The office is near the centre of Malaga, but going inside is like walking into a Hollywood studio. The walls are lined with posters for Game of Thrones, Tom of Finland, Ostwind, Emerald City and the series Snatch, which has been filmed on the Costa del Sol for the past four months. All these have been filmed in Spain by the Malaga production company Fresco Film. Now the company has a new superproduction on the agenda, as Arnold Schwarzenegger returns to the legendary Terminator.
“We have always done film, but Game of Thrones was a major change and I freely recognise that we are where we are today thanks to that series and what its being filmed in Spain has meant,” explains executive director Peter Welter Soler, who has in his office a certificate of the Emmy Award for the fifth series, which was the first to be filmed in Spain.
Peter, who was born in Germany but has lived in Malaga for over 20 years, says he is particularly delighted about the recent Hollywood location management award for the seventh season of Game of Thrones, which gave well-deserved recognition to one of the team members, location director Pedro 'Tate' Aráez.
The new Terminator
That major production not only raised Fresco Film's profile with HBO, but also opened the doors of major Hollywood studios to the company. “It was because of Game of Thrones that we were contacted from Los Angeles for another series. In the end that wasn't confirmed, but they offered us the chance to film Terminator, which they decided to do in Spain and Hungary instead of Mexico,” says Welter about this latest in the saga, which sees the return of the original filmmaker, James Cameron, to produce the film, starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Linda Hamilton.
Filming is due to begin this month, but Peter says the locations are a professional secret and he isn't prepared to reveal them. He wouldn't even confirm or deny rumours that the filming will take place in Almería, Murcia and Salamanca (the reservoir of Aldeadávila de la Ribera).
What he did say is that this production with the legendary Schwarzenegger could have been even more important if Spanish law was as competitive as that of other European countries.
“The initial plan was to film entirely in Spain with over 100 million euros of investment, but the problem is that due to the tax system in this country it isn't worth any company spending more than 15 million,” he explains. “The tax break for the major studios is 20 per cent of expenditure, but there is a maximum of three million. It means that foreign companies obtain no tax benefit at all if they invest more than 15 million, so the studios look for locations in other countries which don't impose that limit, such as Hungary which, unlike Spain, also has large studios for interior shooting. The lack of sets is also a weak point for Spain.”
“We possibly have the biggest variety of climates, architecture and different natural spaces in the whole of Europe. What is the sense in limiting investment by major foreign productions? Why, if they could spend 50 or 100 million euros, do we prefer them to only spend 15 million?” says Peter. Because of that regulation, he says, Spain can only attract part of the filming for major films and series, instead of the complete productions.
He gives a good example. In the last two years the seven best-known Spanish companies who work on international productions have generated an investment of 167 million euros, eight million of which went directly to Social Security. This figure could have multiplied if the maximum tax deduction for a superproduction had not been limited.
Peter believes the limit should be raised from the current three million to 20 million euros. “We won't see that happen this year, though,” he says, “because it hasn't been included in the latest national budget.”
With regard to Terminator, the investment in the latest film about the legendary and expeditious robot T-800 will exceed the limit of 15 million euros for tax benefits, so Fresco Film deserves due recognition for having brought to Malaga a market which would normally have chosen Madrid or Barcelona.
Peter Welter has also brought the complete filming of Sony's Snatch series to the Costa del Sol: the second season was filmed in different locations in Malaga province between January and May.
This production enabled him to work “from home” for several months, which is quite unusual in his work. In fact, he is already packing his cases to start the pre-production of the Cameron and Schwarzenegger film in different locations in Spain. Although, just like Terminator, Welter gives a smile and says: “I'll be back”.