Teléfonica Studios director discusses the new European studio.

A new European studio is born. During the San Sebastián Film Festival, Telefónica announced the birth of Teléfonica Studios, a new company that will unite the production branches of the Spanish communications giant.

The new director, Axel Kuschevatzky, a former journalist who began working in production with the international success of The Secret In Their Eyes, discusses the new company, which has already unveiled its first 25 projects, including Foosball (Juan José Campanella), Grand Piano (Eugenio Mira), Wild Tales (Damián Szifrón) and El misterio de la felicidad (Daniel Burman). See news story here.

Why launch a new studio now?

We had a situation in which we had several different companies producing and we needed an umbrella to join all of them. We wanted to make it more visible how successful Telefónica is producing cinema. During the last year, we have sold five million tickets only in Argentina and we had big hits as Foosball, Thesis on a Homicide, The 7th Floor… We are now the biggest co-producer in Spain with South America and not everybody was aware of that and it is important to make us clearly known. When it came to the name, Telefonica has different branches, Movistar in Spain and Argentina among other countries, O2 in Germany, Vivo in Brazil etc Telefonica is the global brand so it made sense.

Where the company will be based?

Well, I live like a ping pong ball, all the time travelling between Buenos Aires and Madrid, but the centre will be Madrid where the headquarters of Telefonica are.

What will be the budget of the studio?

We don’t want to talk about budgets, we have announced 25 new projects. As a broadcaster, Telefonica is obliged by law in Spain to invest a 5% of their income in cinema and our budget will depend on each year results. We are never going to do less than that and probably more. In Argentina, there is no obligation and we have been producing there for years. We are a studio that has intention to have a global expansion, we want to work in every country we are already set as Mexico, Brazil, United Kingdom or Colombia. We will be watching very carefully where we can get tax subsidies and fiscal benefits.

What kind of projects are you interested in?

We believe in diversity, they might be big or not that big projects. We want to go towards a genre cinema with an auteur vision, we don’t want to make films that look like they are being directed by robots. I think Juan José Campanella films are a perfect example, they have this audience appeal but from the second frame you can feel that is a Campanella title. My background is project development and journalism and I trust a lot in director’s vision. And of course, a good script is always the most important thing for a good film.

How much will Telefonica Studios will be involved in each project?

There are two clear messages. First, this a long-term bet, we are here to stay and we don’t have immediate goals. Second, we are not only a finance company, we are going to be part of the creative process. We don’t want to put the money and run away. We seek projects with a specific identity.

You make this announcement when Spanish cinema is going through difficulties.

This launch is also an answer to the crisis. There is an element of bravery but I am Argentinian and we have actually grown in crisis. We are very sure that this will come to and end sooner or later. The key to success is always to try to work with talent. It’s impossible to have zero risk but when you have creativity, is more complicated to fail. We believe in people like Campanella, or Damián Szifrón or Rodrigo Cortés. We also think that Spanish broadcasters as Tele Cinco and Antena 3 have a great level of professionality and we will work close with them.

How is the Spain/South America co-production system working?

There is not a problem with the law or finance, there is a great path to go. The only limit has to do with the characteristics of every project. It’s a question of reaching the perfect balance. The role of a producer is to work closely with artists, to give them a fresh look, and we are confident that this creative interchange between continents is going to have great results as we have seen many times recently.

Is South America a territory with great growth potential?

It’s always interesting to see how family films are doing. In South America we are seeing a rise of 35% in this market. Numbers talk for themselves. In Europe it’s going slightly down, but we have confidence.

Telefonica is also a big player in Europe. What are your plans on the continent?

There is great cinema in Germany and UK and we want to be a part of that.

You are also going to produce TV shows. What is your approach?

We want to make series for subscription channels. HBO of course is always a great example but we will make it our own way. I think that is different to work for open broadcasters than paid plattforms. There is a different link between the consumer and the product.

You have been a journalist for a long time, does it have any influence in your point of view?

Journalism has given me the opportunity to know first hand how cinema works. I don’t believe in formulas to have success but I believe in approaches. When I interviewed Paul Greengrass and asked him about his documentary background he told me that this vision hasn’t changed. That is the same for me, this element of curiosity is the key for reaching and developing new projects. I have less prejudices now that I used to, I know how hard is to make a good film. What I most love is to go to a cinema and see how the audience responds.