Catalonia Woos Hollywood With New Incentives

Catalan delegation explains new production moves at roundtable and cocktail

MADRID — Barcelona is coming to the table. Having born the brunt of a double-dip recession, on Friday a delegation from Catalonia, boasting Barcelona as its capital, will present at the Hotel Andaz in West Hollywood what Spain’s most modern region can offer to Hollywood.

A dinner cocktail, washed down by Codorniu and Gramona cavas, will be preceded by a roundtable. At it, Catalan government lawmakers and producers will outline a clutch of developments in Spain’s richest region which Hollywood’s ever-more cosmopolitan producers could raise a glass to.

One is a mooted new telco tax. Outside Germany, pre-crisis Catalonia boasted one of the biggest, most broad-based and sophisticated regional state incentives systems in Europe. Dedicated funds core-funded both higher-end, more commercial fare – such as Goya Award-winning “Black Bread,” a successful move toward the mainstream by director Agusti Villaronga — and Barcelona’s then-vibrant tradition in radical, left-of-field filmmaking, often set on the borderlands between fiction and documentary.

Sweeping — however necessary — austerity measures, at central and regional government level, put paid to that. €19 million ($258 million) at its highpoint, feature film production funding at the Catalan Institute for Cultural Cos. (ICEC) plunged to €8 million ($10.9 million) last year, per Marc Lopez, director of ICEC’s audiovisual department.

Levying telcos $4 per client per year, and about to be debated by Catalonia’s parliament, the new telco tax will not just support movie production. Other aims include the creation of digital content, for example. But, raising an estimated $27.9 million, the levy could take up part or all of that slack. Just what kinds of movies the new tax would support would be agreed with Catalonia’s production sector, said Lopez. That sector is repped at Hollywood-Barcelona, by “Black Bread” producer Isona Passola, president of the Catalan Film Academy.

Spain’s government is also at least studying an increase in its current nationwide tax break for private sector movie investors from the current 18% to 30% of investment.

Catalonia, as well as the rest of Spain, offers other attractions.

One is the depth of its technical talent pool. Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible” crewed up in key craft posts out of Spain.

“The crews in Catalonia are absolutely fantastic. They’re incredibly skilled, deep in all positions. In the three movies that I’ve done in Catalonia — ‘Buried,’ ‘Mindscape’ and ‘Summer Camp’ — we did not bring any crew at all from the U.S.,” said Peter Safran, at L.A.’s the Safran Co. (“The Conjuring”), which is producing Alberto Marini’s “Summer Camp” with Filmax and Pantelion Films, with “[REC]’” director Jaume Balaguero serving as an exec producer.

He added: “The Catalan government is very supportive of films and filmmaking in general, which creates a wonderful environment in which to produce your film. Also, there is a great diversity of looks in Catalonia, from great urban environments to remote wooded areas.”

Another Hollywood/Barcelona round table panelist is Catalonia’s Economics Counselor, Andreu Mas-Colell.

In export terms, Catalonia’s modern production focus, rebooted originally by Filmax and Brian Yuzna, has been on genre: Think “The Orphanage,” “REC,” “Buried” or the movies Yuzna, a fourth Hollywood/Barcelona round table panelist, produced early last decade with Filmax, such as “Dagon” or “Rottweiler.”

For Safran, “a terrific genre filmmaking community exists in Spain, from Juan Antonio Bayona to Jaume Balaguero to Rodrigo Cortes. And there is always a new group of young filmmakers emerging into that scene.”

Safran figures among industry figures that have confirmed their presence at tomorrow’s Hollywood/Barcelona event.

Others include Pablo Cruz (Canana), Barbara and Andy Muschietti, producer and director of “Mama,” which they co-produced out of Barcelona, producer Sergio Aguero, Erik Anderson at Participant Media, Juan Sola at Ombra Films, headed by Catalan Jaume Collet-Serra, and a producer on “Mindscape,” Mexico’s Gaz Alazraki, and Keya Khayatian at UTA, who reps helmers Paco Plaza (“[REC],”), Rodrigo Cortes (“Buried,” “Red Lights”) and producer Adrian Guerra (“Buried,” “Red Lights,” “The Gunman”).

Asher Goldstein, producer of “Short Term 12,” and Gaby Mena, who specializes at Paradigm in Latino talent, will also be there.

Over the past decade, a growing number of top Mexican production houses have opened offices in L.A.: Lemon Films, Canana, AG Studios, now Alazraki Ent., facilitating U.S.-Mexico links, whether in above- or below-the-line talent or co-production.

Catalonia has yet to see that systematic two-city push. But a clutch of young Catalan filmmakers, some of whom went to L.A. on grants, have stayed there because of Spain’s crisis.

These include L.A.-based LA Panda’s Carlos Marques, Julia Fontana and Pau Brunet. Marques’ long-distance love affair story “10,000 KM” won the acting duo prize at March’s SXSW Festival for Natalia Tena and David Verdaguer. Acquired for U.S. distribution by Goldstein’s Broad Green Pictures, sold by Visit Films, and produced by LA Panda and Barcelona’s Lastor Media Production, it was shot in Barcelona.

As markets toughen, and companies plow ever more into English-language filmmaking, or foreign-language movies with talent which has broken through in English-language films — such as Tena, a feature player in “Harry Potter” and “The Game of Thrones” — and Hollywood seeks to tap talent the world over, Catalonia’s expat presence in Hollywood is likely to grow, and Hollywood’s interest in it.

Marcet and LA Panda are repped by UTA’s Jenny Maryasis and Khayatian.

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