Fresh mix for new generation

Tyro shingles tailor pix for int'l sales, changing tastes

A new generation of ambitious Spanish producers is trying to distance itself from the classic artpic models of much of Spanish production.

They blend genres and declare that their films follow the audience’s tastes. “We’re a generation of producers who feel closer to what the public wants to see,” notes Iker Monfort, the founder of Monfort Producciones.

“It costs too much money to make a film which does only so-so and doesn’t give you anything back in return,” says Vaca Films GM Emma Lustres.

According to Lazonafilms’ Douglas Wilson, “We try to combine artistic, cultural and commercial values.”

They’re not afraid of international competition, either. Many have studied abroad or had professional training outside Spain. They speak English, and shooting in English with an international cast is not a problem.

This group faces the resistance of some critics, and certain sectors of the industry and the cultural establishment toward English-language projects with non-Spanish actors, says Arcadia Motion Pictures CEO Ibon Cormenzana.

It also faces, some claim, indifference from the distrib sector. “Hardly anybody wants to distribute (homegrown) independent films in Spain,” says Jordi Rediu, general manager of Barcelona-based ZIP Films.

That, of course, is a problem for most Spanish films. At a far earlier point in their careers than older generations, Spain’s young filmmakers are looking to the global market.

“Genre pics have a commercial edge. They’re good international fare. Beyond Almodovar or Amenabar, horror films work best abroad,” contends Lustres.

But this group’s biggest challenge remains the same of any generation: making good films.

Variety looks at the new blood in Spain:

Arcadia Motion Pictures

Headed by Cormenzana, Arcadia will use Cannes to showcase a definitive cut of “The Birthday,” toplining Corey Feldman and directed by 27-year-old first-timer Eugenio Mira. Pic has been trimmed by 20 minutes since its Sitges fest preem.

Arcadia production philosophy is succinctly put by Cormenzana: “a wide variety of genres; exclusive deals with talented, high-profile, young directors; a highly international cast.”

Arcadia has just signed frosh helmer Jorge Torregrossa to adapt “Purple America,” the third novel from novelist Rick Moody (“The Ice Storm”). It also has acquired film rights to sci-fi script “Anemos,” Cormenzana’s sophomore feature after suicide drama “Jaizkibel.”

LazonaFilms

Madrid-based production company was founded in early 2003 by Wilson and brothers Ignacio and Gonzalo Salazar-Simpson.

Lazona’s strategy rests on three pillars: director-driven pics from emerging young helmers; market-targeted films; and domestic co-productions with Spain’s new generation of producers.

At Cannes, Lazona aims to close an international co-production deal on $3.9 million black comedy “The Contestant,” from first-timer Rodrigo Cortes and toplining Leonardo Sbaraglia.

In February, Lazona inked to co-produce the next two films directed by screenwriter-helmer David Serrano, one of Spain’s marquee names (“The Other Side of the Bed,” “Soccer Days”).

ZIP Films

Zeppelin Integrals Prods. Films is a Barcelona-based shingle headed by Rediu and Norbert Llaras. ZIP broke through with its second pic, “Youth,” directed by Ramon Termes and Carles Torras. It aims to produce two to three low-budget contemporary movies a year.

The company’s in post on Uruguayan Marcelo Bertalmio’s melancholic comedy “Noise” and Jordi Sole’s mockumentary “El taxista ful,” about a renegade taxi driver.

It’s also teaming with U.S. indie Green Dog Films on developing two English-lingo projects, both thrillers, “Grave Depravity” and “The Ungodly.”

Vaca Films

Lustres says she looks for quality commercial terror and fantasy films with an international reach, and young helmers who have cut their teeth on genre shorts.

Vaca has co-produced two features: sci-fi thriller “Cero” (aka “Somne”), directed by Isidro Ortiz (“Fausto 5.0”), now in post, and Clive Gordon’s claustrophobic thriller “Cargo,” a Wild Bunch pickup, with Morena Films.

It’s seeking co-producers on seven genre pics including “Caballos y angeles,” “El milagro,” “El ojo de la aguja,” “Meigas” and “Retorno.”

Lustres cites Filmax Entertainment as a model: “It’s managed to be not totally dependent on Spain’s domestic market. That gives it a lot of freedom.”

Abaco Movies

Film production shingle Abaco Movies launched in 2003 as part of a diversification strategy at Grupo Abaco, one of Spain’s biggest exhibs, which was taken over in March by capital risk company Mercapital.

Managed by Isidro Fernandez, with producer Javier Ramirez and sales exec Esther Ruiz, it bowed with Juan Madrid’s “Tanger” and Javier Balaguer’s Victoria Abril starrer “School of Seduction.” It’s in pre-production on Inaki Dorronsoro’s boxing thriller “The Distance” and drama “Love Me,” directed by vet helmer Beda Docampo.

Abaco’s development slate for 2006 includes Juan Dapena’s political thriller “Agatha” and “Fragmented,” a thriller about a film restorer, conceived as France-U.K. co-production, based on a Dapena script.

Monfort Producciones

Venture was launched in August by Monfort, former head of international at Alquimia Cinema.

“I want to produce international English-language films. I tend toward auteur projects because I don’t know how to make commercial cinema,” says Monfort.

It co-produced Sogepaq worldwide pickup “20 Centimeters,” a transvestite comedy musical from Ramon Salazar (“Stones”), which received an upbeat reception at Malaga, and had majority co-production equity on Un Certain Regard player “Nordeste,” from Juan Solanas.

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