From ‘Laurence of Arabia’ to ‘House of the Dragon,’ the Spanish Commissions Handling Some of History’s Most Cherished Locations

·16-min read

The wealth of Spain’s attractions as a big-shoot locale are in the details. To that end, below are the 37 Film Commissions or Film Offices that form part of the nationwide Spain Film Commission network, as well emblematic shoots, locations and initiatives:

It was launched in 2008 to support shoots at Alicante’s Ciudad de la Luz studios, such as J.A. Bayona’s “The Impossible” and Ridley Scott’s “The Counselor.” Connected by high-speed train and an international airport, Alicante’s Santa Bárbara Castle featured in Movistar+’s “Tell Me Who I Am,” and Netflix’s “Money Heist” used its beaches and port. With Ciudad de la Luz reopening, international producers are returning, with Guy Ritchie’s “The Interpreter” shooting in the area.

More from Variety

Boasting flagship destinations such as Tabernas — Europe’s biggest desert, which hosted “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Game of Thrones,” “Exodus: Gods and Kings” and “The Crown” — the AFC offers diverse locations, assisting 1,100 international and national projects a year, serviced by highly experienced local professionals. Launched in 1998, the AFC published pioneering studies on the economic impact of filming, which, says AFC’s Piluca Querol, have “served to activate tax incentives in Spain and value the audiovisual sector for the administration and citizens.”

Well-known locations: The Loarre Castle in Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” and Belchite (“Spider-Man: No Way Home”). Other titles involving AFC: “The Promise,” “The Sisters Brothers” and “Vampire Academy.” A comfortable drive from the Pyrenees, Barcelona and Madrid, a new film fund is open to international co-productions. “We are showing that the audiovisual sector contributes to generating wealth,” says AFC’s Natalia Martínez.

Launched in 2016, the APNFC has rapidly positioned itself as a benchmark asset, hosting Sergio G. Sánchez’s Lionsgate-sold “Marrowbone” and Netflix’s “Sospecha.” Iconic locations include Gijón’s Laboral Ciudad de la Cultura complex, welcoming Movistar+’s “The Zone,” and church Santa María del Naranco, a pre-Romanesque jewel seen in Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona.” Competitive advantages: Relatively unused locations, and a small- to medium-sized administration, facilitating connection with producers.

A frequent choice for tourists visiting Madrid, Avila is small but highly connected, just one hour from the Spanish capital, and a World Heritage site, surrounded by its famed medieval wall. The 1960s classics “Doctor Zhivago,” “Chimes at Midnight” and “King of Kings” lensed there. Some scenes of Antonio Banderas and Penélope Cruz’s 2020 Mediapro Studio’s “Offical Competition” rolled in the Lienzo Norte Center, also used in Plano a Plano-Netflix title “Valeria.”

Benidorm has a spectacular skyline, urban beaches and more than 39,000 hotel beds. “We’re accustomed to numerous events in public spaces, so we manage permits and space reservations in a very fast and efficient way,” says BFO’s Rosa Llorca. Since 2014, BFO has contributed to productions from Spain: “It Snows in Benidorm,” “Fugitiva” and international shoots such as “Le mond est a toi” and “Ad Vitam.” Further top locations: the Dos Calas Coast Road in the Sierra Helada Natural Park.

Since 2014, it has supported Prime Video’s “Sin límites,” Disney+’s “Balenciaga,” Atresmedia’s “Presunto culpable” and Netflix’s “The Platform.” Locations span islet San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, “Game of Thrones’” Dragonstone and Bilbao’s Guggenheim Museum, seen in James Bond ’s “The World Is Not Enough.” Beginning in 2023, Bilbao- Bizkaia looks set to offer a remarkable up-to-70% in tax credits. “We’re on the big production companies’ radar,” says BBFC’s Agustín Atxa. “The new tax incentive will reinforce Bilbao-Bizkaia as a film-TV industry reference.”

A major international shoot destination offering an extraordinary 45%-50% tax rebate capped at €18 million ($18.4 million) includes key locations Llano de Ucanca and Minas de San José in Teide National Park, in Tenerife, where “Wrath of the Titans” shot. “Eternals” filmed on Lanzarote’s Cuervo Volcano. Further shoots include “Han Solo: A Star Wars Story,” “Wonder Woman 1984” and “Fast & Furious 6.” “Wehave managed to position ourselves as a differentiated territory and be recognizable as a brand,” says CIF’s Natacha Mora.

Canary Islands landscapes have been seen in “Eternals” and “Wonder Woman 1984.”
Canary Islands landscapes have been seen in “Eternals” and “Wonder Woman 1984.”

Taking advantage of Cantabria’s natural settings and architectural heritage, regional shoots escalated 42% in 2021 vs. 2019. Netflix’s “Diecisiete,” Plano a Plano series “La Verdad” and Telecinco Cinema’s “Casi Familia” figure among standout shoots. Key locations take in the Sobrellano Palace in Comillas (“La Residencia,” “La Herencia de Valdemar,” “Sexykiller,” “Primos,” “El color de las nubes”). “We aim for sectorial growth to be sustainable and sustained over time,” says CFC’s Victor Lamadrid.

Carmona, 19 miles outside Seville, has hosted film shoots since the 1940s. But since 1999, when the CFO launched, these have increased, led by iconic local films “Solas” by Benito Zambrano and Vicente Aranda’s “Carmen.” Its Puerta de Sevilla Alcazar has been seen in high-profile series such as Movistar+’ “The Plague” and in films such as “Manolete” and Blas Infante biopic “Una pasión singular.”

Carmona’s Puerta de Sevilla Alcazar has become a common sight on film.
Carmona’s Puerta de Sevilla Alcazar has become a common sight on film.

A strategic enclave connecting southern and central Spain, Castilla La Mancha offers resources and scenery without the need to travel far. HBO’s “30 Coins” and RTVE’s “The Department of Time” lensed in Ciudad Real’s Palace of the Marquis of Santa Cruz. Álex Pina shot “Sky Rojo” in the Barrancas de Burujón nature reserve, a mini Great Canyon. The area’s network of 350 municipalities has gained widespread trust with producers and location managers.

One hour from Madrid, the region boasts four world heritage cities. Prime Video’s “El Cid” filmed in Burgos Cathedral. Segovia’s hermitage of San Frutos provided one setting for “Money Heist.” CYLFC also backed “30 Coins,” Alejandro Amenábar’s “While at War,” Prime Video’s “3 Caminos” and RTVE’s “Isabel.” “Proximity to Madrid and good communications make it possible to reduce filming costs,” says CYLFC’s Pilar de Diego.

CFC coordinates a network of film friendly towns, offering a locations directory with more than 16,000 entries. Since the 1950s, the region has hosted international shoots such as “Pandora and the Flying Dutchman,” “The Passenger” and “Game of Thrones.” Recent productions: Tom Holland’s “Uncharted” and Carla Simón’s “Alcarràs.” Catalonia injects more than $37 million a year into the industry. New Spanish pics shot there include San Sebastian 2022 opener “Prison 77” and official selection titles “Wild Flowers,” “La Maternal,” “Cork” and “The Yellow Ceiling.”

Globally popular after the lensing of “Game of Thrones,” other notable series shot in Extremadura include “Isabel,” Netflix’s “La Catedral del Mar,” Prime Video’s “Hernán” and “Inés del Alma Mía” as well as Sundance pic “Cerdita.” Cáceres and Los Barruecos featured in “GOT”; further locations such as Cerro de Masatrigo shine in several TV commercials. “Any scenario you can think of can be found in Extremadura,” says EFC’s Flora Picón.

Launched in 2016, Film Madrid provides fast connections to the rest of Spain and the world. It collaborates with 179 municipalities, including Madrid, the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park, Alcalá de Henares, Aranjuez and San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Set up north of Madrid, Netflix’s first European Production Hub produced “Money Heist” and “The House of Flowers.” Recent big international shoots include Wes Anderson’s “Asteroid City.” “Accessibility, permit delivery times and occupancy costs are our main competitive advantages,” says Film Madrid’s Rafael Cabrera.

“The Ibiza brand adds production value to locations when they include it in narratives,” says IFC’s Andreu Fullana. The old town of Dalt Vila hosted Netflix’s “White Line”; Apache’s “The Europeans” shot in Cala Mastella. With a solid tourist infrastructure and stunning locations, Ibiza also welcomed Netflix’s “Machos Alfa” and Starzplay-Bambú’s “Nacho.” IFC hosts an audiovisual industry meeting in April and aims to have sponsorship and subsidy lines for projects in 2023.

Recently launched IBFC covers Formentera, Ibiza, Mallorca and Menorca with 1,073 miles of coastline plus 369 beaches. More than 200 audiovisual projects shoot per year and all locations are close: Travelling from the sea to mountains takes just 10 minutes. Key production companies there include Palma Pictures, involved in high-profile productions such as Netflix’s “The Crown” and “White Lines,” Amazon’s “Hanna” and BBC’s “The Night Manager.”

La Rioja, in northern Spain, concentrates diversity in a small area, from snowy postcard landscapes to stretches of vineyards, natural caves, large waterfalls and historical monuments. LRFC supported Ficción Producciones’ shoot of Prime Video’s Saint James Way tale “3 Caminos” at La Grajera and Santo Domingo de la Calzada. La Rioja offers “short distances, low production costs and strategic locations,” says LRFC’s Andrea Álvarez. Launched in 2018, the public-private film commission has ramped up film support via institutional sponsorships.

Launched in 2017 by the City Council of Madrid, it boasts “a combination of creative talent, highly qualified professionals and competitive service companies,” says MFO’s Raúl Torquemada. It offers classic Madrid locations such as the Gran Vía and Plaza Callao, seen in “Money Heist,” and Cibeles, used in Telecinco Cinema’s “Way Down.” Madrid has doubled for Mexico (“Terminator: Dark Fate”), New York (“Soulmates”), Buenos Aires (“Tell Me Who I Am”) and Moscow (“In From the Cold”).

In addition to its many recognizable landmarks, Madrid has also doubled for a number of world cities on film.
In addition to its many recognizable landmarks, Madrid has also doubled for a number of world cities on film.

Alongside the Málaga Film Festival, MFO forms part of municipal entity Málaga Procultura. Since 2001, more than 3,000 MFObacked projects landed in Málaga, repping expenditures of $102 million. The Old Provincial Prison hosted “Black Mirror,” while La Concepción Botanical Garden received “The Crown.” Further high-profile shoots: Warner Bros. Netflix’s “Operation Mincemeat” and Lionsgate’s “The Hitman’s Wife’s Bodyguard.” After 2020’s tax incentive hike, “we are receiving more foreign productions, with the advantages that this entails,” says MFO’s Belén Carrasco.

Since the 2020 incentive increase, fiction shoots have surged, especially international productions. Main perks, per MFC’s Pedro Barbadillo: “A wide range of locations, 300 days of annual sun, solid services industry, connectivity.” “The Night Manager” and “White Lines” filmed at La Fortaleza Villa; Pareis Torrent hosted “Cloud Atlas.” Additional shoots include series (“The Mallorca Files,” “The Crown”) and films (“The Hustle,” “El Ventre del Mar”). Region offers some $2 million per year in production funding, including co-productions.

The Balearic island “brings to the table proximity, hours of sunshine, de-massification and landscape,” says MFC’s Miguel Huesa. A free public service operated by the tourist board, the MFC kicked off in 2021. It has participated in Hugo Silva starrer “Faro,” a horror thriller set at the Favàritx lighthouse. Estrella Damm shot a commercial on Macarella beach. MFC works side by side with the local hotel industry, and launched a line in sponsorship this year.

This desert landscape in central Aragón launched its commission in 2014. Agustí Villaronga’s “Uncertain Glory” lensed in the Carthusian monastery of Nuestra Señora de las Fuentes and the Jubierre Desert. Goya-Award winner Pilar Palomero used the Monegrillo’s arid landscapes in “La Maternal.” Advantages of filming in Los Monegros: “Speed and simplicity when dealing with small administrations, the ease of obtaining permits in a sparsely populated area,” says MFC’s Natalia Arazo.

With an attractive 35%-40% in tax deductions, regional subsidies and a Cultural Patronage Law, Navarre has consolidated its film-TV industry as a strategic sector. The Bardenas Reales badlands hosted the iconic tank battle of “Patton,” Terry Gilliam’s “The Man Who Killed Don Quixote” and represented the Dothraki Sea in “Game of Thrones.” The Baztán Valley became one more character in Atresmedia’s film trilogy “The Legacy of Bones,” and the Irati jungle in Paul Urkijo’s “Irati.”

Navarra has a long history of film shoots in its countryside.
Navarra has a long history of film shoots in its countryside.

PONTEVEDRA PROVINCIA FILM COMMISSION Despite PPFC just launching in 2022, Galicia’s Pontevedra has a long tradition of film shoots. Luis Tosar-starrer “El lápiz del carpintero” filmed on Vigo’s Cies Islands, and Pedro Almodóvar’s “The Skin I Live In” lensed in A Estrada’s Pazo de Oca. The latest shoot, again in the Cies, is the Amazon-Bambú series “Un asunto privado,” starring Jean Reno. Pontevedra boasts overflowing nature, coastal towns, cities combining tradition and modernity, castles and vineyards.

Since its creation in 2004, “SFC has established itself as one more institution within the city,” says SFC’s Enrique Cantabrana. It hosts some 60 annual productions covering a great variety of artistic styles. Alejandro Amenábar’s “While at War,” Columbia-Relativity’s “Vantage Point” and Ridley Scott’s “1492: Conquest of Paradise” filmed in its emblematic Plaza Mayor. Scenes of Milos Forman’s “Goya’s Ghosts,” Prime Video’s “Magi” and “While at War” filmed on Compañía street, in the historic center.

The “While at War” shoot took advantage of Salamanca’s locations.
The “While at War” shoot took advantage of Salamanca’s locations.

Home to the San Sebastian Film Festival, the province has spectacular landscapes and architecture and its own tax system with 35% breaks. Woody Allen’s “Rifkin’s Festival” filmed on Concha Bay, while local blockbuster “Spanish Affair” lensed in Guetaria and Zumaya. The Miramar Palace hosted HBO’s “Patria” and “Vampire Academy.” “Game of Thrones” lensed on Itzurun Beach. Recent initiatives: A catalogue on sustainability in audiovisual productions.

SCFC’s activity is growing substantially with 10 audiovisual productions in 2002 but 52 in 2021. Locations in Galicia’s capital combine contemporary architecture with a rural environment. “The Skin I Live In” lensed there, as did “3 Caminos” and “Operación Marea Negra” (Prime Video), “O Sabor Das Margaridas” (Netflix) and “Rapa” (Movistar+). The end destination of the famous St. James Way, its Plaza del Obradoiro and old quarter hosted Emilio Estévez’s “The Way.”

This ancient Castilian city and its province have a long tradition of international shoots — “Chimes at Midnight,” “Patton,” “Conan the Barbarian.” Operating for over a decade, SFO has positioned Segovia as a preferred destination for productions, offering jewels such as the Alcázar Cathedral and Roman aqueduct. Locations such as the Old Jail have been visited by Atresmedia’s “La Novia Gitana.” Babieka’s “La Voz del Sol” filmed in May in the historical Plaza Mayor.

Although SFO launched in 2020, a shoots office has operated since Seville’s Plaza de España can be seen in “Lawrence of Arabia” and “Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones.” Its Real Alcázar hosted “Game of Thrones,” “The Plague,” “Kingdom of Heaven” and “The Wind and the Lion.” SFO’s main bet is Sevilla Hub Audiovisual, a production complex aimed at converting the city into a destination for the industry.

Castilla y León’s Soria boasts varied landscapes, which appeared in “Doctor Zhivago.” Its monuments and towns feature in “Chimes at Midnight.” Richard Lester’s “The Three Musketeers” lensed in the Berlanga de Duero Castle and El Cañón del Río Lobos Natural Park. Since 2019, SFC attracts, manages and facilitates filming in the city and the province. A great advantage, SFC points out, is the ease of obtaining film permits.

A Unesco City of Film since 2017, Terrassa is strategically located close to Barcelona, the Mediterranean and the Pyrenees. TFO has provided services on J.A. Bayona’s “A Monster Calls,” Liam Neeson’s “Marlowe” and Netflix’s “Hache” and “Alma” — plus Uma Thurman-starrer “Blackwood (Down a Dark Hall).” Terrassa’s PAC studio hosts countless shoots on its soundstages but also in close-by locations such as the old Hospital del Tórax and the emblematic Cecot building.

Valencia welcomed international shoots such as Disney’s “Tomorrowland,” the BBC’s “Doctor Who,” HBO’s “Westworld,” Movistar+ s’ “The Pier” and Pedro Almodóvar’s “Pain and Glory.” The futuristic City of Arts and Sciences complex and La Albufera Natural Park figure among Valencia’s flagship locations. Active since 2015, the VFO aids the local audiovisual industry, often acting as an intermediary with public administration. It allows free access for lensing on the city’s streets and beaches.

The City of Arts and Sciences complex is one of Valencia’s most recognizable locations.
The City of Arts and Sciences complex is one of Valencia’s most recognizable locations.

Since 2014, VFC has supported more than 300 shoots across Valladolid and its environs. Sony Pictures’ “Voy a pasármelo bien” and Prime Video’s “Magi” lensed in the historic town center, which takes in the Plaza Mayor and the Patio Herreriano Museum. This province boasts historic towns, stunning vineyards and pine forests. Designated a UNESCO Creativity City of Film in 2019, Valladolid has been linked to cinema since the 1955 launch of the Valladolid Film Festival. Strengthening its industry profile, it launched Shooting Locations Marketplace in 2021.

Prime Video’s “Un asunto privado” filmed in Vigo for nearly six months over 2020-21, one of the Galician city’s longest shoots. Javier Bardem-starrer “Mondays in the Sun” and HBO’s series “Agua Seca” shot at the emblematic Vulcano boatyard and Port of Vigo; Netflix’s feature “Un hombre de acción” is set in Vigo’s historic quarter. The VFO provides logistic advantages with its proximity to Portugal, a competitive hotel offers and the Ifevi fairground.

Vitoria-Gasteiz is the ancient capital of Basque province Álava. Its medieval quarter hosted Netflix’s “Handia.” Flagship locations include reservoirs Ullibarri- Gamboa and Legutio, where Juanma Bajo Ulloa’s “Baby” and Goya award-winning “Maixabel” both filmed. “Being a small territory is a competitive advantage,” says VGFO’s Ana Ruiz. “We can handle film permits quickly and easily.” Álava offers 30% tax credit on investment in audiovisual productions.

“Zaragoza was already a movie city. Now we are maximizing its value,” says ZFO topper Adriana Oliveros of the bureau, which was created in 2020. Since then, “The Interpreter,” “Vampire Academy” and Pilar Palomero’s “Las Niñas” have landed there. The Aragonese capital is surrounded by deserts and crossed by the Ebro River. Locations include the emblematic Plaza del Pilar and the Juan Antonio Labordeta Park. Jake Gyllenhaal filmed “The Interpreter” at its air base.

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Click here to read the full article.