Mexico’s Imcine Bows Soft Money Schemes for TV Series, Latin American Distribution

TV development coin in response to feeding fever for premium TV series in Mexico

Mexico’s Imcine Launches Soft Money Schemes
Photo by Bernardo Maldonado

LOS CABOS, Mexico — As Mexico’s burgeoning SVOD sector turns to its film industry to create much of it premium content, the Mexican Film Institute, IMCINE, is turning to TV – launching a new subsidy line to address the major challenge of scripted TV production: Development and writing.

From Tuesday, producers in Mexico can apply for funding for drama series and mini-series development, be that fiction, documentaries and animation.

The initiative takes a TV fiction bull by the horns. In SVOD series production, Mexico leads Latin America. Televisa’s Blim, which launched in February, plans five-to-seven original series a year. This May, cut-price ClaroVideo, owned by Carlos Slim’s American Movil, presented its second original series production, psychological thriller “The Brotherhood, co-produced with Colombia’s 11:11 Films. Netflix has made three original series orders from Mexico: “Club de Cuervos.” “Ingobernable,” and now an untitled dark dysfunctional family comedy from movie director Manolo Caro.

With such a feeding fever for TV fiction, funding does not seem so much of a problem, beyond the huge challenge of producers’ retiring rights to series they produce. The quality of the series and Mexico’s ability to compete on a world stage will depend on the standard of screenplays.

Development aid will go to series made for digital platforms and broadcasters, Sanchez said. Latter could be key: Limited broadband capacity, poverty and payment problems mean that OTT audiences are still limited in Mexico. There is a danger of public TV networks missing out on premium entertainment, leaving many Mexicans unable to reap the consumer benefits of the drive into upscale TV entertainment.

The amount of TV series development funding may be limited – around $1 million. But the development forms part of a creeping sea-change in public support systems in Mexico. Launched mid-last decade, fiscal incentives have now reached Pesos700 million ($33.8 million) a year in Mexico: Pesos 650 million ($31.4 million) for Mexican movie production, Pesos 50 million ($2.4 million) for the distribution of Mexican films in Mexico. There is no suggestion the tax breaks or direct subsidy lines will be abandoned. But, as in Europe, according to a European Audiovisual Observatory report, “Public Financing For Film and Television Content,” most new schemes, whether up-and-running or hoped-for, are either tax incentives or a diversification of funding activities:

*IMCINE will update its bilateral co-production treaty with Italy, while signing first-time accords with Switzerland and Flanders.

*Holding down co-production funds for movies made with Brazil and Argentina, IMCINE has also inked two mutual distribution funds with both countries, allowing for two movies a year from each of the three countries to benefit from funding.

*Sanchez hopes to reinstitute fiscal facilities for foreign productions shooting in Mexico, he said.

*A recent report has reviewed Mexico’s film tax break system, including its checks to prevent or minimise potential abuse. That said, “Nobody is questioning Mexico’s use of the tax breaks for film. There’s a clear consciousness that they are the industry’s motor,” Sanchez said. Instead, IMCINE is pushing for more movies which qualify for tax breaks to come from outside Mexico City, such as from Guadalajara.

In other news, IMCINE is advancing on discussions about events to mark Mexico’s selection by the Berlinale’s European Film Market as Guest Country.

The Mexican film industry may, however, now have multiple cause for celebration. Sanchez said on Saturday he had been remiss about using the word “industry” when talking about Mexican filmmaking. Now, however, he can use the term.

“Production volume is increasing. Producers no longer say: ‘I’m arthouse,’ ‘I’m mainstream.’ They’re constructing a diverse industry which is what we’re interested in having,” Sanchez said.

He met with MPAA president Chris Dodd at last month’s Morelia Festival. Hollywood’s studios look to be investing ever more heavily in Mexican film and TV. Its agencies are signing up a growing number of top directors and actors.

“I think events at Los Cabos shows that we are now more mature, recognising the complexity of the industry which seems now to be lifting off. We need these alliances to strengthen our market and break out into others,” Sanchez said.

He added: “But we still have to protect a diversity of opinions and perspectives, encouraging the existence of small films and documentaries that talk about reality.”