English-lingo pix inspire investors

Spain looks to find a way to cultivate its talent

MADRID — “The Others” should help the others: other internationally minded Spanish producers.

Film’s take of Pta 1.5 billion ($8.5 million) in its first 10 days followed $19.8 million for Lolafilms’ gross-out cop spoof “Torrente 2,” a local pic record.

“‘Others’ opens the door. It shows that Spanish pics can compete with U.S. movies,” says Telefonica Media managing director Ele Juarez.

Foreign players will no doubt take note, and find fertile ground in Spain for co-production or pickup deals. According to Juarez, Telefonica Media is “looking to co-produce pics with U.S. companies for Spain and Latin America.”

Telecinco’s Estudios Picasso similarly has co-production designs with Mexico, reports managing director Ghislain Barrois.

TM-backed Lolafilms has started casting on Bille August’s “The Maid of Buttermere” and an Ecosse co-production, Julian Jarrold’s “Loving the Goddess,” about poet Robert Graves.

Linking with a U.S. partner may not be an easy task, says Lola CEO, Andres Vicente Gomez. “The U.S. is a buyer’s market. It’s very diffi-cult with finished films, given the competition.”

Spain no longer navel-gazes its domestic market. Run by vet exec Jose Vicuna, the Prisa-owned Plural has set up offices in New York and Madrid to co-finance film and TV projects for the Spanish-speaking world.

“Our aim is to co-produce with leading players in the region,” says Vicuna.

It already has begun linking with top Mexican indie Argos Comunicacion on a telenovela, “Esperanza,” and feature film, “The Blue Room.”

Four Spanish indies –Arbol, Cartel, Boca and Enrique Cerezo — have pooled their titles into a huge (5,000 Spanish pic titles) TV sales consortium, Pi. Its strategy, says director general Pepe Huertas is to leverage open markets through volume sales, much like a U.S. studio.

“Barcelona has also opened up — in language and co-production,” says Oberon’s Antonio Chavarrias, an edgy, eclectic producer-director who made Cannes Competition player “Pau and His Brother” with French partners and upcoming “Aro Tolbukhin” with Mexican.

Barcelona’s biggest producer, Julio Fernandez’s Filmax, is post-producing Jaume Balaguero’s second pic, Anna Paquin starrer “Darkness.” The English-lingo chiller is an auteur genre movie, a type foreign buyers die for.

“There’s talent in Spain. We’ve just found a way of channeling it,” says Fernandez, who will shortly reveal a director for thumping medieval epic “Captain Thunder.”

A flood of new companies and operations aim to tap new talent and have international designs

“It’s a necessity just to get into the sector,” says Thomas Spieker, CEO of new shingle 42nd Street Prods .

“Because of my age, I feel just comfortable with young directors,” agrees thirtysomething Pau Calpe, Esicma CEO.

First moves from new companies:

  • Das Werk-owned 42nd Street is co-producing Ventura Pons’ first English-lingo pic, “Food for Love.”

  • Francisco Ramos’ Alquimia startup has “Utopia” from “Tortilla Soup” helmer Maria Ripoll.

  • Distrib Tripictures’ new in-house production operation, headed by Douglas Wilson, plans “to make two-three Spanish pics annually, plus take minority stakes on international co-productions,” he says.

  • New pic producer Planeta 2010 and Marta Esteban’s Impossible Films are in pre-production on English-lingo sci-fi actioner “Avatar.” Stefan Nicoll’s Guerrilla Films is advising on this project and plus Vicente Mora’s “Judy Garland.”

  • Now heading pic production at Starline, Ana Amigo is moving a Vicente Aranda version of “Carmen.”

  • Pepe Magan is tubthumping an Engling Mayan adventure pic “Guerrero: The Adventure,” a follow-up to Luna’s San Sebastian film fest player, “Stranded.”

These new shingles swell the ranks of young international with projects in the hopper: Morena (the $9 million futuristic thriller “Time Spy”), Maestranza, Mate (Arturo Ripstein’s “Cafe Cortado,”), Zebra (Carlos Saura musical “Salome”) and Esicma (pics from Eduard Bosch and Santiago Garcia). Companies are emerging in Galicia (Continental, Portozas Visions) and Valencia (Nacar) with larger-than-regional ambitions.

This is the up side. Not all is hunky-dory. Twenty-one Spanish pics bowed in June and July in Spain; nearly all faded fast.

“There’s little room at the moment for midrange films,” says Mate’s Stephane Sorlat.

And Engling production is no breeze.

“There are 500 films chasing 30 name actors. The casting process in terribly slow,” says Lola’s Gomez. It’s a brave new world in Spain. If anything, beyond that is tougher.”

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