Morelia: Tim Roth, Mexico’s Michel Franco, in Pic Partnership Talks

Lucia Films, Franco’s multi-prized shingle –‘Chronic,’ ‘600 Miles,’ ‘From Afar’– advances on new productions, eyes TV

MORELIA – Laurelled with big prizes at Berlin, Cannes and Venice – Mexico’s Lucia Films, co-founded by Michel Franco (“After Lucia,” “Chronic”), is in talks with Tim Roth for at least two films as Lucia also eyes its entry into TV production.

Rolling off the Franco-directed “Chronic,” a Cannes best screenplay winner, and Gabriel Ripstein’s Berlin Best First Feature winner “600 Miles,” both starring Roth, the alliance would see Roth boarding as a producer Franco’s next movie as a director, which is scheduled to roll in May. Ripstein, who produced “Chronic,” and Venezuela’s Lorenzo Vigas, whose “From Afar” took this year’s Venice Golden Lion, would also be involved in a production capacity, Franco said at Mexico’s Morelia Fest, where “Chronic” received its Mexico premiere.

Franco’s would then produce an upcoming movie directed by Roth, which Roth said he was keen to shoot in Mexico.

Given the largely femme cast of Franco’s next. Roth would not star in the film, he said at Morelia.

“The collaboration with Tim Roth has taken me to places I didn’t expect to be so soon,” such as shooting a movie in L.A.,” Franco said, in reference to “Chronic.” “Without really looking for it, Lucia Films has established a foothold in the U.S., without leaving Mexico. That’s kind of where we’re going.”

Lucia’s Films “is like the French New Wave or the English group, which came forward with Ken Loach, for example,” Roth enthused.

Lucia Films aims to enter TV production. Franco said the first thing he would like to try is comedy. “The thing about drama is that TV series can end up being sophisticated soap operas. Most early approaches for TV production have come from U.S. channels, Franco said Saturday in Morelia, where “Chronic” made its bow.

New feature films by Ripstein and Vigas are also in development.

Meanwhile, “The Heirs,” from Jorge Hernandez Aldana (“The Night Buffalo”), one of Lucia Films’ stable of directors, world premieres at Morelia, as does “Princess,” the first short helmed by Lucia Films producer David Zonana.

Just how these plans play out remains to be seen. They carry, however, a strong industrial logic.

Mexico can now bring real money to the table. Galvanized by Eficine 189 tax coin, and bulwarked by Imcine Mexican Film Institute investment coin via its quality (Foprocine) and more mainstream lines, state funding reached Pesos 810 million ($60 million) in 2014, per Imcine’s Statistical Yearbook of Mexican Cinema.

Despite success, Lucia Films still aims to make films on contained budgets, Franco said. Unburdened by the need to recoup on weighty budgets, that policy allows for larger creative freedoms, Roth argued.

Movie audiences for such fiction are –arguably – limited. TV audiences – think “The Wire” – appear far larger.

Roth is one of Morelia’s high-profile guests of honor. He is also in town for the Mexican premiere of “Chronic” and a special screening of “600 Miles,” which Franco produced. “I think one reason Tim is attached to us, comfortable and happy to be making films with us, is that this is what Tim was doing making films in England even before going to the U.S.,” Franco said.

While often socially minded, Lucia Films titles also place a large emphasis on entertainment.

“The first purpose of my films is to entertain, but to entertain clever audiences. And I want as a filmmaker to try to understand certain subject matters and for my films to have cinematographic depth,” Franco said at Morelia.

So its slate is packed with crossover titles. That can be taken geographically: “Chronic” was shot in the U.S. in English, but financed out of Mexico and world premiered at Europe’s premiere promotion platform, the Cannes Festival.

Lucia Films’ “cinematographic vocabulary is quite extraordinary,” said Roth.

In film types, “600 Miles” is a buddy, roads movie-thriller with a social underbelly. “Chronic” focuses on one man’s drama: a male nurse who is superb at his job, but seemingly unable toget his own life back on the road. It is also, however, a thriller, Franco argued. The protagonist’s back-story is gradually revealed to the audience, not delivered in fore-fronted exposition. “That’s high-level entertainment. I hate films where in the first five, ten, 15 minutes you know all about the character,” per Franco.

Mexico’s middle-classes are growing. But Franco said he wants to make films for the world. “I’ve been told a lot that Chronic” could have taken place in Europe or Canada, the same for ‘After Lucia, They were made in a world which is rapidly getting smaller.

Franco’s next will be his fifth feature since 2009, following “Daniel y Ana,” “After Lucia,” “A los ojos” (co-directed with sister Victoria Franco) and “Chronic.”

“We’re doing things as fast as we can, not because we’re in a rush, but because I’m kind of young and full of energy. I don’t think our films would benefit to much as a production company from sitting down and thinking too much about what we’re doing. My favorite directors – Pasolini, Fassbinder, Godard –made a film a year.”

Videocine, the powerful theatrical distribution arm of Televisa will bow “Chronic” in Mexico on Dec. 4, “600 Miles” on Dec. 18.

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