The Audi advert in which the Malaga company Loslocations was involved in. :: SUR
They work quietly and with no prior warning, but they cannot avoid publicity. They arrive with their spotlights, their production cars and their cameras to turn a location into a setting for the big screen. It is impossible to pass by without stopping to take a look: will there be a glimpse of a famous actor? The highest expectations are always raised by a film set: look at the excitement caused by the announcement that the ‘Game of Thrones’ series will be filmed in Andalucía. But if you pass a film crew in Malaga it is more likely that they are making an advert, not a movie. The province is home to the most powerful audiovisual advertising industry in Andalucía and, after years of low-budget productions, it is recovering its place in a market that moves millions of euros in Spain. With the crisis and the competition from other destinations, the sector has lost a large part of the business muscle it wielded during the past decade, but the ‘publicity spots’ continue to be the most profitable for Malaga’s audiovisual companies: more than one third of their income comes from filming commercials. So far this year, in Malaga city alone, filmed productions, which go from television to photos for brochures, have resulted in an investment of 521,820 euros, not far off the total of 618,440 euros earned last year.
Seville is home to Canal Sur and the city has developed an industry focused on television and film. However “in Malaga there is continual commercial filming”, explains Piluca Querol, director of the Andalucía Film Commission (AFC), who stresses that the audiovisual companies of Malaga have great flexibility and are able to adapt to the demands of foreign agencies, who are the principal clients for adverts that are filmed in the province.
“Publicity works at very short notice and in order to be efficient you have to be able to move fast to obtain the permits for filming that they want ‘yesterday’,” explains Belén Carrasco de las Heras, of Malaga Film Office, who says there has been a recovery in demand for filming of adverts since last year.
This trend was confirmed at the start of the new season, which coincides with spring and the arrival of the good weather. Six months into 2014, at least 46 advertising productions have been filmed in the province, according to the municipal offices which are part of the AFC network. However, the figure is over 50 if we take into account the commercials filmed in municipalities that are not part of the scheme or in private studios in the province (which do not need permits).
The climate is one of the main attractions of Malaga. “The advertisers arrive in winter or spring but they are looking for a summer climate,” says Laura Ros, of Marbella Film Office, who has handled permits this year for well-known names such as Puleva and Woman’s Secret.
“The good weather is what distinguishes us from the rest, because even in February any European producer can look at his or her smartphone and see if it is going to rain in Malaga during a particular week or not. They can come and film almost immediately, because we have a formidable international airport,” explains Paulino Cuevas, the alma mater of Euromedia, which in May brought two Dutch productions here, one for the Heineken beer company and another for the FBTO insurance company, as well as a film for the multinational Carglass company.
“Fifty per cent of my activity is based on advertising and 80 per cent are foreign clients,” says this producer, who regularly works for companies from the Netherlands and Britain, although he has also begun working with clients in Russia.
As well as the hours of daylight and the natural settings, the international aspect of Malaga is another highly valued factor of the audiovisual industry because it means that language is not a problem. English tends to be the common language when filming adverts, as the best clients are usually from the European market, principally British and German, although in the past two years there has been a significant increase in clients from the East. Peter Welter Soler, the producer of Fresco Film, was one of the first to travel to Moscow to highlight the location facilities of the province. Russian mobile phone companies have come here to film adverts with this producer, who has also worked on one of the most important adverts so far this year: the one made by the Saatchi & Saatchi Moscow agency for the Fenistil drug.
“They were looking for a woodland so they had considered places in Asia, such as Thailand, but we offered them La Concepción botanical garden and it was not only three times less expensive but they were able to film with restaurants and all other types of facilities close to hand,” explained Peter from the Côte d’Azur, where he was attending the most important festival for the advertising industry, Cannes Lions.
An animal, although not exactly a lion, played the leading role in the advertising spot filmed at La Concepción: a gorilla, which looked very realistic on screen but was actually an actor in costume, and whose credible ape face was moved by animatronic technology. “We were able to film in just one location and we had a budget of 55,000 euros for one day,” says Peter Welter. He has filmed six adverts so far this year, although not all were in Malaga because, like the rest of the Malaga production companies, he works all over Spain and also in Portugal. In fact, and from a point of view of locations, the principal competitors for Andalucía at present are Barcelona, which is the undisputed leading destination in Spain and very focused on foreign publicity, and Lisbon.
“We often use a combination of Malaga, Granada and Almeria because we have very different scenarios and this allows us to keep costs down because long distance travel is not involved,” explains location scout Daniel Ojeda, who runs one of the most important location companies in Andalucía, ‘Loslocations’.
Twice as long as normal
This company has taken part in producing another of the most important commercials this year, when the Samsonite company turned Malaga’s Calle Larios into a sidestreet of London’s Oxford Street. This major production took five days to complete - the average is two days - and used twelve different locations. The team travelled over 2,000 kilometres for an advert which lasted barely 20 seconds on screen.
Another sub-sector of this industry is that of lighting. The economic crisis and technology have reduced investment in lighting, because digital cameras need fewer watts than the old cinema format. However, there is still no lack of work.
“This year there is much more activity and whereas before we had to go out and look for work, now the phone is ringing again,” explains the head of All Sol, Manuel Salas, who calculates the average cost of lighting equipment and personnel for filming to be about 6,000 or 7,000 euros a day.
With regard to the advertisers, there are all types although car manufacturers stand out among the rest. “At the moment car adverts are in fashion and they want not only mountain roads but also modern architecture,” says Peter Welter. Jaguar, Mercedes and Land Rover are just some of the makes which have been seen in Marbella this year, with their gleaming new models.
Like other forms of publicity, the filming is fast and “exhausting” because these professionals work from dawn to dusk to try to make the most of the daylight, but they admit that they also enjoy high salaries. One day of filming an advert can be as productive as a week spent shooting a movie.