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MADRID — “Co-production is like sex. There are more people doing it than you think, but it’s not always the people you think who are doing it,” an industry chestnut goes.

Underendowed in the state subsidy area, Spain’s pic industry has just received some co-production Viagra.

Since last year, Spanish TV operators are obliged to invest 5% of annual revenues in European films. That 5% amounts to some $154 million in 2001.

Upcoming legislation earmarks 60% of this for Spanish-lingo pics. The remainder can go to international English-lingo projects.

To access Spanish TV coin, a foreign producer should seek out a local co-producer. Potential co-production fare could be U.S. or European A-list movies or smaller films with Spanish elements: key cast, post-production, a local setting or a literary base.

Co-production with Spain is not bedeviled by cultural issues — as with France. Or high production costs — as with Germany.

“The combination of hot subjects, a growing domestic market, a generally pretty upbeat industry and an increasingly aggressive pay TV environment could make co-producing with Spain quite significant,” says Chris Auty, head of the U.K’s Film Consortium.

But Spanish co-productions have limitations. Unless they take a cut of international, Spanish producers cannot bring much to the table. A Spanish free TV pre-sale averages just $400,000.

Local crews may just speak Spanish. After shooting “Semana Santa” in Andalusia, Schlemmer’s Christoph Meyer-Wiel recommends employing English- and Spanish-speaking production managers, and doubling up on other key tech posts.

THE MONEY

Broadcaster coin: Minimum of $154 million in 2001 for European features and TV movies

Production coin: ICAA Spanish Film Institute state subsidy fund has $28 million available annually.

Interest discount: Spain’s Instituto de Credito Oficial (ICO) lowers interest on pic production loans by third-party banks.

NEW FILMS

“Afrodita” (Astrolabio Producciones, Leo et Compagnie, Film Tre, Thelma Films, Cinesur), $5.2 million, $2.1 million from Spain

“Dust” (Film Consortium, Fandango, Alta Films)

“Morality Play” (MDA Films, KanZaman, Renaissance Films), budget $14 million, $4.2 million from Spanish sources

“The Others” (Sogecine, Las Producciones del Escorpion, Cruise/Wagner Prods.)

“The Pianist” (Planeta 2010, StudioCanal/Les Films Alain Sarde, R.P. Prods., Studio Babelsberg, Run Team and Hermitage Films)

“Le Prince du Pacifique” (Mate Production, ICE3)

“Semana Santa” (La Fiera Corrupia, Schlemmer Film, Septieme Production, Wandering Star, M&M Prods., Poetiche Cinematografiche), $8.7 million, $1.3 million from Spain