The organizers of the Los Cabos Film Festival keep trying to come up with another way to describe the November event beyond “the Cannes of Latin America,” but the comparison fits so well, they just might have to give up.
The five-day festival at the tip of Baja California – just a two-hour flight from Los Angeles – has quickly become a relaxing place for Hollywood power players and their international colleagues to talk co-productions, acquistions and future partnerships after a hectic AFM.
TV is a major focus this year, with reps from Netflix, HBO, SundanceTV and others attending. Plus, Amazon Studios exec Scott Foundas served on one of the film juries. The TV execs have their eyes on finished series like Argentina’s “Chromo,” series in the works such as Canada’s “Merciful” as well as feature films for digital platforms.
With filmmakers also on the west coast for the AFI Festival last week, the charter flight from L.A. to Cabo is full of people catching up on scripts and planning upcoming shoots. Each year, CAA’s Micah Green brings a number of agents and producers to the fest. The American contingent included execs from Annapurna, A24, Fox Searchlight, the Weinstein Co., UTA, WME and dozens more companies.
Liam Neeson, Ewan McGregor, Jared Leto and Alexander Skarsgard were among the actors who came to the festival, but the focus tends to be more on the art and the business of film than on celebrities.
“It’s so productive,” explains Canadian producer Nicole Irene Dyck, marveling that it took a trip to Mexico to bring together two Canadians for a meeting. “We had amazing meetings,” agrees “Picking Cotton” director Jessica Sanders.
The official Meet Your Neighbors and Discovery co-production forums yield fruitful talks – Dyck closed a production deal with Canada, for instance – but festival director Alonso Aguilar explains that “The real Los Cabos Film Festival happens behind the curtains.”
This year, many of the execs were holed up at the stunning, tranquil Marquis Los Cabos hotel. “That’s why we put these people together in the same hotels, we want them to socialize,” says Aguilar.
And with Latin American and especially Mexican filmmakers are increasingly in demand around the world, it’s also the place where talent is spotted and signed. Two years ago, Jose Manuel Cravioto was signed by Paradigm while at Cabo with “Mexico’s Most Wanted,” and then went to Sundance with “Reversal, “for example.
XYZ Films’ Nate Bolotin says that the key difference at Los Cabos is the way it has aligned with key industry executives and filmmakers, which enabled it to quickly make a serious name for itself. “The undeniably breathtaking setting” is also a big draw, Bolotin admits.
For Mexican producers, there’s huge potential in tapping into the massive Spanish-speaking U.S., and Aguilar says the fest can also help foster more commercial projects. “Instructions Not Included” actor Eugenio Derbez was there to talk about his new film, “How To Be a Latin Lover.” “Club de Cuervos” helmer Gaz Alazraki also used Los Cabos to announce his next, period comedy “Alomst Paradise.” Both projects are very high-end by Mexican standards.
“We need to find a key to open the Latin American market in the States,” Aguilar says.
The scenic coastline and high-powered execs aren’t the only thing Cabo has in common with Cannes. Just as it sometimes seems easier to schedule drinks with a contact at the Majestic Bar than all year long in Los Angeles, the same goes for Cabo. So several bizzers said they managed to find time to meet up with people from their own city who were harder to pin down at home.
Now, the challenge is to preserve the intimacy of the festival while carefully growing its stature. “We can invite more producers, financiers and agents and make this a really classy, industry pro festival,” says Fabrica Cine’s Gaston Pavlovich.
“There are so many seeds planted in Los Cabos,” says Aguilar. “They grow the whole year.”