United States Ambassador to Spain, James Costos, is the most influential film ally to Canary Islands in Hollywood. Last May Costos travelled from Los Angeles to Madrid to act as a host of former President of Canarian Government, Paulino Rivero, and his team, in front of major studios such as Universal, Paramount or Warner. Costos has become the best mentor to turn the Archipelago into a privileged film set for massive productions.
United States Ambassador to Spain
“I am committed to try to attract more American film shootings to Canary Islands”
LA PROVINCIA / LAS PALMAS DE GRAN CANARIA, 26 Julio 2015
It is widely known at the end of May in Hollywood you had a meeting with Paulino Rivero, the President-in-Office of Canary Islands’ government, about the potential of the Archipelago as a film set. Which kind of agreement did you come to?
In May, I escorted President Rivero and members of his team to Los Angeles to meet with representatives from major U.S. film studios like Universal, Fox, Sony, Disney, Paramount, Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, CBS, Viacom, Comcast, HBO, Netflix, Warner Brothers, etc. President Rivero and his team gave an excellent presentation on the unique advantages offered by the Canary Islands to studios looking at potential filming locations.
It has been published that Paulino Rivero brought a massive film production worth 100 million euros to be shot soon in Canarias. Do you know its name or other film companies he had a meeting with?
One direct result of this outreach is that the next edition of Universal Studios highly popular Jason Bourne film series will be filmed on the islands, and other inquiries continue to come in.
It rarely occurs that a US ambassador travels to California to introduce a Spanish autonomous region to such a highly demanding industry and unreachable like the film one. Why were you interested in acting as a host of Canary Islands for the major film production companies in Hollywood?
As Ambassador, I am interested in expanding bilateral trade and investment, including through ties between the U.S. and Spanish entertainment industries. The Canaries offer special incentives – talented local professionals, diverse film locations, an attractive tax regime, and good weather. It was only logical for me to arrange this meeting to try and attract more U.S. filming to the area.
Which topics did you talk about with their chief executives?
President Rivero spoke about the unique benefits of filming in the Canaries, while I shared some of my first-hand knowledge of the attractions of the islands, having recently travelled there in February.
Were tax benefits (ZEC, RIC) of the Archipelago clear? Or was there any uncertain issue for American film investors?
President Rivero and his team did an excellent job laying out the incentives.
Have you talked again to any director, producer and/or actor about Canary Islands after that trip?
We regularly engaged with leaders from the entertainment industry in the United States and encourage them to come to Spain. In fact, two weeks ago, I was privileged to host the legendary producer Harvey Weinstein in Madrid, and I arranged meetings for him with the film commissions from both Spain and the Canary Islands. More recently I was contacted by producer Chuck Roven regarding one of his projects set up at Warner Brothers Studios.
Last February you attended Drag Queen Show Contest in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria Carnival. Who was the first person to talk to you about the Canary Archipelago and its potential in terms of tax benefits, diverse landscape and technical conditions as a film set?
I’ve been hearing about the attractions of the Canaries since I arrived here in Spain as Ambassador almost two years ago. Even before I was able to visit, I had conversations about its potential for filming from several people from the community, including Minister Soria.
What grabbed your attention above all in Gran Canaria?
When I was able to visit in person in February, I was struck by the amazing range of potential locations within such a short distance – from beaches, to tropical forests, to volcanoes, cityscapes, and deserts – an enormous attraction for a studio looking to maximize its time in any one location and minimize costs.
What else impressed you the most in the island?
Beyond the opportunities for the film industry, during my February visit, I was also very impressed by the range of services, infrastructure and overall development I found. The archipelago offers everything from world-class ports serving both passengers and freight, to logistics hubs that allow the World Food Program and USAID to preposition crisis relief supplies for tragedies such as the recent Ebola outbreak, to modern and classic hotels, and excellent hospitals and schools. The Canaries truly is a mid-Atlantic platform serving West Africa. I became convinced that companies would find this strategically appealing and could follow the example of North American Kinross Mining and others to establish comfortable, safe bases of operations to pursue the growing business opportunities in the region, allowing American companies to expand trade up and down the West African coast.
“I do not know about Games of Thrones TV series, but I do see more filming projects in the future for the Canaries”
Could this industry be a new thriving engine to boost Canary economy or just a pipe dream? Will it bring a domino effect to attract more companies?
The Canaries definitely has the potential to attract more filming by foreign studios. There are certainly associated industries that would benefit indirectly from filming. One example is in tourism – all over the world we’ve seen travelers flock to locations of popular films and TV series, and this brings in revenue to hotels, restaurants, tour and transport companies, etc.
How would you rate the performance of Canarian government in this field?
It’s really up to the people of the Canary Islands to evaluate the performance of their government, regardless of the field, but what I can tell you is that I have been impressed with the effort the Canarian government has made in promoting the islands as a film destination.
Do Ministries of Culture and Economy of Spanish government also contribute to film investment in Canary Islands?
The Spanish government is also doing its part to promote film investment all over Spain.
How could the Canary Archipelago be promoted in Hollywood?
People to people contact is important – that’s why I arranged for a delegation from the Canaries to go to LA and meet the studio heads in person, so that they could hear firsthand about what the Canaries has to offer Offering examples of the immense visual diversity is also important.
Does Exodus from Ridley Scott, whose some scenes were shot in Fuerteventura, epitomize the pathway for other big production companies in Hollywood?
Every studio has its own approach to filming. Certainly Exodus is an example of a major film that had a successful experience in the islands.
Are Canary Islands the best location in Europe to shoot a film?
It’s impossible to say that any location is ‘the best’ for shooting films – it all depends on the film, the requirements of the script, the budget of the production, etc. The Canaries certainly has a lot to offer, which is why studios are considering them.
Does the fact that there are two film commissions, one based in Gran Canaria and another one in Tenerife, help or bureaucratize to attract investors in Canary Islands?
That’s a better question for a film studio with direct experience in working with the film commissions on a possible project. Our understanding is that there are actually 6 commissions, each with local expertise to the associated island.
You used to be Vice-president of HBO. Is there any chance that Game of Thrones TV series or others choose Canary Islands as a film set next seasons?
That decision will ultimately be up to HBO, but I do see more filming projects in the future for the Canaries.