Galicia thinks big in start-up film fund

Spanish region targets higher-budget movies

MADRID — An enterprising Spanish region, Galicia, has created a risk capital film fund, targeting higher-budget films with home turf and international potential.

In a private-public mix, the fund’s main partners are the Caixa Galicia, a savings bank, the Galician Audiovisual Consortium and the Galician Institute for Economic Promotion. In all 33 million ($4 million) will be available in the first year of the fund. That may not seem like much.

But each pic can tap up to $800,000, more than most Spanish broadcasters’ pre-buys or central government subsidies.

Given that muscle, the fund will likely cherrypick the best projects from Spain.

But producers elsewhere in Europe shouldn’t write it off their application list.

“Our priority is to invest in projects with clear possibilities of recoupment,” says Ignacio Varela, manager of the Galicia Audiovisual Consortium.

The fund will negotiate Galician cast or crew on projects, and their shooting or posting in Galicia. Located north of Portugal on the west coast of Spain, the hilly, forested region has no major large cities and is known as the Seafood Coast.

Past pics shot in Galicia, such as Alejandro Amenabar’s “The Sea Inside,” spent about 25% of their budget in the region, Varela estimates.

But the fund will be flexible on a film’s production partners, Varela adds. To qualify, a company can just set up a Galician office.

The fund aims to strengthen local production in a time when online downloading has crippled the Spanish exhibition business.

“We can’t ignore these market trends. If we do, we’ll miss the train,” argues Fernando Salgado, Galicia’s communication secretary general.

Spain’s regional film boards were out in force at last month’s San Sebastian Festival, bragging about increased production levels. Last year, Catalonia helped fund 71 films, far more than either Sweden or Belgium, according to European Audiovisual Observatory stats.

Some boards are decidedly cosmopolitan.

At one San Sebastian round table, Simon Perry, CEO of the Irish Film Board, said he saw no problem in financing a film made in the Basque language. Galicia, too, will invest in international co-productions, says Varela.

One future for Europe may be even more mosaic financing, patching together coin across Europe’s regions.

“It’s complicated,” says Barcelona producer Jordi Rediu, who tapped five regions — Bavaria, North Rhine-Westphalia, Baden Baden, Rhone Alps and Catalonia — for “The Anarchist’s Wives.”

But, as admissions sag in some countries, at least it’s a way to keep producing.