While enthusiasm certainly isn't the only thing Spain has to offer prospective shooters, the particular joie de vivre of the sunniest and the cheapest country in Europe is definitely a major draw. "The Spanish really know how to live," says Fallon art director Dean Hanson, who attended the "Running With the Squirrels" shoot last year in a southern town near Sevilla (frame at left). "As an American living in Minneapolis, I found their culture incredibly exciting." Like Hyundai, "Running With the Squirrels," a hilarious Super Bowl hit for EDS, was a huge project with many extras. "There's often a dynamic when you're working with large crowds," says Hanson. "The enthusiasm collectively goes down as the shoot wears on. But these guys were rockin' the whole way through. There was no cynicism at all about the project. It was an authentic celebration." One caveat: Although the price of production is extremely low in Spain compared to the U.S. and other parts of Europe (the value of the dollar is almost double that of the peseta), talent can be expensive, especially in Barcelona.
Nevertheless, it's often said that when it comes to locations, Spain is to England what Los Angeles is to New York: a sunnier, cheaper alternative to the gray and gloom, the hustle and bustle. But many in the business are finding that L.A. can't offer a fraction of what Spain can. Besides its energetic crews and moderate year-round temperatures, Spain offers remarkably diverse terrain. Roughly twice the size of Oregon and flanked by Portugal, Morocco, France and the Mediterranean, it has forests, deserts, mountains and sea, all within hours of each other. Besides stunning vistas and sweeping landscapes, it also offers highly recognizable, centuries-old landmarks, like the Alhambra, the Plaza Mayor, the Gaudis and the bullrings, all of which have been used in the past for commercials and features. "There is unquestionably a Spanish mythology, that advertisers like to tap into," says Rob Schwartz, ECD at TBWA/Chiat/Day in L.A., who has shot there twice for Nissan with director Tarsem. "Anywhere you go in Spain there's this sense of romance and history." Modern additions, like Valencia's Science Park, which is shaped like a giant eye and set in a pool of water, have only sweetened its appeal. An added incentive is the quality of light throughout the country, says Schwartz. "There's something about the way the sun hits that part of the world. The light has this magical quality that you can't put your finger on. It's like trying to catch a fish with your bare hands."