Spanish Film Business Embraces Co-Productions

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

Four Spanish features have made this year’s Cannes cut: Albert Serra’s competition entry “Pacifiction”; Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s “The Beasts,” in Premiere; José Luis López Linares’ Cannes Classics title “Goya, Carriere and the Ghost of Buñuel”; and Directors’ Fortnight contender “El Agua,” by Elena López Riera.

All four are international co-productions. Also at Cannes, a Spanish Producers Network showcase, backed by ICEX Trade and Investment and ICAA Film Institute, will highlight eight potential overseas co-production projects.

Spain’s burgeoning co-pro scene is one reaction to the challenges of its domestic market. Bowing April 29, Carla Simón’s Berlin Golden Bear winner “Alcarràs” has become an event movie, scoring a superb 60,000 tickets sale over its first weekend, nabbing the best average per-print revenues of any Spanish release this year. Most arthouse movies in Spain sink without a trace, however. So Spain’s indie filmmakers need a second country to make films of any ambition.

“Co-production opens up options for bigger budgets, often between $2.64 million and $3.16 million, which is what we should have for indie cinema in Spain, so that the auteurs are not conditioned by financing,” says Alex Lafuente, co-founder of indie production-distribution company Bteam Pictures.

Other factors are pushing filmmakers to look abroad.

“We’ve been working for years for international visibility, thinking of international collaboration from the very beginning,” Lafuente says. “This is generating the presence of a lot of Spanish films at international festivals and developing an ability to take them outside our borders.”

Plus, the newest generation of Spanish filmmakers – who are highly cosmopolitan, passionately collaborative and overseas-facing, many having studied abroad – largely don’t want to make films just anchored in one country.

“We need to co-produce so that our film can be at festivals, so that international sales agents and distributors are committed to taking it to other countries,” says “Alcarràs” producer María Zamora, Elastica Films co-founder.

Co-producing can help get complex projects off the ground. “Co-production forums attract me a lot. I strongly 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 boarded “Alcarràs” as a co-producer, allowing the film to tap an Italian fund for minority co-productions.

Projects presented at international development and writing workshops also generate early buzz and allow producers to receive feedback.

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As arthouse audiences in Spain spend increasing time with auteur-created high-end TV, film producers are looking for foreign equity to finance titles.

The challenge, as Pedro Hernández at Madrid-based Aquí y Allí Films puts it, is that “it’s really difficult for a co-producer to raise between $315,225 and $525,375 from abroad to invest in a film that most likely will shoot in Spain.”

Spain’s central and regional government are exploring another route.

With the ICAA’s film protection fund set at $102.24 million for 2022, Spain’s Council of Ministers approved in February a $16.9 million call for selective subsidies for production projects, with a minimum of 5% ($844,000) aimed at minority co-productions with foreign companies.

In 2020 the Catalan Institute of Cultural Enterprises (ICEC) launched a $1.26 million minority co-production fund whose funds can’t exceed 60% – a maximum $316,200 –  of the local producer’s share. Financing must be guaranteed for 40% of the project’s total budget.

Also, Galicia’s regional government is dedicating part of a $2.64 million fund to international feature co-productions with minority Spanish participation.

The Canary Islands, on the crest of the international film and TV wave thanks to their spectacular 50% tax incentive for shoots, is “working on the procedure” to launch a minority co-production fund, Natacha Mora, Canary Islands Film coordinator, tells WmLeader.

Bteam tapped the Catalan co-production fund for the project “Quién Mató a Narciso?,” a Europe-Latin America co-production involving Paraguayan outfit La Babosa Cine, directed by “The Heiresses’” Marcelo Martinessi.

“Funds like this are essential. It allows us to join European or Latin American projects where we often find many difficulties to do in Spain, not only because of the nationality requirements, but also because of the financing conditions,” says Bteam’s Alex Lafuente.

“The ICAA has set money aside from selective subsidies to be able to co-produce arthouse films, but they are very limited,” he notes.

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Feature projects can also access several international funds such as the E.U.’s Media Program as well as Eurimages and Ibermedia.

Meanwhile, Europe, especially France, continues embracing standout Spanish auteurs. Cannes underscores that point.

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

“Having a French co-producer helps to position the film in France. If it is a powerful partner, it represents an added value,” says Hernández, producer of Antonio Méndez Esparza’s “Aquí y allá,” winner of the top prize at the Cannes’ Critics’ Week in 2012.

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

One instance: Global streaming service MUBI recently snapped up North America, U.K., Ireland and Latin America, among other territories, on Carla Simón’s “Alcarràs,” in a deal inked by French sales agent MK2 which included the film’s theatrical release.

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