The Spanish film business relies on co-productions

Spain’s presence at Cannes this year is a testament to its evolving co-production scene, as well as economic concerns driving the search for international partners and the ambitions of a highly cosmopolitan generation of cineastes driving art cinema production in Spain.

Four Spanish feature films made it into this year’s Cannes section: Albert Serra’s competition entry “Pacifiction”; Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s “The Beasts” in premiere; José Luis López Linares’ Cannes classic Goya, Carriere and the Ghost of Buñuel; and “El Agua” by Elena Lopez Riera.

All four are international co-productions. Also in Cannes, a showcase from the Spanish producers’ network, supported by ICEX Trade and Investment and the ICAA Film Institute, will highlight eight potential overseas co-production projects.

Spain’s burgeoning co-pro scene is a response to the challenges of the domestic market. On April 29th, Carla Simóns became Berlin Golden Bear winner “Alcarràs” an event film, achieving outstanding first weekend sales of 60,000 tickets and achieving the best average earnings per print of any Spanish release that year. However, most art house films in Spain go unnoticed. So Spain’s indie filmmakers need a second country to make ambitious films.

“Co-production opens up options for larger budgets, often between $2.64 million and $3.16 million, which is what we should have for indie cinema in Spain so that writers are not dependent on funding,” says Alex Lafuente, co-founder by indie production and distribution company Bteam Pictures.

Other factors are pushing filmmakers to look abroad.

“We have been working for years for international visibility and have thought about international cooperation from the beginning,” says Lafuente. “This leads to the presence of many Spanish films at international festivals, developing the ability to take them beyond our borders.”

Also, the newest generation of Spanish filmmakers – who are very cosmopolitan, passionately collaborative and foreign-minded, many of whom have studied abroad – largely do not want to make films that are anchored in just one country.

“We have to co-produce so that our film can be shown at festivals, so that international sales agents and distributors commit to bringing it to other countries,” says María Zamora, producer of Alcarràs, co-founder of Elastica Films.

Co-producing can help get complex projects off the ground. “Co-production forums are very appealing to me. I firmly believe in the universal: that stories, however local, can reach many places,” says Zamora, who met Kino Produzioni producer Giovanni Pompili at the TorinoFilmLab. He later joined Alcarràs as a co-producer, enabling the film to tap an Italian fund for minority co-productions.

Projects presented at international development and writing workshops also attract attention and allow producers to receive feedback.

With art-house audiences in Spain spending more and more time watching high-end author-made television, film producers are looking to foreign equity to fund titles.

The challenge, according to Pedro Hernández of Aquí y Allí Films in Madrid, is that “it’s really difficult for a co-producer to find between $315,225 and $525,375 from abroad to invest in a film that will most likely be shot in Spain .”

The Spanish central and regional government is exploring a different path.

With the ICAA Film Protection Fund set at $102.24 million for 2022, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved a $16.9 million tender in February for selective subsidies for production projects of at least 5% ($844,000 ) for minority co-productions with foreign companies.

In 2020, the Catalan Institute of Cultural Enterprises (ICEC) launched a $1.26 million co-production fund, the appropriations of which may not exceed 60% – a maximum of $316,200 – of the local producer’s share. Funding must be guaranteed for 40% of the total budget of the project.

In addition, the regional government of Galicia is providing part of a US$2.64 million fund for international feature film co-productions with Spanish minority participation.

The Canary Islands, which are at the forefront of the international film and television scene thanks to their spectacular 50% filming tax incentive, are “working on the process” to set up a co-production fund for minorities, says Natacha Mora, Canary Islands film coordinator diversity.

Bteam tapped into the Catalan co-production fund for the project “Quién Mató a Narciso?”, a European-Latin American co-production with the Paraguayan group La Babosa Cine, directed by “The Heiresses” Marcelo Martinessi.

“Such means are indispensable. It allows us to take part in European or Latin American projects, where in Spain we often encounter many difficulties, not only because of the nationality requirements but also because of the funding conditions,” says Alex Lafuente from Bteam.

“The ICAA has set aside money to co-produce art house films, along with selective subsidies, but they’re very limited,” he notes.

Feature projects can also access several international funding sources such as the EU Media Programme, as well as Eurimages and Ibermedia.

Meanwhile, Europe, especially France, continues to absorb outstanding Spanish authors. Cannes underscores this point.

Just one example: Arcadia Motion Pictures, Sorogoyen’s Caballo Films and Cronos Entertainment are majority producing Latido-sold The Beasts, with Frenchman Le Pacte, a regular partner in Sorogoyen’s films, as co-producer.

“Having a French co-producer helps position the film in France. When it’s a strong partner, it adds value,” says Hernández, producer of Antonio Méndez Esparza’s Aquí y allá, winner of the top prize at the 2012 Cannes Critics’ Week.

“But there are younger Spanish filmmakers who are attracting interest beyond the French market,” he argues.

For example, global streaming service MUBI recently signed North America, the UK, Ireland and Latin America, among others, for Carla Simón’s Alcarràs in a deal with French distribution agent MK2 that included the film’s theatrical release.

https://variety.com/2022/film/features/spanish-film-biz-embraces-co-productions-1235271499/ The Spanish film business relies on co-productions

Charles Jones

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