LOS CABOS, Mexico — Labo, Mexico’s top facilities house, is entering film and TV production in Mexico via the creation of a production division, headed by Diana Cobos, leveraging its post-production business and geographic footprint, now reaching from Mexico to the U.S., Colombia, Central America, Bolivia and Ecuador.
Content produced can be anything from small formats for YouTube to theatrical features, said Labo CEO Charles Barthe. The production ramp-up comes as Labo is announcing a new industry award, a Labo Post Prize, to be given from 2018 at a Work in Progress competition to a Mexican movie production or TV pilot.
First film up is minority domestic co-production “Amor en cursivas,” a romantic comedy from Carlos Algara, co-director of psychological thriller “Veronica.” Labo will also lead produce an as-yet-untitled documentary about the human impact of the transition from 35mm film to digital.
“It’s a story close to Labo’s heart, something we went through. Beyond the technical part, we saw a lot of human stories – people whose life changed entirely,” Cobos said.
Labo will also invest in stories or scripts, putting up development money. “We want better movies: This is the way to start,” Cobos said. Labo aims to partner in two-to-three co-productions, first in film, though Cobos did not rule out TV in the mid-future, she added.
News of the production ramp-up comes just two months after Labo and the U.K.’s Motion Picture Solution (MPS) announced the creation of MPS Labo, a Los Angeles-based j.v. facility which targets small independent producers and distributors, much like in Mexico and the U.K., Barthe said.
MPSLabo has been providing mastering, DCP and KDM services to a wide array of clients in the U.S., such as on “Columbus,” distributed by the Sundance Institute and Michael Tuckman Media, whose roll out has hiked from two copies to 80-plus screens. MPSLabo has managed distribution for some Park Circus titles, both in the U.S. and Canada, and is a DCP provider for the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian. It has just completed its first release for Universal Pictures, a limited release for 150 theaters.
Labo continues to provide targeted post-production work. Recent Labo post-prod work takes in color correction for Lemon Films for Seasons 1, 2, 3 and 4 of “Sr. Avila,” HBO Latin America’s longest-running TV drama. Labo also handled Season 4 on-set Dailies and color management.
Labo’s growth cuts several ways, said Labo CEO Charles Barthe. One is From Record to Play, a complete workflow designed for producers, from services on set, such as data and color management, to final project delivery. Labo has used the one-stop-shot process on Season 1 of one of Latin America’s new series of note, “Run Coyote Run” a U.S.-Mexico border comedy from Fox Networks Group Latin America which ran up big ratings in Mexico with its Season 1 finale.
Deployment of From Record to Play plays off Labo’s U.S. experience. For Barthe, “our U.S customers are pretty much used to the one-stop-shop model. In some ways the big players have shaped the way customers see their needs of being serviced.”
Labo already supplies a range of services to distributors. Using From Record to Play, “we reduce delivery times, increase quality and accountability and the volume allows us to make very attractive packages,” Barthe added.
Following on its launch of operations in Colombia, Labo has now bowed offices in Central America, Bolivia and Ecuador.
Meanwhile, Labo’s heritage business is growing fast. Restoration work includes “Cristobal Colón” and “El alma del maiz,” both for the Fundación Patrimonio Fílmico Colombiano; “El retrato de Jesús” and “Se permuta,” for Cuba’s Icaic film institute; and six features for Daniel Birman’s Alameda Films in Mexico, including Arturo Ripstein’s “Tiempo de morir,” seen at last year’s Cannes Classics.
Film preservation work takes in “Paterson” – an inter-negative, sound negative and three positive prints for the U.S. – and “Dowson City,” where Labo supplied an inter-negative, sound negative and five positive prints for the U.S. Labo is also taking on more general work, enrolling its PIQL Longterm Data Preservation, such as for preservation of documents from Mexico’s Archivo Feneral de la Nación and warehouse duties on the World Arctic Archive.
Other new Labo offices outside Mexico will be announced shortly, Barthe said.
Expansion outside Mexico and integrated service provision, hiking the number of services provided, puts us in a “good position to leverage our strength with customers and volume with third-party logistic vendors at a regional scale,” Barthe said.
Launching as producers will also allow Labo to ring the changes on its From Record to Play offer and, in the future, board projects as either a producer, tapping potential subsidy coin from multiple territories, or as a service provider, or as both.
In one example of full-service provision, on “Elizabeth Harvest” from AG Studios in Colombia, U.S. client Automatic Ent. received on-set DIT services and workflow design from Bogotá’s Labo Colombia, color correction from MPSLabo and quality check and deliveries via Labo in Mexico.