said that we work to make people happy, and it’s true. I think that all of us who work in the audiovisual industry, whether for advertising, television, film, etc., work to provide the agent with evasion, distraction, education, curiosity … and that is a great luck. In addition, in particular, my position has a very interesting economic and management component.

What is the current situation of the audiovisual sector in Spain?

Regarding the situation, we cannot forget that we have lived through two years of pandemic that has affected all sectors. The audiovisual sector suffered enormously, although it soon began to recover. I believe that the great change in the audiovisual sector in Spain is that Spanish creations, which used to be unquestionable in cinema, are gaining more and more weight on the platforms. Cases like La casa de papel and many others that have followed are examples of how Spain is not only a place where they come to shoot a production but there are stories created and filmed by Spaniards that are liked all over the world, and that has changed for the better the functioning of the audiovisual sector in the country.

Where is the sector headed?

There is a trend of audiovisual growth throughout Spain, and I think the Spain Film Commission has contributed to this. Now it’s true that filming is mainly concentrated in Madrid, the Canary Islands, Andalusia and Catalonia, in terms of volume. But there are territories like the Basque Country, the Valencian Community, Galicia or Navarra that are developing a tremendous activity and are also growing a lot in the number of shootings.

Have the payment platforms changed the way of thinking and working?

What the platforms generally do is to contract the production to production companies that develop the project for them. That means that the film commissioners deal with the platforms, but on a day-to-day basis they work with the production companies that carry out the production in Spain. And as to how it affects, I think it has mainly affected the number of projects. Now there are many more projects and more television projects, which are oriented to be screened on the platform and not in theaters. Regarding the work of film commissioners, it has changed that the productions are no longer mostly feature films or films but series, which involve months of shooting and cause changes in the way of working.

Is the environmental impact taken into account in filming?

Like any activity, we have an impact on the environment. In recent times, and I would say in the last year, there have been very important advances in this regard. Measuring that impact, establishing corrective measures and even managing to create a positive rather than a negative impact on the environment is something that we are now working on very intensively.

The audiovisual industry is a male-dominated sector, where more men than women work. Are you working to turn this situation around?

There is an association called CIMA, of which I am a member, that works to promote women in the audiovisual sector. What is true is that the presence of women in the audiovisual sector is increasing, as we have seen, for example, in the Goya awards. In the area of production, in particular, there is a high degree of women in positions with great decision-making capacity, there are also more and more female directors, screenwriters, women in technical areas, etc. And in the case of our Film Commissions, the truth is that the female presence is very high. There are many film offices run by women, as in the case of our region, where all three -Aragon, Zaragoza and Monegros- are headed by women.

Do you consider that the audiovisual content itself is another means to achieve a change of mentality?

Without a doubt. I think it is important, it facilitates diversity. And to the extent that there is more plurality in the creators of stories that get to tell their story on the screen, I understand that this pushes in the right direction, to a greater balance between stories, visions and perspectives in terms of gender.

And can the audiovisual be an element against depopulation?

Undoubtedly. A filming can contribute to fix population. A filming brings activity to the territory, supports its tourist offer, covers part of the overnight stays in the area and can complete the rooting of people in the territory, as it happens in Monegros. In fact, one of the objectives for which the Spain Film Commission was created is for this territorial diversification, to ensure that the filming industry is an opportunity for each territory.

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