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Pablo and Juan de Dios Larrain’s Fabula Sets Up U.S. Company (EXCLUSIVE)

Pablo and Juan de Dios Larrain open offices in Los Angeles under their Fabula banner as they move into production on Sebastián Lelio’s “Gloria,” with Julianne Moore

SAN SEBASTIAN – Fabula, one of Latin America’s high-profile producers, run by “Jackie” director Pablo Larraín and producer Juan de Dios Larraín, has set up a U.S. company to make English-language movies by its filmmakers from Latin America and Europe.

News of the move comes two months before Fabula, to date based just out of Santiago, Chile, goes into production on its first full-on U.S. project, a remake of Sebastián Lelio’s “Gloria,” starring Julianne Moore and directed by Lelio himself. Pre-production and production on “Gloria” will be carried out in the U.S., and post-production in Santiago, Pablo Larrain told Variety from Chile. Juan de Dios Larraín has relocated to Los Angeles to head up the new production company, called Fabula, whose offices open Monday.

The U.S production base is a milestone for one of Latin America’s most admired production companies, whose marquee directors Larraín and Lelio have already crossed into U.S. filmmaking. It is Participant Media’s most regular production partner in the region, with Jeff Skoll’s company backing or co-producing Fabula titles such as Gael Garcia Bernal-starrer “No” (Participant’s first move into foreign-language production) and “Neruda,” both directed by Pablo Larraín, and Lelio’s “A Fantastic Woman,” one of the most talked-up titles at this year’s Berlinale. Fabula is one of the only companies in Latin America whose major movies consistently go on to seven-figure box office receipts, in dollar terms, in key international markets.

Outside Fabula, Lelio has just made his first English-language movie, “Disobedience,” starring Rachel Weisz and Rachel McAdams, produced by Element Pictures, LC6, Braven Films, and backed by Film4 and FimNation Ent.

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Fabula will, however, produce not only titles from Larraín, Lelio and other Chilean directors but also offer itself as a production base for other non-American directors who are seeking to move into English-language filmmaking but wary of losing total control of their projects in the U.S.

“For multiple reasons, there is a lot of talent that has trouble connecting in the U.S. with the production system,” said Pablo Larraín. “We would look to find a path for a filmmaker and his company coming to the U.S. to make a movie where he or she will also be owners of what they do.”

The Larraín brothers have initiated talks with directors in Europe and Latin America with a view to producing with them their English-language films. Fabula would look to own part of these projects’ copyrights. 

“The soul of the U.S. industry is to own your catalog, to control and own everything. That’s not the way it works outside the U.S.” Juan de Dios Larraín said, adding that Fabula aimed to create a “combined” model where “we will share the ideas, the copyright, the decisions, the risk.” “Making films in English, you have access to great talent, new financial resources and a very big market.”

Fabula’s envisaged way of working in the U.S. will be partly in line with what happened with “Jackie,” on which “Darren [Aronofsky] was very supportive and generous and gave me total control of the film, which is something I will always respect because I think that’s how you do it,” Pablo Larrain said.

He added: “I did ‘Jackie’ with Wild Bunch and Why Not in Paris and Protozoa, Darren and Scott Franklin’s company. But I wanted to have Fabula involved and we finally became producers on the film. We did it together.”

Pablo Larraín is currently attached to direct “True American,” developed by Annapurna. Here Fabula will take an associate producer credit, Juan de Dios Larraín said.

In Chile, Fabula has tapped Augusto Matte, who produces for top Chilean film company Jirafa (“Much Ado About Nothing,” “Parable of the Blind Christ”), as general manager of its Spanish-language cinema production. Matte will also continue to produce for Jirafa.

Fabula has five Spanish-language projects in development, some ready to go, he added, citing first-feature projects from Chilean directors Gaspar Antilo, submitted for Chilean subsidy funding, and Sebastián Radic. The company will now be organized along three production lines: cinema; TV, which is rapidly expanding; and commercials.

Of recent Fabula movies, “A Fantastic Woman,” Chile’s Oscar entry, co-produced with Participant Media and sold to Sony Pictures Classics, has played Telluride and Toronto before opening San Sebastián’s Horizontes Latinos on Friday.

“A Fantastic Woman” shows “what a movie can do. It’s social impact makes sense of movie-making,” said Juan de Dios Larraín. Variety described the movie as an “exquisitely compassionate portrait of a trans woman whose mourning for a lost lover is obstructed at every turn by individual and institutional prejudice.”

An unsettling and dark coming-of-age fairy tale, Marialy Rivas’ “Princesita,” a second Fabula 2017 production, turns on a 12-year-old girl who is raised by a New Age cult leader to carry a holy child fathered by him. She rebels, first haltingly, then dramatically. “Princesita” was picked up by IM Global sales company Mundial in the run-up to Toronto, where it world-premiered. “We’re ready for Marialy’s next project,” Larraín said.

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