Let there be light

Ciudad de la Luz in Alicante brings state-of-the art studio technology to the banks of the Mediterranean.

MADRID -- When Mediapro's Jaume Roures, producer of Jean-Jacques Annaud's big-budget fantasy "Sa majeste minor" (Her Majestic Minor), needed to create an imaginary island in the Aegean Sea, he didn't have to travel far. While construction is not due to be finished on Spain's Ciudad de la Luz Studios until 2008, the facility in Alicante provided everything Roures would need to make Annaud's vision a reality.

"It's very new and has all the most modern technology to aid production," Roures explains. "From the beginning, we planned to shoot there."

Constructed over a period of three years, the facility hopes to attract major European productions through a combination of state-of-the-art studio technology, a sprawling backlot and near-perfect weather.

"We're a one-stop shop, which always cuts costs," Ciudad marketing manager Colette Maynard says. "(Ciudad) brings together the ability to shoot aquatic, interior and every imaginable exterior possible in an accessible, sunny climate where you can film 365 days of the year."

Indeed, besides being the biggest studio in Europe, Ciudad has plenty of other selling points, including eight air-conditioned soundstages built in pairs and connected by elephant doors, an exterior water tank, 52 acres of backlot with water, power and a fiber-optic network, advanced technology for filming in celluloid and digital, 140,000 square feet of workshops and storage areas and, with 53,000 square feet and a vertical clearance of 65 feet, the world's largest soundstage. The crown jewel, however, is the natural-horizon water tank, the construction of which is due to commence shortly.

"It's the biggest industrial complex designed to handle national and international projects," adds Antonio Meliveo, executive producer of Antonio Banderas' Spanish-language "Summer Rain," which shot scenes at Ciudad.

But Ciudad offers more to potential clients than brand-new, cutting-edge facilities.

The regional Valencia government, which owns Ciudad, has special funds that assist foreign companies that contract local companies -- much to the dismay of other regions in Spain and Morocco that must compete for international shoots.

Additionally, Ciudad recently opened a training center targeting one of the studio's weaknesses: Alicante is a provincial town that lacks a local film industry, forcing producers to bring in outside crews. The training center, run by Nuct Mediterraneo, a Spanish subsidiary of the DPD Group, will fill that gap. Until the first crop of fresh talent emerges, however, the Valencia government will pay compensation for technicians' flights and accommodations while shooting in Alicante.

"The professionalism of the companies and that of the Valencian regional government make shooting at (Ciudad) much more attractive than shooting in other places," Meliveo says.