Paul Abrey at Palma Studios. | Oliver Neilson - Phoenix Media


Nicole Kidman, Morgan Freeman, Zoe Saldaña: we get excited about the big Hollywood names coming to the island to film their new show, as we should, it’s great PR for the island. The stars are in the news, and Mallorca is right there with them. Palma Pictures is the Mallorca film production company responsible for supporting this big shoot whilst it is on the island. Paul Abrey, the Managing Director for Palma Pictures sat down with me to talk about his own experience and how he went from running the British Consulate in Mallorca to a media company.

When I arrive the atmosphere at Palma Pictures is serene. Sadly there are no movie stars in the foyer waiting for me to bump into them when I arrive, but there is an extremely friendly dog who runs around the open plan office receiving pats on the head from her fans. Once tea has been dispensed Paul and I sit in his cosy office. There is an armchair tucked into a corner with a view out to the Sa Cabaneta industrial estate we are in, with a couple of books stacked up on a small table. There isn’t a whizzy Apple computer on the desk, but a rather more conservative Dell laptop, and a notepad and pen. Sipping hot PG Tips we start at the beginning, way back when…

You first came to Mallorca to work as the British Consulate, how do you go about getting a job like that?

PAUL: I had been very much a corporate guy and I had been working in the city as the Group Strategy Director for Barclays. I had done an economics degree, and then a financial services degree, and then an MBA Masters in Business Administration from London Business School. I was very busy and I loved it. The bank was very good to me and they would send me on secondments. I was also travelling all over the place. So I was one of the youngest directors in Barclays at that level, looking after business clients from Asia. My role was to turn around and then drive performance.

But I had always, since I was a boy, wanted to also do something to give back to the community. My parents split up when I was five and my family was not very well off. I managed to pass some exams when I was eleven and get into grammar school, and because of our low income the government gave us some financial support. I was a very keen football player, and a competitive swimmer as well, but I always felt like I had the stigma of being the “voucher boy” because we had to buy everything with vouchers from the government. But it internally gave me the commitment to put something back when I could.

I did a short secondment in the treasury, which was great fun, and they came calling a few years later offering me a position developing strategy for the foreign office. I told them I didn’t want to sit in another London office doing strategy, but I would be open to the idea of somewhere abroad. They asked me if I spoke any languages, and at the time I had to say no, not really, but my wife, Mar is Mallorcan. Just one of the most busy British Consulates in the world, after Orlando and Miami apparently.

What was it like?

PAUL: No one comes into a Consultate to tell you they are having a lovely holiday. You have to support people who have had life changing events happen to them, families losing loved ones for example. Three million Brits come to Mallorca, there are going to be incidents, and it is stressful for them and for the Consulate team to cope with them.

I arrived in 2005 and I left in 2012, and during my time there my main role was to modernise what we had on offer, so we moved office for example to a more accessible place, and to work with the local press here and in the UK to communicate about Mallorca. For example we did a campaign with Tom Daley about diving and balconing in Magaluf. He was great, and really got what we were trying to do. Tom used the perfect phrase ”Leave diving to the professionals” which was wonderful. You just don’t want to have to tell a mother that her child has died from jumping off a balcony. Ever. But we also put a lot of energy into working with the local authorities here and making good relationships with them, and of course there were many happy occasions.

But then you took a job offer in Canada?

PAUL: Yes we went from 25 degrees here to minus 25 degrees there! I went back into banking for a while, but I chose the bank I was working with, Toronto Dominion, because of its values. We. my wife, myself and our two boys, spent 3 ½ years there, and we knew that the bank was looking at promoting both of us. But the boys were becoming less “transportable” you know, they were starting to get into their teenage years and we decided from a family perspective it would be better to come back to Europe. So I was looking at returning to the city in London.

But not necessarily back into banking?

PAUL: Exactly, because of my skills, the thing that I do is not just connected with banking. I am a strategy guy and that skillset, hopefully, is evergreen. My skill is to find a way to let the business function better in whichever way you're thinking that should function. So to serve its clients better, be more efficient, be faster, be more proactive, whatever, is the objective of that business. Strategy is a big word. It's really, what are you trying to achieve? And what's your plan to get there? To me, it's as simple as that. And it's just helping people really define what they are really trying to do. And help folks through those journeys as sometimes change is unsettling for them.

I had built a friendship with Mike Day who runs Palma Pictures during my time of being the Consul. He joked once that he would love me to be part of the business, and so when the move back to Europe was on the cards I spoke to him and told him we were planning on coming back and within 24 hours there was a job offer from the studio on the table.

How did you choose media over banking?

PAUL: I was quite captivated with the opportunity to work in a new industry, and the chance to develop the business. I knew I would have a lot of learning to do, and that really excited me. The bank in Toronto didn’t want us to go, and they offered us a lot to stay. But we have been back in Mallorca since late 2016 and since then we have grown Palma Pictures year on year in profit and reputation. But that’s just one of the measures of success for me, you have to ask yourself, am I serving the clients properly, have I got a happy team? We're into series seven of Love Ireland, UK, Germany as well Ireland, and Australia. We're currently bidding over 20 jobs for commercials, and over 30 jobs for film drama and reality. We're currently preparing three, one on this island, one in Tenerife, which I definitely can’t tell you about yet!

Tell us about the project that Nicole Kidman is on.

PAUL: That’s with Paramount. So it's not our production, but we're collaborating and supporting in terms of providing our studio. Spain is a wonderful place to shoot in not just the geography, the level of talent, that's in Spain, shooting talent is very well recognised. Lots of studios love to come here and shoot and there is also a good tax rebate and Spain keeps improving this. There was a big invitation to some US studios last year with Queen Letizia as the host in Madrid that Mike went to and spoke at. They were very, very positive about that. So yeah, the future's bright!

You can listen to the whole interview on the Majorca Mallorca podcast, released every Monday.