May 29, 2024

After six months of strike-related stoppages, global production is set to resume in a massive way, as producers, execs and day-to-day facilitators anticipate an early 2024 surge in production that could very well last throughout the calendar year. Only (and tellingly) — despite such evident and abundant relief — all of those facilitators are also quite measured in their optimism.

“I keep telling [my members] not to expect that same post-COVID insanity,” says International Location Managers Guild president John Rakich. “I don’t think we’re going to see that insane [post-lockdown stretch] of two years straight of just back to back work. That might be the case for a few months [as we deal with the bottleneck of productions ready to shoot] but ultimately this business is cyclical, and I want our members to plan accordingly.”

Given that cyclical nature, and given a foreseen contraction in full-season streaming commissions, Rakich anticipates an eventual return to a more seasonal production cycle buoyed by more features than in previous years, and once again influenced by labor uncertainty — especially once the IATSE deal opens for negotiation next spring.

Indeed, with two strikes now resolved, the prospect of a third has already galvanized major institutional players. “A lot of the year-long projects are already looking elsewhere,” Rakich explains. “Right now, many studio productions are already casting their eyes to [non-IATSE affected industries] in Canada, the U.K. or Europe for 2024, looking to move their productions away just in case. They can’t do another year of not working.”

Fueled in large part by local hedge-fund investment, media production hubs continue to flourish across Canada (“That’s always a good sign, because hedge funds don’t go into places without a long-term game,” says Rakich), while production industries across the pond continue to consolidate recent gains. Per a November 2023 report published by the European Audiovisual Observatory, the U.K. and Spain have emerged as dominant hot spots, with each welcoming 39 streaming fiction titles in 2022.

Tacking on features, folding in the country’s newly bolstered Spain AVS Hub program and holding up the Iberian land’s scenic landscapes against a geopolitical climate that grows all the more challenging, Spain in particular stands to benefit from the nascent production swell.

Alongside a globally competitive tax break, which offers up to €20 million ($21.4 million) per feature and $10.7 million per TV episode, Spain has also launched an international location showcase, promoting its beaches and mountaintops and arid plains and Old World architecture across the global stage. What’s more local authorities believe the promise of chameleon-like locations married with stability (and high quality of life) will make for a compelling argument to draw productions.

“I think our main focus now is our capacity to be almost everywhere in the world, all in one country,” says outgoing Spain Film Commission general manager Teresa Azcona.

Netflix’s “The Crown” has been a repeat visitor, using Spanish locations to stand in for Australia, Italy and Greece, and tasking Barcelona to play Paris for this upcoming season’s fateful trip to France by Princess Diana, while J.A. Bayona’s “Society of the Snow” re-created the Andean mountaintops in the director’s native Spain.

But given the recent heartbreaking (and risk advisor shaking) developments in the Middle East, the Spanish desert will next stand to benefit. Last year, the dunes outside of Alicante and Zaragoza played Afghanistan for “Guy Ritchie’s The Covenant,” while next year such similar landscapes will play last-minute host to another U.S.-backed unnamed series that initially sought to shoot in Morocco before subsequently opting for Europe.

“Modern geopolitics are now [guiding] certain productions,” says John Rakich. “And that has made Spain very popular.”

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