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Axiom teams up with Brits

Producers count on tax benefits for auteur pix

MADRID — Spanish film producers are straining their eyes north, beyond traditional co-producing country France to the U.K. Some cite tax-breaks for courting Brit partners; others the international sales upside of producing in English.

One of the first concrete Hispano-Anglo alliances to be tied down, between Spain’s ABS Production-Barcelona and the U.K.’s Axiom Films, takes on a creatively-driven tint. Inked last week, the deal envisages Axiom and ABS developing, co-producing and distributing some 25 films over five years, says Axiom’s Douglas Cummins. Made in Spanish, English, or even a combination, the pics will normally draw on emerging auteurs in the Spanish-speaking world, or are set there. The partners have established a 50/50 rolling development fund of roughly E500,000 ($633,000) over five years. Both companies want to secure underlying rights: Axiom will take U.K. distrib rights, ABS those for Spain. The current slate:

  • Rolling Jan. 29 and exec produced by Robert Duvall, the Spanish-lingo $4.4 million “The Man Who Came to a Village” from a Christopher Hampton screenplay with Argentine Miguel Pereira (“The Debt”) directing. A Graham Green-ish take of moral qualms, skullduggery and Third World desolation, pic stars Leonardo Sbaraglia (“Intact”) as a drug courier who arrives at an Andes village dressed as a priest in order to do a deal.

  • The gay, Bollywood-style musical comedy “Jungle Red,” to be directed in English by Antoni Aloy (“Presence of Mind”). Budgeted at $9 million, with composer Barry Adamson attached, pic will shoot in Spain and India in late 2004.

  • An untitled project written and directed by actor-director Jordi Molla (“Bad Boys II,” “Blow”), at script stage.

  • The $6.3 million “The Little Angel,” a Nicaragua-set thriller from Demark’s Peter Ringgaard, who helmed the Penelope-Cruz starrer “A Corner of Paradise.” Pic will shoot in Mexico late 2004.

The partnership is based on obvious common interests and mutual benefits. For ABS partner Eva Baro, it’s impossible to raise international films just from Spain. Per ABS co-partner Antonio Sole, development is sorely underdeveloped in Spain: the joint fund gives its partners clout to buy rights and time to mature projects.

Also, there’s a growing under-35 generation of Hispanic thesps who are competent in English and have a rising international profile.

The deal’s heart remains that, as Cummins’ puts it, there’s “a broad and growing constituency in distribution terms for Spanish-speaking cinema” and “a rapidly expanding pool of creative talent from the Spanish-speaking world” that has not yet been fully tapped.

Other companies agree. Axiom/ABS may be a pioneering Hispanic thrust, but expect more entities to reveal concrete plans very shortly.

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