Breakout project: “Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas”
Greenlight wish list: Has three projects that are his top priorities right now: “American Visa,” currently in pre-production; “Frankenstein en Catemaco”; and “El Vuelo del Pinocho”
Producing maxim: “A problem will always solve another problem.”
MIAMI – Having produced the most successful Mexican film ever, Matthias Ehrenberg knows he has a tough act to follow.
“Sexo, Pudor y Lagrimas” (Sex, Shame and Tears) raked in over $12 million in B.O. last year, a record take topped only by those of “Titanic” and “Tarzan.”
” ‘Sexo’ was a unique experience — it won’t happen all the time,” acknowledges Ehrenberg. “But it wasn’t a miracle — we were sure it would work.”
Based on the hit play of frosh helmer-scribe Antonio Serrano, pic has an attractive young cast, many known for their TV work.
Even before the script was finished, Ehrenberg initiated informal talks with distribs, and a few weeks into lensing, he showed them rough cuts. The $1.4 million production (about average for a Mexican pic) was ultimately acquired by 20th Century Fox, which has released it in several Latino markets. Lola Films will bow the pic in Spain this September.
With a cameraman uncle and father who did some film design work, Ehrenberg got some early exposure and worked as a camera and production assistant when just a teen. Ultimately, he studied study mechanical engineering, a discipline that took him to Europe. There, he hooked up with art directors Jan Roelfs and Ben van Os, and built sets for productions like Robert Altman’s “Vincent & Theo,” and Peter Greenaway’s “Death on the Seine” and “Prospero’s Books.”
Ehrenberg returned to Mexico in the early 1990s, working as production manager on Guillermo del Toro’s “Cronos” in 1991 before the local industry plunged into a deep depression.
He kept his hand in the film biz via stints on foreign productions such as unit production manager on “The Juror” and line producer for John Sayles’ “Men With Guns”. He really cut his teeth as a co-producer on Francisco Athie’s “Fibra Optica,” a political thriller that did so-so biz when finally released.
Ehrenberg’s unabashed commitment to commercially viable projects — vs. auteur films — has set him apart from his country’s filmmaking establishment.
And “Sexo” has wrought changes in the Mexican film biz, Ehrenberg says. “It has changed the attitude of the U.S. majors, of the financiers. … There is money for production, for distribution, for foreign exhibition.
“I mean a lot more — four times more than what there was a year ago. Now it’s not just a dream that we can produce films for $1.5 million and make our money back.”
A big priority for Ehrenberg is renegotiating the U.S. release of “Sexo”. A deal with Latin Universe may be falling apart since the distrib fared so poorly with its first Mexican pic, “Santitos.”
Next up for his Titan Producciones is Juan Carlos Valdivia’s “American Visa,” a $2 million thriller and co-production with Argos-Cine, another local indie with which Ehrenberg has formed a strategic alliance and has several projects in development. Lensing is skedded to begin in August.
He hopes to make a total of seven to eight pics over the next three years, and is actively looking for partners to do so.
“We don’t have the infrastructure, financial or otherwise, to produce ourselves,” Ehrenberg says. “Our market, though it has changed, still has its limitations.”