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Argentine TV funds filmmakers

Pic production slowdown offset by pubcaster coin

BUENOS AIRES — Nicolas Batlle is a busy man, a good thing for any producer in Argentina, where 25% annual inflation and a tight broadcast market makes it hard to get by.

Batlle, who previously dealt mostly in film, this year produced school drama “Entre horas” and human rights docu “Espacio de memoria” through his Magoya Films, and executive-produced medical drama “El Paraiso” with production shingle Zoelle.

“It is much more than we’ve produced for TV in previous years,” he says. The smallscreen supplement came from a state initiative to finance indie programs to fill the slates of pubcasters — and eventually a state DTT network — spawning the production of 220 series in 2011; an estimated 300 are in the pipeline for this year.

“This is helping provide work while the film industry is slow,” says Vanessa Ragone, who produced Oscar-winning “The Secret in Their Eyes,” and is working on body-parts trafficking drama “Organ & Co.” for one of the pubcasters, most likely the biggest, Canal 7.

One of the reasons the pubcasting initiative is so welcome is that top broadcasters El Trece and Telefe produce much of their own content or have output deals with the likes of Ideas del Sur and Pol-ka. This leaves smaller indies to vie against heavyweights including Endemol, Eyeworks-Cuatro Cabezas and RGB Entertainment for leftover slots.

Pitching projects for public DTT channels shot up 50% in 2011 compared with 2010, says German Calvi, who coordinates the initiative at Incaa, the state film board.

The initiative also is spreading production coin from Buenos Aires to the provinces. “New producers and new content are going to appear,” says telenovela writer Jorge Maestro (“Sos mi vida”), who judged a DTT pitching session. “This is the road we need to take to develop talent.”

Many of the series explore educational, political and social themes that are tougher sells to commercial networks, adds writer Marcelo Camano (“Montecristo”).

Gonzalo Ferrari Nicolay is among the fresh talent helped by the initiative. After working in food and telecommunications, he got his break as a producer last year when he won a DTT commission for historical docu “The Broken Wing: The Life of Jorge Newbery,” about the Argentinian aviator, a project he had been shopping to History and other feevees, but which failed to take off when requests for pilots and trailers jacked up the financial risk. With state financing, the docu aired this year. The money isn’t huge but it helps him build a resume.

Profits may improve, too, as Incaa promotes the series at markets including Ven TV, a new sister event at the Dec. 2-5 Ventana Sur film market in Buenos Aires.

“Nobody is going to get rich on these series,” Batlle says. “But it’s worth it. Other voices are getting heard.”

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