Catalonia opens up pic fund

State aid bundle includes low-interest credit, capital risk fund, loan guarantees

STIGES, Spain — The dinky fishing village of Sitges, just south of Barcelona, hardly seems the place for a film and TV revolution. But on Oct. 8, Artur Mas, the chief executive of Catalonia, announced a state-aid package which, if it takes off, looks likely to change the face of film and TV production in Catalonia and, above all, Barcelona, its capital.

The state aid bundle includes 20 billion pesetas ($110 million) per year in low-interest credit for film and TV production; a capital risk fund, Invermedia; state-covered bank loan guarantees; 100 TV movies over the next three years, majority financed by Catalan regional broadcaster TV-3 and the Catalan Institute for Cultural Industries (ICIC); and further credit for big-budget pics or toon projects.

Reasons to believe

Any company based in Catalonia can apply for this aid, ICIC director Jordi Penas tells Variety.

Spanish filmmakers are suspicious of politicians bearing gifts. But Mas’ commitment doesn’t come in the wind-up to elections. And it is meant to kick off not in some vague future, but in January.

The credit bonanza would be more open than in the past. Measly Catalan state subsidies have been reserved for Catalan-lingo films only ever since the advent of democracy in the region in 1977. These amounted to foreign-lingo pics for the rest of Spain and Latin America, where most people speak Castillian Spanish. Ambitious Barcelona helmers — Vicente Aranda, Bigas Luna — emigrated to Madrid.

Such restrictions are swept aside in the current state package. Credit-worthy pics, TV movies or series can be made in any language — Catalan, Castillian Spanish or English, Penas says.

No single answer

Whether the Catalan windfall will be a boon is another matter. According to Lauren Films CEO Antonio Llorens, “Credit’s great, but we need to recoup. That mean’s building an industrial structure in Catalonia.”

One positive consequence, say producers, is that they will essay more ambitious projects. “The measures will consolidate Catalan films’ impact abroad,” says Antonio Chavarrias at Oberon Cinematografica.

Echoes Thomas Spieker, CEO of 42nd Street Prods.: “There’ll be more international productions coming out of Barcelona and Catalonia in general.”

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