Filmmakers leverage coin to boost artistic ambitions

Sitting on a Via Veneto terrace at October’s Rome Festival, Italian producer Daniele Mazzocca smiled with slight bemusement as he described his next project: “The Mountain” would be a World War II drama set in Italy, but its finance would come mostly from Brazil.

For decades, Brazil boasted attractive stories and talent, but brought little money to the table. But Brazil is no longer a poor world sub-power.

Since April 2009, Brazil’s real has appreciated 39% against the dollar. According to Conspiracao’s Leonardo Monteiro de Barros, Brazilian producers now draw up to reais 7 million ($4.5 million) in tax breaks and up to $1 million in straight subsidies per pic.

This shift shows in co-production: Brazilians are increasingly muscular minority partners, leveraging co-production coin to boost artistic ambitions:

• Brazil’s Tres Mundos and Primo put up 60% equity on “The Mountain.” Mazzocca’s Verdeoro and Portugal’s Stopline are co-producing the pic, which is set during Italy’s Battle of Monte Castello.

• Aided by Verdeoro co-financing, Sao Paulo’s Gullane majority financed Rome-set family drama “Meu pais.”

• Among six co-producers, Bossa Nova has set up docufeature “Tropicalia” with U.K.’s Revolution Films and L.A.’s Mojo Pics, among others.

• Having financed 22.5% of Andrucha Waddington’s $15 million Spanish production “Lope,” Conspiracao has structured two Teuton co-productions: Ansgar Ahler’s “Bach in Brazil” and English-language romantic drama “90 Days.”

Even with the real up, “The Portuguese language has market limitations, so productions in other languages are much more compelling,” Barros says.

France is already benefiting: A 2010 France-Brazil co-production treaty reduced minority investment requirements from 20% to 10% of budgets, which has made it easier for big-budget French productions to find a 10% Brazilian partner, per a spokesperson for France’s Centre National du Cinema (CNC).

Growing from five in 2005, international co-productions spiked to 15 in 2008, 10 in 2009, with 18 finished or shooting last fall. They can only be expected to increase in the future.

Brazil’s Ancine film board is pushing co-production. In December, Ancine launched a Brazil-Argentina co-production fund to finance four joint projects annually, and other international partnerships are also blooming.

Ancine teams with CNC this Friday on a Franco-Brazilian co-production workshop at Cannes, for instance, and an Italian-Brazilian film school workshop ran earlier this year in Rio.

“Brazil and Italy’s governments want to make bigger, more international films together,” Mazzocca says, suggesting that Brazilians’ co-production ambitions are being reciprocated on many fronts.

“We are interested in talents around the world with new stories,” says a CNC rep. “Also, Brazil is an enormous, fast-growing market for French-initiative films.”

State film investment fund RioFilme receives about one proposal per week from foreign companies, according to RioFilme prexy Sergio Sa Leitao. Some seek to shoot in Brazil, while others are interested in co-production partnerships.

Thanks to Brazil’s economic and political stability and a newer cosmopolitan generation, Bosso Nova’s Paula Cosenza says, “We’re reaching outside Brazil for stories.”

Co-producing with Brazil still has its challenges, however.

“A major number of producers now co-produce. But we need a better, faster-reacting film financial support system,” says Andre Sturm at film export board Cinema do Brasil.

And financing is just the beginning. Sales are the true indicator of the sector’s strength.

Fernando Meirelles and Walter Salles have achieved this critical step: Their latest films, “360″ and “On the Road,” are being sold by Wild Bunch and MK2, respectively.

“Bigger films are coming out. But few Brazilian films seem to have sales agents attached from script stage,” says Passaro Films’ Katia Machado, whose “My Sweet Orange Tree” is repped by Paris’ Elle Driver.

But efforts are already under way to address the sales side of the equation. For example, CDB offers foreign distributors $25,000 toward P&A on a Brazilian release. Walter Salles’ VideoFilmes and Sara Silveira’s Dezenove have signed production/international sales deals with France’s StudioCanal and Urban Distribution Intl., respectively. And RioFilme has been handling more Brazilian pics’ international sales rights, says Sa Leitao. One of his roles at markets is to introduce scripts to sales agents.

CANNES DAILY SPOTLIGHT: BRAZIL
Rio production runneth over | Indies’ screen shot | Brazilian co-prods boom as int’l partners get real | Brazilian bonanza

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more