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Bogota Buzzes With Projects, Shoot Talks

Colombia drives into English-language fare

BOGOTA – More than anything else, the 4th Bogota Audiovisual Market underscored the rapid re-positioning of Colombia’s burgeoning film industry.

Late last decade, Colombian movies were a mostly local affair with occasional festival hit breakouts. By mid-2013, at least the high-end of Colombia’s movie production sector is an emerging international film force looking to the U.S. for next phase growth.

This, moreover, is two-way traffic. As top production houses – RCN Cine, 64A Films, Rhayuela, 11:11 – drive into English-language fare, a clutch of U.S.-based directors, producers and screenwriters are reaching out to Colombia to shoot films there.

Kicking in this Jan, new Colombian Law 1556 rebates – reaching up to 40% of production and Colombian labor expenditures and 20% of spend on accommodation, catering and transport – look set to attract U.S. and Canadian shoots lensing in Colombia.

One of Colombia’s very biggest TV producers, RTI Producciones, used BAM to announce that, while continuing TV production – its telenovela/series production deals with Televisa runs through 2019 – it would be moving into making feature films.

“One way will be rendering services on movie shoots coming to Colombia,” said Pedro Davila, at RTI, which shot nearly 20 days on two “The Colbert Affairs” episodes.

It was Colombian movies, however, that made much of the news at BAM.

Late-life redemption tale “Practically Dead,” the latest film from Ruben Mendoza (“The Stoplight Society”), won BAM Screenings’ Cinecolor Colombia Prize, worth $15,000 in production services. Maria Gamboa’s “Mateo” received a special mention – a double whammy for Colombian producer Dia-Fragma, which produced both.

The biggest deal sealed at BAM was a five-horror-pic production pact closed between Jason Gurvitz’s L.A. based Green Dog Films and Diego Ramirez and Carlos Moreno’s 64A Films in Colombia (Variety, July 12, 2013).

Potential co-prod partners were also circling Rhayuela Cine’s English-language debut social issue horror movie “Devil’s Breath,” also unveiled at BAM (Variety, June 10, 2013), and one of its most talked-up projects.

Eager to seek markets abroad as ever more Colombian films – 23 in 2012 – compete for domestic auds in a mid-sized if fast-growing Latin-American domestic market, Colombia’s drive into English-language fare and productions with the U.S. have become a cavalcade.

Deals cut multiple ways, however.

Joel H. Wyman (“Dead Man Down,” “Fringe,” “The Mexican”) has written the remake of “El Paramo,” said Steven Grisales at Rhayuela, which produced the Wild Bunch-sold original. Scott LaStaiti is currently packaging the above-the-line elements. The remake is scheduled to go into production at the end of 2013, he added.

IM Global’s Octane has initiated sales on Peter Facinelli-starrer “Gallows Hill,” an English-language chiller shot near Bogota, helmed by Spaniard Victor Garcia, produced by Peter Bloch at A Bigger Boat, David Higgins at Launchpad and Andrea Chung and exec produced by RCN Cine’s E-NNOVVA Films, RCN Cine’s Julian Giraldo said during BAM.

Results encourage RCN Cine to produce more English-language genre, Giraldo added.

Based out of Miami shingle CineStation Ent. rather than in Colombia, Colombian helmer Felipe Echeverria, along with producing partner Maggie Drayton, tapped Simon Beltran at Colombia’s Proyeccion Films to co-produce its first feature psychological thriller “El empantanado” (The Muddy, pictured), selected for the 2012 IFP Narrative Film Labs. English-language, though starring Diego Cadavid as a Colombian post-kidnap victim, it screened as a work-in-progress at BAM.

In another U.S-Colombia talent tie-up, screenwriting lecturer Robert McKee and Colombian helmer Miguel Urrutia have inked for Urrutia to helm Mckee’s screenplay “Madness” (Variety, July 15, 2013).

The second most populous Spanish-speaking country in the world, Colombia has a lot going for it. The guerrilla insurgency, Latin America’s oldest, is now engaged in a peace process. The number of multinational companies located in Bogota rose from 492 in 2002 to 1,423 last year, said Juan Carlos Jimenez, at Invest in Bogota.

Enjoying newly found prosperity, the economy expanded 6% in 2011, though peso appreciation and suffering sectors – oil, mining – have now slowed growth, down to around 4%. Bogota still ranked fifth of Latin American Cities of the Future, per FDI Magazine, Jimenez pointed out.

BAM itself is expanding fast. “It was amazing to see so many colleagues at BAM that I hadn’t seen before,” said Sandro Fiorin, at L.A.-based FiGa Films, who recognized he was circling a Colombian title.

Selling Colombia’s often micro-budgeted English-language movies on the international market may be a challenge, however.

“Given the saturation of titles in the international market, the next required step is for some of our projects to become more ambitious, to attract more international talent, cast in particular,” said Michel Ruben at Dynamo, a member of Participant Media’s Participant PanAmerica Latin American production alliance.

One way to scale-up may be international co-production. An influx of foreign shoots into Colombia could facilitate this.

To date, the Colombian Film Commission has received one rebate submission. Financing on other potential international shoots in Colombia is still being packaged. But major Colombian players are making moves. Davila, who will oversee RTI’s production services for foreign producers, said that RTI had registered with the Colombian Ministry of Culture as a film services provider.

Another Colombian indie production giant, Fox Telecolombia which produced and shot Fox’s “Mental” at its Bogota studios, and serviced location work for “Burn Notice: The Fall of Sam Axe,” is in talks to provide services on a dozen U.S. movies. Negotiations are down to detail on three, said Virginia Cooney, Fox Telecolombia’s film production house, Colombo Films.

English-language production didn’t totally dominate BAM, however. Biz at the mart, which ran July 8-12, in fact ran a broad gamut:

*France’s Lazennec and Colombia’s Evidencia Producciones and Septima Films have set October shoot dates for “Gente de bien,” a Bogota-set father-son drama and “above all an intimate film about personal relationships” said its director Franco Lolli whose shorts won Clermont Ferrand and played Directors’ Fortnight.

*Thierry Lenouvel’s Cine-Sud Promotion signed on at BAM to co-produce Ciro Guerra’s “Embrace of the Serpent,” his follow-up to Cannes Un Certain Regard hit “The Wind Journeys.”

*Octavio Nadal’s Buenos Aires-based Aura Films have taken international sales rights to Nestor Montalbano’s mystical Andean village comedy “For a Fistful of Hair,” produced by Argentina’s Salta Una Rana and Elegua and Bhakti Films in Colombia, Bhakti producer Carolina Herrera said at BAM.

*Diversifying ever more heavily into TV, CMO Producciones, producer of smash hit movie “Sonar no cuesta nada,” has seen TV series “La Promesa” and “Made in Cartagena” sold to more than 20 countries, including multi-territory deals on both skeins with global TV website Viki for Australia, Japan, Korea and other South-East Asia territories. “La Promesa” inaugurated new Univision channel UniMas Network.

*Ivan D. Gaona, director of the Caracol/Sony Pictures Television TV series “El Laberinto,” is set to direct “Guilty Men,” a groundbreaking Colombian Western set in Colombia’s Santander sugar cane plantations and produced by Diana Perez Mejia at La Banda del Carro Rojo Producciones.

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