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Location Spotlight

Location Spotlight: The Canary Islands

Local production experts from Sur-Film and Widescope take us through the best that these dramatic, sunny isles have to offer filmmakers

Location Spotlight: The Canary Islands

As a volcanic archipelago, the Canary Islands offer a remarkable variety of landscapes to filmmakers. From the stark, rocky lava flows of Lanzarote to the rolling sand dunes of Gran Canaria, with all the benefits of being part of Spain and therefore the European Union, but all the sunshine that being off the coast of Africa brings, it’s no great surprise that the last few years have seen a fair few huge blockbusters shooting in the islands.

There are a number of Spanish service production companies who can service your production in the region. We caught up with Laura M. Diez, Producer at Sur-Film Production & Services and Hugo Aguado, Line Producer at Widescope Productions to find out everything you need to know about producing in the Canaries.

LBB> How would you pitch the Canary Islands to any production companies or agencies looking to shoot in the region?

Laura M. Diez> The Canaries offer us thousands of locations just a step away from each other. They are a natural set. 

The Islands are blessed with a huge variety of extraordinary landscapes just three hours away from any European Capital. Plus an average temperature of 19ºC in Winter time, 23ºC in Summer.


Hugo Aguado> The crew, locations, landscape and weather conditions are the biggest values of the islands. For cinema and TV series it provides some of the best fiscal conditions in the world.

If they are looking for long days, warm weather and such locations as dunes, lunar landscapes or turquoise beaches, I would recommend the islands.

LBB> What are the main qualities of the archipelago?

LMD> Due to the volcanic origin of the Canary Islands, nature has built in a small territory, where everything is close, an unusual geography with a variety of extraordinary natural landscapes: white-sand beaches to lush ancient forests, from dizzying cliffs to rolling dunes by the sea, the islands offer peculiar volcanic landscapes. But also, the hand of man has helped to turn the Canary Islands into the most extensive catalogue of locations you can imagine: colonial haciendas, picturesque villages, lonely roads, modern european cities, industrial areas.

HA> The climate, varied nature, hotels and restaurants, flight connections and fiscal discounts.

LBB> What would you say are the most interesting locations in the Canaries?

LMD> The four National Parks: Cañadas del Teide in Tenerife, Caldera de Taburiente in La Palma, Timanfaya in Lanzarote and Garajonay in La Gomera.
The different deserts of Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria.
Endless beaches of Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria or the cliffs in Tenerife and El Hierro.
Volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote and La Palma.
The variety of forests in La Gomera, La Palma or Tenerife.
And the colonial towns of La Orotava in Tenerife, Vegueta in Gran Canaria or the rural villages of Lanzarote or La Gomera.


HA> Well, I can talk about the locations that I've shot in. 

Fuerteventura: amazing dunes and beaches, small fishing towns. Too windy.

Tenerife: a different kind of beaches, in Tenerife you can be in less than one hour’s drive from desert to pine tree forest to the beach, and some modern architecture.



LBB> Tell us about the climate and the best or worst times to shoot there?

LMD> Best time will be winter time, when Europe gets to below 0ºC and on the Islands we are enjoying mild winters with a medium temperature of 19ºC, blue skies and sunny days.
There are no bad days when you shoot in paradise!

HA> It’s spring time all year around, no extremes, cold or hot.


LBB> What specific work permits / visas are required to shoot in the Canaries?

LMD> The Canary Islands belong to Spain - so there are no visa/work permit requirements to European citizens.

LBB> How is the infrastructure in the Canary Islands for supporting large productions? 

LMD> On the last 10 years, the Canary Islands have improved shooting infrastructure massively. We have large camera rentals, lighting and grips, very good casting directors and experienced crew. 

HA> A lot of big movies have been made in the Canary Islands so they have a huge infrastructure for that, but if they need something, they can bring it from the mainland.



LBB> What have been your biggest or most interesting productions in the Islands to date?

LMD> We have done hundreds of commercials in the Canary for such brands as: TUI, Cardinal Beer, Jaguar, VW, P&G.
We have worked on large Hollywood productions like:
- Clash of the Titans, shot in Tenerife
- Wrath of the Titans, shot in Tenerife and La Gomera
- Fast and Furious 6, shot in Tenerife and Gran Canaria
- In the Heart of the Sea, shot in La Gomera y Lanzarote
- Jason Bourne 5, shot in Tenerife
- Allied, shot in Gran Canaria and Fuerteventura
- Solo: a Star Wars Story, shot last year in Fuerteventura

HA> I shot a Mango ad with Mario Sorrenti in Fuerteventura and Loewe with Arno Rafael Minkkinen in Tenerife in 2017.


LBB> We heard a lot of the Spaghetti Westerns (e.g. A Fistful of Dollars) were shot in the Canaries. What impact has that had on the islands?

LMD> Spaghetti Westerns were shot in Almería mostly, on the Tabernas Desert.

In fact, before Clash of the Titans the only big productions that came to shoot on the Canary Islands were Moby Dick with Antony Peck and One Million Years B.C. with Rachel Welch and her iconic bikini.

HA> I will say that recent films are having more impact that the old ones. It's creating an industry. Fast and Furious, Clash of the Titans, Jason Bourne, Star Wars...


LBB> For an outsider, what would you say are the biggest dos and don’ts in the archipelago?

LMD> Dos: If we you are looking for a wide range of nature locations - Canary Islands are your place!

Dont’s: I won’t offer Canary Islands if the script needs a ‘big city location’. 

HA> Meet the people. It has a laid back feeling difficult to find anywhere else. Get lost and someone will give you a hand with a smile.

LBB> What would be your number one tip to anyone coming to the Canaries to shoot a campaign/film?

LMD> Bring your swimsuit but also your coat, as the microclimates are as varied as the landscapes and on the same day you can have a swim on the beach and end your day with an amazing sunset on top of the highest mountain in Spain, Mount Teide (3718m).

HA> They are always busy, so start to reserve the crew and equipment, otherwise you should bring crew from the mainland. Even there are some good local crew, there are not a lot of choices.





Insider Recommendations

LBB> Where would you suggest a foreign production stay while they are in the Canaries?

LMD> Is difficult to say as the islands have a reputation as holiday place, we have all kind of accommodation; 5 stars hotels by the coast or in the city, luxurious villas, holiday resorts and rural cottages.

HA> That will depend on the project and locations. Seven different islands with different feelings - volcanic Lanzarote, sand beach dunes in Fuerteventura, Tenerife’s forest, coast and desert and the Teide National Park - the most visited in Europe.


LBB> Where are the best bars/restaurants? Any hidden gems you could suggest? 

LMD> Although you can get good food on any island, as we have very good products and the freshest fish, the best restaurants are in Tenerife and Gran Canaria, with few Michelin Star restaurants and all kinds of cuisines; Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Thai,etc. 

You can not leave without tasting the Lanzarote white wine and the reds from Tenerife, ‘papas con mojo’ or potatoes cooked on very salty water with a chili sauce and a coriander sauce, called mojos, fresh fish as the locals, parrot fish and Atlantic wreckfish and award-winning goat’s cheeses.

HA> Most of the best ones are in Southern Tenerife and Gran canaria. Michelin Star-options etc. Fabiola - a restaurant in Fuerteventura, but keep it quiet, hehe.