An innovative way of tackling piracy in Peru was among the topics up for discussion at a panel hosted by Ventana Sur genre sidebar Blood Window on Wednesday.
Peruvian director Dorian Fernández-Moris told the audience in a session moderated by Screen International US editor Jeremy Kay how the counterfeiters wasted no time going after his first film Cementario General.
“My movie opened and next day they were selling my movie at the traffic lights for $2,” said Fernández-Moris. “I wanted to kick them but I understand this is part of a huge machine.”
What happened next was even more eye-opening. The filmmaker explained how the people who distributed pirate copies formed Fencopac, an association that acquired home distribution rights to Peruvian films.
Fencopac sells legal DVDs and Blu-ray discs at around $4 and returns $1 from each sale to the producers.
“We don’t have piracy any more. I received $35,000 for Cemetary 2 and a similar amount for another film. Now we have an extra source of income.”
Uruguayan director Gustavo Hernández added: “If people are watching your film and it’s poor quality that’s terrible. But this is disappearing with Netflix and online platforms – it’s making images more affordable.”
Earlier Hernández recounted how they used limited funds to draw attention to his horror film The Silent House (La Casa Muda), which was shot in a single take and ended up premiering in Cannes in Directors’ Fortnight in 2010.
“I was preparing to make the movie and my producer was going to buy a car for $8,000. He decided to put that money into the movie,” said Hernández.
“We wanted to be efficient and decided to shoot a scene in one day. We hadn’t even shot the movie and we got this trailer that got noticed by a programmer from Cannes.”
The film was remade into Silent House starring Elizabeth Olsen that screened in Sundance 2011.
Fighting the Hollywood machine
The exposure of genre films in general – let alone Latin American genre films – is a constant battle in the face of Hollywood imports.
Hernández noted that the acclaimed US chiller It Follows could only manage five days in Uruguayan theatres whereas a Paranormal Activity instalment will play there for five weeks.
“We need to earn the trust of the people to open up a little bit,” he said. “Audiences are willing to open up to other experiences.”
Mexico’s Isaac Ezban, whose The Similars has been a winner at Sitges and the Morbido Fest this year, said: “We are crushed by Hollywood openings regardless of whether or not they’re good or bad movies.
“When The Incident [Ezban’s first film, a previous Blood Window project] opened in theatres people asked my why I opened on the same day as two other Mexican movies.
“I said, if you’re a distributor opening a Mexican movie in Mexico you can’t do it in January or February because of [the deluge of awards contenders that open during] Oscar season. You have a small window in March and April. May begins the summer blockbuster season and so on. Out of the whole year you have three months. That’s why you get a [glut] of Mexican movies in Mexico.
“Even if you’re doing OK a new blockbuster will kick you out. We have good support in production but need more support from distributors to compete with the big Hollywood market.”
The experience varies according to the territory. “We took on Wolverine and won [during the July national holiday],” said Fernández-Moris. “In my country nobody fears Hollywood if you have a strong production.”
Travel within the continent is hard
The oft-repeated observation that Latin American films can struggle to travel outside their country of origin within the continent appears to apply to genre films too.
Fernández-Moris said Peru was a big market for horror but asked why his films did not do so well in Argentina or perhaps other Latin American countries.
Diego Cohen, the Mexican director of Honeymoon and found-footage horror Perdidos, said: “As a distributor I can say that in Mexico we’re trying to reach international markets because it’s hard to stay in the domestic market only.
“But if you show a Spanish-speaking film that’s not Mexican it sounds a bit strange. Unless you have Wild Tales which is distributed by a major company and has the Oscar nomination or The Secret In Their Eyes it’s difficult.”
All participants agreed that Blood Window was a useful platform to raise exposure and meet distributors and sales agents.
Ezban’s The Incident went as part of the Blood Window showcase in Cannes some years ago. “I got many proposals form sales agents and we ended up with Shoreline on The Similars. We needed help on post when we came to Blood Window last year and won two prizes for colour correction and credits.”
Cohen added: “I was here with Honeymoon as a work in progress and won the award. We did a 5.1 mix in Italy and we got a lot of support from international genre festivals. We finished the movie with the help of Blood Window.”
Argentine director Matias Salinas, whose thriller Presagio has gone through Blood Window, said: “I was making my [self-funded] movie and had no idea how to market it. I presented it here and it was in the video library – it didn’t screen. I came to this market and from last year to this year I feel more confident and feel my movie is better positioned.”
On the subject of Netflix and emerging digital platforms, Ezban highlighted the filmmaker’s paradox. “The big screen is never going to disappear because people want that social experience, but as a director I have to understand that movies may be watched on a cell phone.”
“All of us want to be Tarantino and want our movies to be 70mm,” said Hernández. “It’s what you see in your head… [but]… new technologies are unstoppable: people have already chosen.”