Monday, February 17, 2014

Too Many Commissions: Film in Mallorca

Here's a startling statistic. 30% of tourists visit a place that they have seen featured in the cinema or on television. And here's a second statistic. "Cinematic" tourism is responsible for shifting 40 million international tourists per year. They are statistics which have been quoted by the president of the Spain Film Commission, Carlos Rosado.

Films have immense power as means of tourism promotion because, as Sr. Rosado points out, they are "virtual brochures" which are much longer than conventional adverts, they reach more people and they make stronger emotional connections. The Film Commission, wishing to further develop Spain as a destination for filming, has produced a video called "Shooting in Spain" which, the president says, is enjoying great success on social networks.

A film, in addition to the number of tourists it might subsequently generate, also brings immediate economic benefits. They may be shortlived, but the number of jobs that can be created are significant. The Commission points to the example of filming for Ridley Scott's "The Book of Exodus" in Almeria and Fuerteventura. 6,000 work contracts resulted. And on top of these jobs, there were of course benefits for local hotels, the complementary sector and suppliers.

If you go on to the Film Commission's website, you will find a section for locations. This is categorised according to regions of the country. There is an entry for the Mallorca Film Commission. Click on it and it tells you - if you are interested in filming in Mallorca, that is - that the Mallorca Film Commission offers financial assistance up to 15% of costs and will also help with getting "important discounts" on flights, hotels, restaurants etc. It adds that Mallorca has a professional and highly qualified film and audiovisual sector. You can then click further and go to the Mallorca Film Commission's website, but once there, you begin to smell a bit of a rat. Why has there been nothing added since mentions of the filming of "Cloud Atlas"? Your curiosity raised, you click on the link for the Facebook page. Nothing has been added to it since May 2012.

There is of course a very good reason why nothing has been added. The Mallorca Film Commission doesn't exist any longer. (Perhaps someone should tell the Spain Film Commission and it can amend its website.) Mallorca has been without a film commission since the back end of 2012. It had fallen within the Mallorca Tourism Foundation, a body under the control of the Council of Mallorca, but which itself was scrapped when the Council decided it wasn't going to get involved in tourism promotion any longer. The commission - its name at any event - was to be continued as part of a private operation called Mallorca Plató and would receive a grant from the Council of 80,000 euros. The idea for this private operation lasted only as long as it took - about six months - for the suggestion to be made that a new commission, the Balearics Film Commission, should be created. This new commission is due to become a reality in April. It will receive the 80,000 euros grant, an unspecified amount from the regional government (but probably a similar sum) and contributions from the private sector.

If you are confused by all of this, then you have every right to be. Most confusing of all is that the Council of Mallorca, having got rid of the tourism foundation and its tourism promotion responsibilities because it had wanted to save money and avoid duplication, is getting these responsibilities back again. That's because the regional government has decided to hand such responsibilities over to the individual islands. As for the new Balearics Film Commission, it won't be tied to any tourism organisation but to the Department of the Presidency. Its politician in charge will be the regional vice-president, Antonio Gómez.

The confusion gives an impression of organisational chaos at governmental level, and chaotic is exactly how things have been where political treatment of Mallorca's film industry has been concerned. And it hasn't only been the treatment of Mallorca's film industry. The hugely embarrassing row over the non-payment of a grant of 150,000 euros by the Council of Mallorca to the producers of "Cloud Atlas" was not good for the image of the island as a filming destination and did nothing to suggest that governmental bodies "get it" where the benefits of film are concerned. Gómez has said that the matter will be resolved when the new Balearics Film Commission is set up and that any loss of credibility will be restored.

One can but hope so. There is a professional and highly qualified film and audiovisual industry in Mallorca which suffers as a consequence of institutional incompetence. If politicians were to appreciate the value to tourism that can be derived from film, they might stop arguing about trifling amounts and support an industry which has a great deal to offer.

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