Latin Americans join forces for increased coin and autonomy

BUENOS AIRES — Increasingly, Latin American producers are trying to reduce their reliance on European production coin, giving them greater independence and speeding up the assembling of finances. It’s also a safety net if Europe’s co-producing interests shift to other territories.

Argentine helmer Sergio Mazza typifies this new approach with his feature “Triple Frontera” (Triple Border).

Under his Calvario Arte Latino banner, Mazza is co-producing the love story set on the Argentina-Brazil-Paraguay border with producers from four other countries in Mercosur, the biggest trade bloc in South America.

“It is an alternative to always depending on international funds,” says Mazza.

By collecting 60%-70% of financing at home, “producers are in a better condition to find the rest from European producers,” still the main source of funding for Latin America, says Argentine helmer Miguel Pereira. “Before they looked for 80% and the film was overly dependent on Europe.”

This eases preparations. “I can pick up the phone and call Paraguay, our neighbor, and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this project. Let’s do it,’ ” says Mazza. “In Europe it’s different. It takes longer. There’s red tape.”

The trend began this decade, in response to a surge in production following a series of economic crises and now a social and populist movement typified by the rise of left-leaning leaders like Bolivia’s Evo Morales.

“When there are times of crisis or change, there are (stories) to tell and quality movies come out of it,” says Lita Stantic, an Argentine producer behind Paraguayan Paz Encina’s “Hamaca Paraguaya,” which is in competition at Cannes.

Teaming up boosts negotiating power for foreign coin, says Hernan Musaluppi, head of Buenos Aires production outfit Rizoma Films. As it is cheaper for foreigners to produce in Latin America, where the financial risk is less than using home crews, their cut of the profits should be less, Musaluppi says.

But that’s a tough deal to negotiate.

When a potential Spanish partner refused to cut its take, Musaluppi teamed with two other Argentine producers for a romantic comedy to be directed by Juan Taratuto, even though the Argentine’s first pic, “No sos vos, soy yo,” was a hit in Spain.

The trend is expected to continue, given that regional production costs are rising as is competition for state and private funds.

One major problem is limited exhibition. “There’s no market for Latin American films in Europe, the U.S. or Latin America,” with indigenous fare getting around 10% of the local attendance, says Gustavo Montiel of Mexico’s Moro Films.

But Luis Ignacio Perez Endara, head of Buenos Aires distrib-production company Compania General de la Imagen, disagrees: “There’s a lot of room for growth,” he says. “We are far from saturating the market.”

New production models are also in the offing. For Sebastian Campos’ “La Sagrada Familia,” Chile’s Horamagica Cine raised 100% of the $250,000 budget at home, with no state help.

“We released the film without debt,” says the film’s exec producer Ursula Budnik.

The success of “Familia” has enabled Budnik to collect all the funds for Campos’ next pic, budgeted at $400,000, before finishing the script. But this time they won’t go it alone.

“Not having a co-producer in Europe makes it hard to make deals for international sales and exhibition in Europe,” she says. “It is like a child without a parent.”

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