Seven Spanish films debut in major sections across the 46th Sitges Fantastic Fest, Europe’s biggest fantasy and genre event, and all but one are in English.
Those films point to a major trend in filmmaking worldwide as more and more companies seek to maximize international returns via co-production and pre-sales.
“Grand Piano,” starring Elijah Wood (pictured above) and John Cusack, which opens Sitges Oct. 11, took that route. The film bowed to positive reviews at the Austin Fantastic Fest. A concert-set psychological thriller, co-produced by Adrian Guerra’s Nostromo Pictures and broadcaster-backed Atresmedia Cine, it was sold by Lisa Wilson and Myles Nestel’s the Solution Entertainment Group across the world.
“Genre transmits universal emotions: Fear, anguish, horror, suspense,” says Xavier Parache at Gate Media, a Barcelona film finance consultancy and packager. “It’s logical that Catalan production companies, which have become authentic genre specialists, shoot with an American cast, as in ‘Grand Piano,’ making productions with greater international potential.”
Shooting in English allows directors to work with actors who have a bigger marquee value worldwide. For example, Jake Gyllenhaal toplines Sitges screening “Enemy,” Denis Villeneuve’s paranoia thriller, co-produced by Roxbury Pics and Rhombus Media, first seen at Toronto. Among Sitges world premieres, is “Mindscape,” Jorge Dorado’s debut feature and the first production from Jaume Collet-Serra’s Spanish genre pic label Ombra Films.
“Making films in English helps you become better known internationally, and the films have a bigger chance of reaching more territories abroad,” says Joaquin Padro at shingle Rodar y Rodar.
International reach is now a necessity.
While Catalonia production levels have remained healthy, funding at Catalonia’s ICEC, the industry’s main subsidy source, plunged 32% from €12 million ($16 million) in 2011 to $10.9 million in 2013. “As producers, we’ve had to go to the international market for financing,” Guerra says.
Almost 80% of Sitges’ lineup lacks Spanish distribution, says fest director Angel Sala. But “the fantastic is extremely alive with an enormous diversity. More than new trends, there’s a sophistication of existing ones, such as found-footage and vampire features: The genre is evolving,” he says.
But it’s not just genre pics on display at Sitges.
TV toons are a major export biz in Europe. Now an increasing number of mainstream animated movies are making sizable box office in their home countries and abroad, such as Belgium’s “Sammy’s Adventures 2,” Spain’s “Tad, the Lost Explorer” and Argentina’s “Foosball.”
Riding the wave of these market realities, Sitges is debuting Anima’t Sitges — Barcelona Cartoon Forum.
According to event organizers, 60% of Spain’s total toon business, judged by annual turnover, is based in Catalonia.
Anima’t will showcase 12 projects from around the world. They will be pitched to about 25 buyers and producers. Catalan productions to be pitched include Imira Entertainment’s “Mondo Yan,” a short-format TV series about three teen superheroes; “Invizimals,” a half-hour BRB Intl. and Sony Computer Entertainment co-production; and “Cocorico,” a pre-school series based on a Burmese folk tale about the need to listen to savvy advice produced by Edebe.
Event takes place Oct. 10-11.