I initially embarked on the role of production fixer back in 2007. It was partly a necessary step, given how the economic contraction was already affecting Spain. I had moved to Malaga in 1999 to work with a leading production service company. At that time business was expanding exponentially, with a boom in budgets, the cheap peseta, and a great pool of experienced crew allowing Southern Spain to become the service capital of the world. It was a crash course in full scale production, as most things were still being shot on 35mm film, with immense crews and resources, even for pop videos. We didn’t know it at the time, but this way of doing things was in its death throes. Overseas competition, a world recession and the advent of digital media reduced the booming business of the south to rubble in a few short years.
The Internet, ever cheaper digital cameras, and the rapid increase in satellite channels completely changed the way commercial budgets had to work, and radically altered the economics of shooting. Simultaneously, smart operators on South Africa, Argentina, Poland and the Czech Republic sprang up to offer new locations, and crew rates that undercut mainstream European rates dramatically. TV production boomed with all manner of cheaper formats looking for more varied and economic production models. Advertising had to address multiple formats and multiple audiences. The result was rapid diversification, and atomisation of production budgets and models.
2020 looks dramatically different from the millennium, seen through the lens of a tiny 4K camera, whose quality and price were unthinkable even ten years ago. It has been a quiet and thorough revolution. By 2007, I was thoroughly frustrated in my efforts to land production jobs with the kind of budgets and margins we had enjoyed even five years earlier. It was evident that the whole concept of service was transmogrifying rapidly, with new players appearing all the time, undercutting each other in all manner of ways. The luxurious model of service we offered previously to London commercials companies was completely irrelevant and inflexible for the new forms of reality TV, digital content and stripped down corporate and music videos that were fast becoming the bulk of the market.
Having covered the roles of location scout, first assistant director, production manager and line producer on all sorts of projects, I figured I could carry that experience over into a one-man band and give smaller companies and budgets something more personalised, flexible and realistic. Working solo, with no office overheads, staff or equipment base to maintain, I decided to eschew the mark-ups that had become so difficult to justify in a recession strapped economy. Despite a wealth of experience, the demands that new television formats brought were still a surprise, and a challenge. Improvisation had hitherto not been a common strategy for productions, but ‘ob docs’ and reality shows thrived on it. Once the power of the brand and the demands of an equally status conscious agency were not involved, I found a wealth of interesting projects where content became the most important thing. Documentaries, travel shows, reports, viral events; the variety has been endless, working with a huge range of talents, nationalities, ages and contributors, some of them even celebrities. It has, gratifyingly, been possible to apply this ethic to smaller scale commercials production as well, due in large part to the ever lighter and more affordable digital cine cameras, and demand for economic production.
But the star of the show, whatever form of production or budget is implicated, is always Spain itself: its landscape, culture, heritage and its people. A variety and richness of possibilities unique in Europe. A bedrock of skilled technicians and time-served production staff. Affordable flights, and easy access to locations from myriad airports. For a while it looked like South Africa or Argentina might steal Spain’s crown, as the go to location, but not anymore. Spain is accessible, reliable and still competitive. International drama and cinema productions are once again filming our deserts, roads and ancient cities.
At Film it in Spain, experience is married to love of our adopted country. Whatever level of service you need, production fixing is our business. We look forward to seeing you.
Roland Quesnel – Producer