EU agrees Spanish subsidy change

Revisions reward commercially ambitious pics

MADRID — The European Union has approved game-changing film subsidies for Spain that reward more commercially ambitious movies.

Framed in an Oct. 19 Ministerial Order already on the statute books, the measures attack an endemic industry problem: a low local film market share of 13%-18% last decade, despite a high production volume of 98-180 movies produced each year.

“There must be fewer films made and (those that are made) should have greater theatrical ambitions,” said Pedro Perez, prexy of Spain’s Fapae producers association.

“A huge amount of P&A money is being spent. If there were fewer films, they’d be better pushed in theatrical.”

The measures, which were designed by Ignasi Guardans, the director general of the Icaa Spanish Film Institute, and kick in immediately, aim to stimulate the development of higher-quality projects and encourage market aggression.

Spain’s Icaa will give Euros40,000 ($56,500) grants to up to 15 professional screenwriters. Existing project subsidies, which target new directors and art pics, will be maintained. In a departure, however, films budgeted over $2.8 million will receive subsidies for film fest play plus $21,180 for every $63,540 of producer investment.

The cap for total subsidy coin per pic has doubled to $2.8 million.

Spain’s new game rules were attacked by a Cineastes Against the Order lobby, which claimed they threaten 60% of annual production.

Those producers that make pics for the multiplex crowd are far more enthusiastic.

“Films have to be made for everyone or someone,” said Zeta Audiovisual’s Francisco Ramos, producer of last year’s B.O. hit “Sex, Party and Lies.”

He added: “The amount of subsidy that B.O. hits can now draw down is substantially larger.”

But, with Spain in the depths of a credit crunch, producers may struggle to raise bank monies to invest in films, so triggering subsidies.

Fapae, the Icaa and state bank ICO are in talks to address this, said Perez.

The Ministerial Order looks set to prompt a slew of more market-aggresive films in the $4 million range. Also, higher-end pic production looks set to revolve increasingly around Spain’s few capitalized media groups with film interests, companies skilled enough to tap film tax breaks, and, though with often diminished commitments, Spain’s free-to-air broadcasters.

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