Zentropa heads to Spain

Von Trier and Jensen's shingle expands again beyond Denmark

Lars Von Trier and Peter Aelbaek Jensen’s Zentropa is launching a Spanish outpost headed by Barcelona-based producer David Matamoros.

Bowing at the San Sebastian fest (Sept. 18-26), Zentropa Intl. Spain, will produce a number of director-driven films each year from “established and new talent with commercial appeal and highly distinctive visions, fresh voices,” says Matamoros, a former exec producer at Benece.

Zentropa has spread out far beyond its native Denmark, it now has production outfits in Norway, Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Germany, Holland and France.

“To be an accepted player in a country, we have to be involved domestically at all levels, new and established talent, creating the right mix,” says Peter Garde, Zentropa chief financial officer.

“Catalonia and Spain offer great talent and diversity. It’s one of the best trademarks we have, a great international credential,” Matamoros says.

Some films will almost certainly tap tyro talent, however. When not producing, Matamoros runs a marketing course at Barcelona’s Escac Film School.

Escac alums include “Orphanage” helmer Juan Antonio Bayona and Guillem Morales, whose “Julia’s Eyes” has just been set at Focus Features Intl.

Unlike most Spanish producers, Matamoros has a direct line into a generation of young filmmakers still making shorts. He’s also open to producing TV, docus, animation and Internet formats.

Zentropa’s Spanish outpost underscores why companies such as StudioCanal are building continent-wide partnerships.

“We think we can bring things to Spain’s domestic market, which will benefit its creative community,” Garde says.

That’s especially true after Nordisk, Scandinavia’s biggest distributor, took a 50% stake in Zentropa in February 2008.

Trust-Nordisk, Zentropa’s overseas sales arm, can put up minimum guarantees against international. Nordisk has direct distribution ops throughout Scandinavia.

Nordisk investment in Zentropa helps cover start-up and film development costs and overheads at new European companies, Garde says. Depending on the project, Zentropa can become involved as a producer, co-producer or co-financer, in and out of Spain.

In recent examples, 70% of Hans-Christian Schmid’s Berlin competition player, the E6.5 million ($9.4 million) “Storm,” was tapped from Germany. Zentropa Intl. Dutch, Danish and Swedish partners covered gap finance.

Zentropa and Trust-Nordisk are two investors on David Mackenzie’s “The Last Word,” from a screenplay by Denmark’s Kim Fupz Aakeson, whom Zentropa introduced to Mackenzie.

Zentropa Intl. Norway, which launched Jan. 1, is working with Peter Naess (“Elling”) and Unni Straume (“Music for Weddings and Funerals”). Zentropa companies in Denmark, France and Poland are co-producing “Sponsoring” with Slot Machine’s Marianne Slot, directed by Malgorzata Szumowska.

Zentropa aims to produce a film out of every one of its subsids by year-end 2010, per Garde. That gives Zentropa a large talent pool.

On Dec. 4-5, Zentropa will hold a Christmas brainstorming weekend for directors, producers and staff around Europe. It will probably end in far more than hangovers.

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