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IFF Panama: Argentina’s Gema Juarez Allen Talks About Co-Producing at Latin America Panel

Lecture comes as co-production builds in Latin America

Gema Suarez Allen
Photo by Martin Dale

PANAMA CITY — One of the strong suits of this year’s 5th Panama International Film Festival, which wrapped Wednesday, has been the organization of high-level panels dedicated to key issues facing Latin American filmmakers.

The panel, Your Project in Motion: Co-production and Financing, featured Argentine producer, Gema Juarez Allen and Panamanian producers and directors, Delfina Vidal (“Caja 25”), Annie Canavaggio (“Breaking the Wave”) and Abner Benaim (“Invasion”).

Panel’s main focus was a detailed presentation by Juarez Allen on the pros and cons of co-producing. She began by explaining that her initial activity as a producer focused on documentaries and has now expanded to fiction projects, such as “Road to La Paz,” that screened at IFF Panama, and “Oscuro Animal” which won four prizes at Mexico’s Guadalajara International Film Festival in March 2016, for Best Film, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Cinematography and has been sold to 7 territories.

Juarez Allen enjoyed an international breakthrough in 2011, by co-producing Victor Kossakovsky’s “Vivan las Antipodas,” a big poetic geo-documentary which played in Venice. She is one of Latin America’s most active producers in the field of international co-production. She provided a detailed account of the networks that she uses in order to develop international co-productions and explained that her participation in workshops in Europe, such as the EAVE Producers Workshop and Eurodoc, has played a key role in establishing her international connections and constituted a turning point in her career. For example, in relation to “Oscuro Animal,” she met the Greek co-producer, Boo Productions, and Germany’s Ingmar Trost, of Sutor Kolonko, at EAVE.

Juarez Allen began by emphasizing that producers should be highly-organized and ensure that they fully develop their projects before presenting them to partners and funding decision markers. She also emphasized the importance of finding not only the right co-production partners, but also a savvy sales agent that can provide easier access to markets and festivals.

She highlighted the importance of choosing the right festival to premiere a project since it’s virtually impossible to premiere a pic in a small festival and then get a larger fest to screen the film. She also stated that it’s important to explore the work-in-progress sidebars that now exist at most Latin American festivals, including IFF Panama’s Primera Mirada competition.

Another key point in her presentation was that for documentary productions is essential to cover the budget during the financing stage, rather than investing one’s own personal equity or money from third parties, since it’s extremely difficult to recoup investments in documentaries.

When it comes to choosing co-production partners, she emphasized that it’s important to find partners interested in the same type of films, with whom there is a relationship of trust and who have access to local funds in their respective territory, especially given that few projects are funded in each country per year.

She said that the best opportunities to find partners include festivals, markets and above all workshops, revealing that most of her coproduction partners came from the EAVE and Eurodoc workshops.

In terms of leading international markets, she provided a quick overview of events for feature films – including Cannes, Rotterdam’s Cinemart, Berlin’s European Film Market, Ventana Sur and Guadalajara – and for documentaries – starting with IDFA Forum and Hotdocs, followed by Meetmarket Sheffield and Docmontevideo.

Beyond EAVE and Eurodoc, which she says are very open to Latin American projects, the workshops she also identified included Docmontevideo, Guadalajara, TYPA, Cinergia Lab, IDFA Summer Academy, Chiledoc, Berlin Talent Campus, Documentary Campus and Morelia Lab.

In terms of international funding sources, she identified Ibermedia and also the “Plus” schemes associated to funds such as Creative Europe, World Cinema Fund, Hubert Bals Fund and the IDFA Bertha fund. Other funds she highlighted took in the Fonds d’Aide aux Cinémas du Monde, the Sundance documentary fund, Visions Sud Est, the Tribeca Film Institute, the Doha Film Institute and Sorfond, for co-productions with Norway.

Juarez Allen explained that for “Oscuro Animal” she accessed funding from the Hubert Bals Fund and World Cinema Fund, and for “Invasion” and “The Road to la Paz” from the Doha Film Institute.

State funding sources in Latin America include DICINE, in Panama, INCAA in Argentina, Proimagenes in Colombia, Brazil’s Fundo Setorial do Audiovisual, the Fondo Audiovisual in Chile, and IMCINE in Mexico. Juarez Allen emphasized that the selection criteria used by these national funds varies considerably, and praised the activity of Proimagenes in Colombia, which only finances around 14 films per year but last year had three pics at Cannes.

She went on to explain how over the last three-to-four -years many national funds have created specific lines of funding for co-productions, through bilateral agreements, such as that between Brazil’s ANCINE and Argentina’s INCAA, which grants $250,000 per pic supported. She stated that as a result of such bilateral agreements Brazil, for example, is now a key partner for all of Latin America.

Juarez Allen completed her presentation by revealing a mini-kit for one of her projects and identified the key elements –  overview, synopsis, director’s statement, brief treatment, financial plan, budget, production timetable and bio-filmographies.