Telefonica Studios Pushes Production Investment in Argentina and Spain (EXCLUSIVE)

Telefe drives into new productions, Telefonica commits to projects in Spain

Telefonica Studios Pushes Production Investment Argentina

BUENOS AIRES –Rolling off stellar results in Argentina, Telefonica Studios, the worldwide film production-distribution operation of giant Spanish telco Telefonica, is investing via Argentine broadcast network Telefe in new productions by Santiago Mitre, Juan Taratuto and Miguel Cohan.

In Spain, adopting a similar investment policy, it has already taken equity in “Tadeo Jones 2,” the sequel to one of Europe’s most successful animation films this decade.

It will now co-finance “Kamikaze” and “Perdiendo el norte,” said Telefonica Digital’s director of int’l film production, Axel Kuschevatzky, who also heads up Telefonica Studios.

The string of new investments gives Telefonica Studios one of the biggest production slates of any company in Spain or Latin America, with the umbrella org making around 15 films a year.

In both Spain and Argentina, Telefonica is required by law to invest in or buy local movies, eight a year, for example, in Argentina.

Its announcement of new co-productions comes as Telefe, owned by Telefonica, has taken equity and free-to-air rights for Argentina to the six highest-grossing Argentine films of 2013, with a total Argentine box office gross of $38.9 million: Juan Jose Campanella’s “Foosball” ($14.3 million); “Corazon de leon,” starring Guillermo Francella ($10.6 million); “Thesis On a Homicide,” ($6.1 million) and “The 7th Floor,” both with Ricardo Darin, and “Wakolda,” Lucia Puenzo’s Argentine Oscar entry ($2.3 million).

In all, Telefe co-produced movies sold 6.3 million tickets in Argentina this year, as Argentine films hit a recent high of a 17.6% domestic market share. Telefe films rep 89% of Argentine cinema’s box office, Kuschevatzky said.

Mitre’s “The Student” is still talked about as one of the strongest Latin American feature debuts of this decade.

Produced by La Union de los Rios, France’s Full House, Telefe and Ignacio Viale, Mitre’s next is “a thriller and moral tale which deals with politics and gender. It’s a film that will surprise people very much, like ‘The Student’ did before. People will talk about this picture,” Kuschevatzky said.

Taratuto is adapting “Papeles en el viento,” from a novel by Eduardo Sacheri. Juan Jose Campanella adapted another Sacheri novel in “The Secret in Their Eyes.”

Sacheri and Taratuto are writing the screenplay.

The story of three friends who have to manage the career of the worst soccer player in the world,” “Papeles” is “a warm story about friendship and passion, a constant in Sacheri’s writing,” Kuschevatzky said.

Miguel Cohan, director of “No Return,” is now in post on “Betibu,” an adaptation of Argentine Claudia Pineiro’s novel, which is set up at Argentina’s Haddock Films and Spain’s Tornasol Films, co-producers already of “The Secret in Their Eyes” and Viggo Mortensen-starrer “Everybody Has a Plan.”

Argentina has been a test-ground for Spain, Kuschevtasky said.

Co-produced by AtresmediaCine, “Kamikaze,” from former TV writer-producer Alex Pina (“El barco,” “Los hombres de Paco”), stars Alex Garcia and Veronica Echegui in a suicide bomber drama thriller.

Helmed by Ignacio Garcia Velilla (“Que se mueran los feos), “Perdiendo el norte” turns on corruption and crisis in Spain.

“We got to this place after years of developing working relationships. The results didn’t come out of the blue,” Kuschevatzky commented at Ventana Sur.

Building and maintaining relationships is one key investment tenet: “Foosball” is Telefe’s second collaboration with Campanella, who produced two seasons of “El hombre de tu vida” for the broadcaster; “Thesis” is the third Telefe film with BD Cine.

Another philosophy is sharing risk: Both “Wakolda” and another Telefe-backed movie, Pablo Fendrik’s upcoming Amazon Western “El Ardor,” with Gael Garcia Bernal and Alice Braga, are what Kuschevatzky terms “Latin American international pictures. The BAC Films-sold “El Ardor” is produced by Magma Cine, Brazil’s Bananeira Filmes, Mexico’s Canana and France’s Manny Films. It is also the first Latin American film co-financed by Participant PanAmerica.

“It would be too risky if the weight were all on our shoulders,” Kuschevatzky said.

“We’re working on a canvas where movie production is highly polarized. You either have tentpoles or tadpoles,” Kuschevatzky said. “It seems there’s nothing in the middle.”

That’s where Telefonica Studios wants to be, “counter-programming” studio fare.