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INDUSTRY Canary Islands

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Canary Islands: a star attraction for the film industry


- Their natural beauty is renowned, they are home to a growing community of highly qualified professionals and the tax incentives are hard to resist – the list of attractions of the Spanish islands, rather like their film commissions, just keeps on growing.

Canary Islands: a star attraction for the film industry
Evolution, directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic

Evolution, directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic

(This article has been published in the Cannes 2016 Market News daily by Le Film Français)

Few European locations can offer as many unique advantages as the Canary Islands, famous the world over as a holiday paradise thanks to their glorious beaches, a balmy year-round climate and a superb range of accommodation options. Transposed onto the big screen, the Canarian panorama offers a rich array of settings, from wide expanses of sand to snowy mountains and volcanic scenery reminiscent of a lunar landscape. The islands’ blend of traditional and modern architecture makes an ideal backdrop for timeless tales, period dramas and fantasy adventures. Drenched in sun, there are few cloudy days here, meaning more filming hours per day than anywhere else in Europe. And, as a well-established tourist destination, the archipelago has infrastructure in abundance, from 300,000 hotel beds to ample transport connections in the form of roads, motorways, ports and airports. The Canary Islands are just a few hours by air from major cities such as Berlin, London or Stockholm.

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As if this was not enough to seduce production companies, shooting here – whether feature films, TV series, animated films or documentaries –, offers some very tempting incentives due to the local “Economic and Tax Regime,” nestled within the legal framework of the European Union and the Spanish state. These tax advantages include an investment incentive of 35% for foreign production companies, which means that companies employing a producer who is registered for tax purposes in the Canary Islands benefit from a 35% tax rebate on expenses incurred within the islands, with a maximum deduction of €4.5m (based on a maximum deductible expenditure of €12.8m). Spanish productions or co-productions with a cultural element – certified by the Institute of Cinematography and Audiovisual Arts –, which are filmed in the Canary Islands and have been awarded a Canaries Audiovisual Work Certificate, available to registered audiovisual companies, receive a tax credit of 40% for the first €1m invested in the production and 38% thereafter, subject to a maximum deduction of €5.4m (deductible expenditure is capped at €14.1m). Furthermore, within the so-called Canary Islands Special Zone (ZEC), businesses providing services including those associated with production, on-set management and crew, post-production, photography, publicity and audiovisual distribution pay corporation tax at just 4%. This ZEC incentive, which is fully compatible with the other tax advantages described above, was approved by the European Commission in 2000 with the aim of stimulating economic and social development in the Canary Islands.

The islands’ various film commissions can provide detailed information and advice on all of these tax advantages, as well as on other incentives such as the Reserve for Investments in the Canary Islands, and the tax deduction for innovation and for advertising and publicity – the latter offering a tax deduction of 10-15% of total investment on promotional activities and market research overseas and on participation in film festivals and other events. Last year, their ranks were swelled with the incorporation of the Film Commissions of Lanzarote and La Palma. The latter is directed by María José Manso Martín, who speaks proudly of its achievements so far: “After launching in April 2015, we have already hosted the production of the latest ads for Jaguar and the high-end bicycle brand Votec, as well as part of the series Berlin Station by Paramount Pictures, a co-production between the United States and Germany. We also have a number of other film projects in the pipeline, including some very significant ones.”

Many commissions promote local productions overseas

The abundance of production companies choosing the Canary Islands as a filming location in recent years has allowed the archipelago’s audiovisual industry to flourish, with a profusion of very well qualified professionals providing high levels of service to both national and international productions. Canary Islands Connection, for example, is an agency dedicated to the promotion of Canarian productions overseas; it also offers production services and actively seeks out new projects for collaboration. Amongst its successes this year are Evolution [+see also:
film review
film profile
, a joint Franco-Spanish production directed by Lucile Hadzihalilovic, a winner at the San Sebastian Film Festival; Dead Slow Ahead [+see also:
film review
interview: Mauro Herce
film profile
, a documentary by Mauro Herce, which has enjoyed sweeping success at awards ceremonies since its premiere in Locarno; and the children’s animated series Cleo, directed by Ana Sánchez-Gijón and now in its second season, which has been exported to Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Poland, China and much of Asia. Led by Luis Renart, the team is currently working on White on White, an epic drama directed by Theo Court in a partnership between Spain and Chile and starring Alfredo Castro and Pilar López de Ayala. White on White was a winner at the San Sebastian Film Festival’s Co-Production Forum and the beneficiary of a grant from the Hubert Bals Fund, awarded by Film Festival Rotterdam. Other works in progress include Milk Teeth, a Western set on an almost-deserted island and the debut feature of Canarian director David Pantaleón, and The Hidden City, a documentary by Victor Moreno (Edificio España) co-produced with France. 

An impressive list of recent productions shot in the Canary Islands is a testament to their allure for film makers. These include:

Palmeras en La Nieve [+see also:
film review
film profile

Starring Mario Casas – one of this year’s biggest success stories for Spanish cinema.

Atrapa La Bandera
 [+see also:
film profile
An animated box-office hit directed by Enrique Gato and produced by Telecinco Cinema, 4 cats pictures, S.L. Lightbox entertainment and Telefónica Studios, with a soundtrack by tenerife-born composer Diego Navarro.

Al Final Del Túnel
A joint Spanish-Argentinian production by Tornasol Films, El Árbol Contenidos and Haddock Films in association with Telefé and Televisión Española, directed by Rodrigo Grande and starring Leonardo sbaraglia, Pablo Echarri, Clara Lago and Federico Luppi.

En Zona Hostil
A war film by Adolfo Martínez, with Ariadna Gil, Roberto Álamo and Raúl Mérida, narrating the true story of an incident involving Spanish troops in action in Afghanistan.

An ambitious Spanish production marking the greatly anticipated return of director and screenwriter Augustín Diaz Yanez, which depicts the cruelty and frenzy of the Spanish conquistadores’ quest for el dorado in South America, featuring Juan Diego, José Coronado and Raúl Arévalo.

Jason Bourne
The Universal Pictures blockbuster filmed last September in Tenerife, directed by Paul Greengass and starring oscar-nominee Matt Damon joined by an international cast including Julia Stiles, Alicia Vikander, Tommy Lee Jones and Vincent Cassel.


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