The Screen International-backed conference reveals the chasm between producers and private financiers in Spain.
Spanish producers branded banks “clueless” about the world of cinema, while financiers hit back at producers calling them “too demanding” at the Spanish Film Institute (ICAA) and Audiovisual SGR Film Finance Conference in Madrid.
The conference, which is supported by Screen International, intended to help to improve relations between producers and private financiers at a time when public subsidies, TV investment and ancillary market revenues are drying up.
In a brutal early blow, major Spanish producer Gerardo Herrero of Tornasol Films told a packed auditorium that “the majority of banks in Spain know nothing about film or how to invest in it. They are just refusing to give discounts on loans for what they consider a risky business without any prior knowledge of the industry.”
Interestingly, it was a fellow producer (but also keen financier) Stephen Margolis of UK-based Future Films who retorted that “it is not a producer’s right to expect the banks to just give them money because they need it”.
He added: “Producers need to build relations with them first and get them to realise there is money to be made from investing in more commercial films.”
Daniel Baur, from German production and sales outfit K5 Media Group, even suggested to ScreenDaily that “banks could and should again provide GAAP financing, despite previous failed attempts in Germany and the UK. They just need to assess the risks better this time around.”
The Spanish banks themselves were conspicuous by their absence with only one woman, hidden at the back raising her hand when guests were asked if there were any bankers in attendance.
Meanwhile, running a rule over proceedings and trying to maintain a sense of calm were the lawyers who came out in force to discuss the technicalities of bank loans and other sources of private finance.
David Quli of London-based firm Wiggin suggested that producers and financiers should share the burden of investment more equally.
“So far the risk of investment has been the sole burden of the financier,” said Quli. “I propose that the producers receive less upfront, but then there be a profit pool which kicks in once the film breaks even that could be split between the financiers and producers.”
With this proposed model, producers would be incentivised to make bigger and better films that take more money at the box office, and financiers get greater rewards for their input in films and would re-invest money in projects in the future.
There was also a strong call for more Spanish co-productions. At present, more than 300 films are made in Spain every year and around 80% are solely Spanish productions and a large number fail to make an impact at the box office.
The conference ended on a reasonably optimistic note with sales agents arguing that pre-sales are back on the rise, albeit slowly.
“Last year’s Cannes was definitely a low point in terms of sales business,” said Marina Fuentes of 6 Sales. “But the market is definitely picking up and we saw more deals done at this year’s Cannes and Berlin.”