They came, they saw 10 quality Spanish film slots and maybe they were conquered. But appearance was perhaps the most important factor.
Never in the history of the San Sebastian Festival has so many high-profile US executives descended on the Spanish resort as for the two days of the inaugural Creative Investors Conference, taking place September 19-20 and co-organized by CAA Media Finance.
At the conference, investors discussed the status and future of the film business with a frankness that goes beyond ordinary seminars in a total of eight panels moderated by consultant Wendy Mitchell with enthusiasm.
As these are many of the guys who run or make the running in the international part of this business, it was worth mentioning some of their takeaways:
Europe’s Great Hope: Platforms That Truly Embrace Cinema
In the US, platforms are already buying big when it comes to movies. Think of Sundance. Europe is a different country: platforms have held back far more, in France, for example, slowed down by regulated windows. But that can change. “If Netflix wants to compete against better capitalized companies like Amazon and Apple, their chance lies in the cinema,” said Vincent Maraval of Wild Bunch International at the conference keynote. It may not be a pipe dream. In Spain, “over the last year we have noticed a great demand for films” from platforms, said Javier Méndez of The Mediapro Studio. Elastica Films María Zamora agreed. “Series works great” [on streamers], but I sense there is a return to film. Platforms want to win titles.”
John Sloss wants to start a movement
Reflections on how producers might restructure relationships with platforms was a key narrative that ran through the conference. Cinetic’s John Sloss, speaking to Christine Vachon at a closing keynote on Tuesday, said he wants to start a movement. “Streamers aren’t really into the library. That’s an understatement,” he said. So his idea was for producers to go to streamers with a new offer: “I know you want to overpay for this movie. What if you paid a little less but only owned it for 18 months as opposed to forever? Because that’s how long it’s valuable to you.” France, now Spain, is pursuing similar rights reassignment programs.
On August 30, Netflix announced theatrical release dates for 18 titles on a roster of over 40 films. “There’s been a race among streamers to connect to Netflix, and now people are realizing that’s not necessarily the best business model,” said Trevor Growth of 30West. So now there is a kind of pause. I think there will be a dip, a backswing towards theatrical distribution and exhibition.” However, this hiatus seems to be hurting the sales business at the moment. With a few notable exceptions – AGC Studios on “Hitman”, “The Dating Game” – trading in Toronto has generally been grim. So far, most deals in San Sebastian have been international co-productions, ie producers tie up foreign capital, not sales.
A name of the game: co-production
At least for Europe, the development of state subsidies in a wide range of countries via international production partners is a matter of course. At one panel, Crossing Borders, Denmark’s Snowglobe’s Katrin Pors addressed the complicated but effective patchwork of soft money from the mainly Scandinavian film agency and minimum guarantees from distributor SF Studios and sales agent MK2 that enabled her to secure 85% of the funding to set the legs for Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Man in the World”. These funds came together in just 12 months. “It’s really quite simple. You start to know the right people to apply to, at the right moment, in the right setup,” she said. Likewise, with a budget of €11.5 million ($11.5 million), “Triangle of Sadness was a tremendous European co-production,” said Mike Goodridge, one of the producers.
Is theater coming back?
The acceptance of cinema platforms was a big talking point at the conference. Another was the potential return of the theater business. Opinions differed. The adult audience came back, but the big challenge is attracting the 25-49 demo, noted Wild Bunch’s Cecile Gaget. “We’re not getting out of COVID. Logs are here to stay, probably indefinitely, and they’re having a profound effect on the smaller films,” said Killer Films’ Christine Vachon. “We have to be creative, make the movies more of an experience, more of an event, to bring them back,” Gaget said. If they are events, they can catch fire. Rolling off its Golden Bear in Berlin, Alcarràs was the second biggest Spanish release in Spain this year, Zamora noted.
Development: A priority
Smaller companies can make a difference here. An example: Louverture by Danny Glover and Joslyn Barnes. As part of consistent diversification, it is expanding its independent development operation. “They have a lot of LA companies that have overhead deals, but they don’t have development money. So they come to us knowing our tastes and the kind of artists we like to work with.”
The US indie scene: challenges
“It’s a difficult time for the traditional US independent film scene. Historically, this scene has been driven by equity, or by territorial sales being placed on top of equity,” said Cinetic’s John Sloss. “The idea of being an equity investor in an environment where the theatrical release and subsequent rights are so uncertain is a difficult one,” he added. “We’ve made more films in the last two and a half, three years than we’ve ever done,” Vachon said. “It’s a bizarrely healthy time for us.” But there aren’t many companies like Killer. Vachon also recognized that when she launched a film, the reaction she got was, “We like it for about two-thirds of what it’s actually needed for.”
talent, talent, talent
So what is the key to success in an uncertain environment?
Talent. “If a company can attract talent, it will triumph, if it doesn’t, it will fail,” said Domingo Corral of Movistar Plus+ at a roundtable on its latest series, OffWorld. Talent also attracts talent. “I couldn’t say ‘no’. Movistar offered me to work with the best screenwriters in Spain and with Fran Araújo. “The perfect project,” said writer-director Isa Campo.
The cast of “Offworld” is the strongest of any drama series in Spanish history.
https://variety.com/2022/film/festivals/vincent-maraval-john-sloss-christine-vachon-1235378949/ San Sebastian Creative Investors Conference: 8 Takeaways