Keys to Location Biz, Debated at Shooting Locations Marketplace



Hollywood studio execs – including James Lin, Universal Pictures SVP physical production, Legendary TV’s Lily Tammy and Robert Ortiz, Paramount SVP, production – met with international location managers, scouts, and line producers and film commission reps at this year’s Shooting Locations Marketplace in Spain’s Valladolid. 

Among location managers, event ambassador Lori Balton (“Jack Ryan,” “Argo”) was joined by William Doyle (“Mank”) Mika Saito (“Tenet”) Michael Glaser (“Inception”) Les Fincher (“Over the Brooklyn Bridge”) John Hutchinson (“White Noise”) and John Rakich (“See”).

David Williams (“Cobra Kai,” David Mckinney (“Batman v Superman”) Jeffrey Shepherd (“Straight Outta Compton,”) and Sandra Solares (“Point Break”) also attended. 

Strategically timed just before the Seminci Valladolid Film Festival, the boutique Marketplace is a unique event structured around the decision makers in choosing locations. A record 69 studio execs and location managers sat at booths with an agreed-to appointments schedule of meetings with film commissioners, production service providers and companies – such as hotels chains – coming to them to pitch their offers.

“It’s a unique event in the world of filmmaking and there’s nothing else anywhere. I’ve been to a lot of fam tours and worked in 52 countries. This is an extraordinary event,” Hutchinson enthused.

Presenting companies took in 36 Spanish and – in an opening up to international, nine international destinations – France and Brittany, Germany, Berlin-Brandenburg and Bavaria, Poland, Norway, Jordan and Egypt.

Jay Gibson and Lori Balton

Key Drivers in Choice of Locations

A Summit Shooting Locations Marketplace featured talks and roundtable discussions.

Conversations and comments served to underscore some key drivers in the location business. At 2022’s Marketplace, Universal’s Lin commented that “I will restate what’s obvious, which is that tax incentives are going to drive filming to whichever region in the world wants filming.” That has certainly not changed. Incentives also have a bigger picture.

“On one hand, they help smaller movies and help actually a better movie get made,” explained William Doyle. “Larger movies and the studios have turned it into: ‘You guys are helping fund our movie because of tax breaks.’” They “spread wealth, spread the money from the entertainment business all over the world. Which helps raise a lot of people’s living standards,” he added.

One quirky Spanish location: A landing strip in the seeming middle of nowhere, Soria
Credit: Conrado Angel

The location business is not just about spectacular shorelines but also finding the unknown, ease of access and more general logistics. 

“It’s great to know about other cities that can double for bigger cities that are more difficult to shoot in, just because they’re more heavily populated,” said Balton. 

“And then also, it’s great to know about those little quirky, unexplored locations, because every director loves to feel that he or she is the first one to shoot something,” she added. 

Doyle agreed: “I’m always going to try and find a place that hasn’t been seen before. Any creator, any painter doesn’t want to know what everyone else has done in a place. So half the time it’s just going somewhere that it hasn’t been done, or only in a smaller Spanish language movie only,” he said, citing Benasque and other places in the Pyrenees.

Spain’s highest Pyrenees, near Benasque (Ampriu-Cerler Road, Aragon)

Logistics was another concern. “The people above me on the pay scale, have to look at all of the options and decide, so it’s my job to present them with different visuals and then also the logistics,” said Balton.

“If you have the logistics for it, then you end up saving money, and then everything goes better anyway. So, I think it’s a win-win,” added Mckinney.

Priorities may vary according to the size of a shoot and size of a company. If logistics are key, the major concern for Paramount’s Ortiz is “always the infrastructure. Crews are the backbone of production. Everybody knows that. Paramount is looking for places with the infrastructure to set up for us to come in with our 100-plus people on the crew and film and leave for the next location. Stages are always important, especially on the television,” he added.

Spain Film Commission’s AI-Powered Location Search Engine

Indeed, so many considerations affect the choice of locations that the Spain Film Commission has pioneered an AI-powered search engine, overseen by AI specialist Alba Meijide and Teresa Azcona for the SFC, whose web page was sneak-peeked at the Marketplace. AI-ordered visuals aid location managers to find a location. The web page then orders other information about the locale such as accessibility, permits and other documentation required, Meijide told a Marketplace audience. The SFC’s system has all that information in one place. SFC’s AI will not replace anyone, said Meijide: It will just allow location managers to work quicker.    

Another underused Spanish location: the stalactite Pozalagua Cave in Carranza, Bizkaia
Credit: David Herranz


Though not necessarily determining locations, sustainability is an ever more important part of the shoot equation. In a panel dedicated to the challenges facing the audiovisual industry which also featured Ortiz, German film commissioner Anja Metzger noted that the German government has introduced relatively new regulation to establish sustainability criteria for shoots. Tiffany Tisiera, SVP physical production, Focus Features, said on the same panel that it had for several years used a local specialist as a sustainability person on set to help monitor and local requirements are followed.  

Ahmed Sambad, director general of the Egypt Film Commission, a subsidy of Egypt’s vast EMPC production hub near the Giza Pyramids, observed that Egypt has as yet no specific no subsidiarity regulation. That said, the EFC has worked with European consultants regarding, for example, the use of solar-powered generators on locations, water distribution onset and how to do this without plastic. “We are focusing on this issue and looking into it deeply,” Sambad said.

Spanish 2023 Netflix megahit ‘Nowhere’
Credit: Emilio Pereda/NETFLIX

Health of Spain’s International Shoot Scene

The 3rd Shooting Locations Marketplace, running Oct. 17-18 in Valladolid, one hour’s train ride north of Madrid, was organized by the Feria de Valladolid and Spain Film Commission, with the sponsorship of the Junta de Castilla y León and Valladolid City Council. Much talk turned to the health of Spain’s international shoot scene, continuing debate at the San Sebastian Film Festival. 

30 of the 43-member Spain Film Commission, its commissions spread out around Spain, attended the Marketplace.

According to a report Profilm, an association grouping 18 of its top line producers on overseas productions filming in Spain, Spain hosted shoots for 49 international productions, which generated a direct investment of €288.2 million ($317.0 million). That’s a 10% hike in the number of shoots and 8.5% up on 2021’s figure of €263.7 million ($290.1 million) and more than doubles a pre-pandemic highpoint of €133.6 million ($147.0 million) in 2016. The Canary Islands (€112.9 million: $124.2 million) and Catalonia (€77.8 million; $85.6 million) accounted for much of total investment, but 13 regions in Spain welcomed international shoots. 

“As the Spanish film industry production volume has increased, platform investment has grown and incentives put in place. It’s a virtuous circle. An ecosystem is being generated, and employment building as well,” said Profilm director Lucia Álvarez.

One moot question is how far Hollywood’s double strikes will affect 2023 investment figures. 

“There’s been an impact, but Spain is not so dependent on U.S. production as some other countries,” José Manuel Guimaraes, Spain Film Commission secretary general, told Variety, underscoring the country’s own international productions. 

“‘Money Heist’ was the first explosion but, thanks to demand, a lot, and ever more Spanish content is shooting in Spain, which is consumed across the world,” he said. Bowing this fall, Spain’s “Nowhere” shot to No. 2 of Netflix’s most watched non-English movies ever.

“Nowhere,” the latest Spanish international hit, now ranks as Netflix’s second most-watched and viewed non-English language movie ever; Oscar frontrunner “Society of the Snow,” bowing Jan. 4 on Netflix, was shot in part in Spain’s Sierra Nevada outside Granada, doubling for the Andes.

J.A. Bayona shooting ‘Society of the Snow’ in Spain’s Sierra Nevada, near Granada.
Credit: Quim Vives

John Hopewell contributed to this article.


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