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Spain Reaches Out for Amigos to Partner in Film Production

Movie companies look for helping hand overseas

The Spaniards are coming.

They have little choice. The number of big pics going into production is plunging, so top Spanish movie companies are reaching out abroad for sizable, sell-able movies to co-produce and sell.

For foreign companies, the trend opens up a slew of possibilities, such as Spanish production co-finance and sales agents’ minimum guarantees.

The  outreach will allow more foreign companies to tap into a major lure:  Selling to one of the world’s fastest-growing big movie markets, Latin America.

“Ten years ago, Latin America was dead and Western Europe very strong. Now it’s pretty well the other way round,” said Geraldine Gonard, at Imagina Intl. Sales.

There have been a flurry of recent Spanish outreach deals. On Friday, Barcelona-based Film Factory announced it had taken international rights to “Relatos salvajes,” a six-part omnibus helmed by one of Argentina’s most talked-about crossover talents, Daniel Szifron (“The Pretender,” “On Probation”), about people driven to flashpoint by their own ambition or the world’s inequalities. The helmer said the movie taps into his passion for the 1989 pic “New York Stories” and Steven Spielberg’s “Amazing Stories.”

In further Friday announcements, Latido unveiled a Cannes slate that includes “Black Diamonds,” Spaniard Miguel Alcantud’s tale of an African soccer star wannabe; “Thesis From a Homicide,” from Argentina’s Hernan Goldfrid; “Puppy Love,” Belgian Delphine Lehericey’s coming-of-age tale; and  “Jungle,” a tale of a bickering couple on a cannibal island that grossed a smash $16.0 million in Russia since its Jan. 17 bow.

Meanwhile, Imagina will rep U.K. production “The Day of the Flowers,” from John Roberts, about two Scottish sisters’ reconciliation.

Capitalized and cosmopolitan, French companies have sold films from around the world for more than a decade. At next month’s Cannes, Studiocanal reps Joel and Ethan Coen’s “Inside Llewyn Davis,” while Wild Bunch has James Gray’s “The Immigrant” (formerly titled “Lowlife”).

But Spain?

Spain’s TV ad market shrank a huge 19% to 1.8 billion euros ($2.35 billion) in 2012, per Infoadex.

“Spanish broadcasters’ money is driving the industry. But networks are thinking twice before green-lighting new projects, while sales agents need a full slate for Cannes. Argentina produces 140 films a year,” said Film Factory’s Vicente Canales.

The number of really sellable indie movies is declining. “A film either sells well or almost not at all. There’s no midway point,” Canales added.

“Spain’s film industry is producing fewer films, many aren’t that big. Having bridged to Latin America, we want to extend that bridge to Europe,” said Latido’s Silvia Iturbe.

So do many Spanish producers. And Spanish audience tastes are evolving.

“Relatos salvajes” is co-produced by Pedro and Agustin Almodovar’s El Deseo; they wanted to work with Szifron, “a satirical genius,” in Agustin Almodovar’s words.

But the cast, which includes Ricardo Darin, Dario Grandinetti, Leonardo Sbaraglia and Diego Peretti, all name actors in Spain, is “perfect for both sides of the Atlantic,” said producer Esther Garcia, at El Deseo.

Tying down foreign productions, Spanish companies are also working a two-way street. On “Relatos,” Warner Bros. has bought rights to Latin America. On many films, they remain free.

Set in Cuba, “Day of the Flowers” is not so far from the Spanish films that are usually handled by Imagina Intl. Sales, having a Latino touch.

“We want to take on foreign movies, especially ones that will appeal to our portfolio of clients in Latin America,” said Geraldine Gonard, at Imagina. “We are very well established in terms of Latin America and Latino markets. That’s why production companies are coming to us.”

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