Rocked by an 18% first quarter drop in the Spanish box office, a 36% cut in film subsidies, eroding broadcaster investments, rampant Internet piracy and collapsing DVD sales, Spanish film producers desperately need a good friend. One of their best bets: an international sales agent.

“Right now Spanish producers are in dire straits,” says Marina Fuentes of Dreamcatchers. “Private equity investment, backed by international sales, is the only way forward.”

“Being able to invest and help producers make their projects is increasingly important,” says Beatriz Setuain of Imagina Intl. Sales, a Mediapro company. “There’s a rising focus on talent, good stories, crossover (properties) and quality films with universal appeal.”

Plus, market-savvy sales execs are helping groom a new generation of local producers committed to mainstream genres that can tap into multiple revenue streams.

“A few years ago, Spanish producers focused primarily on films for the domestic market,” Fuentes adds. “Now there’s a young generation of producers with a new vision.”

Of late, distributors’ perception of Spanish films has one of a community split between auteur films and simple genre shockfests — both squeezed by recent market trends.

In an attempt to reverse the recent slide in Spanish foreign film sales, which fell 27% in 2010 to $43 million, 25% below Spanish TV export revenues, producers and sales agents now covet the middle ground.

“Distributors are looking for pictures with broader appeal,” says Film Factory’s Vicente Canales. “Horror is difficult to sell on TV (and) there’s much stronger demand for thrillers, adventure tales and family pics.”

Still, genre films, in particular upscale psychological or action thrillers, remain the most sought-after commodity by sales agents and buyers abroad.

Film Factory’s slate includes action thriller “Inertia,” psychological thriller “The End,” cop thriller “Unit 7” and $15 million soccer animation pic “Foosball 3D,” directed by Juan Jose Campanella.

“The biggest success for a Spanish animation pic in the past was ‘Planet 51,’ ” Canales says. “Having Campanella is a big difference. Lots of animation pics may be technically perfect, but they don’t move people. This one will.”

“We need projects that can sell in every country,” Fuentes says. “We’re increasingly focusing on English-language titles budgeted between $5 million and $25 million. Distributors need high-end product that isn’t excessively expensive.”

Dreamcatchers, a sales-production-financing label launched at Cannes, is pre-selling young adult fantasy “Mariah Mundi” and Claudia Llosa’s “Don’t Cry, Fly.”

Silvia Iturbe of Latido Films focuses on marketing synergies between Spanish and Latin American films and also brokers co-production deals between both continents.

“There are huge cultural differences between films from the different Spanish-speaking countries, but to the rest of the world they’re viewed as similar.”

Latido’s current titles include Chile’s Sundance-winner “Violeta Went to Heaven” and Gerardo Herrero’s World War II thriller “Frozen Silence.” However there’s rising competition from French, U.K. and U.S. sales agents who try to cherrypick the best Spanish and Latin American titles.

Iturbe sums up, “Good films, everyone wants them.”

Cannes Daily Spotlight 2012: Spanish Cinema
Biz dodges crash landing | VOD paves new path to profitability | Creative finance | Int’l sales agents steer the market | Films in the fest, market | 10 to track
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