The Spanish film producers body FAPAE wants to open special film officesin Spain's embassies and consulates around the world, starting next year, aspart of new proposed measures to promote their industry.

FAPAE president Pedro Perez said the offices would co-ordinate differentinstitutions involved in domestic production, from the Ministry of Culture tothe 17 autonomous regions in Spain to FAPAE itself, to form "one body, onevoice" for the Spanish film industry overseas.

As a first phase, he said, offices would open next year in the US,Japan, China, France, the UK, Mexico and Brazil, with other countries coming online in 2006.

"At the moment, the bodies [involved in promoting Spanish cinema] arenot co-ordinated and we must be clear that cinema acts as an ambassador for theart and culture of our country, which is why we want to use the network ofembassies," he said.

Perez released a raft of encouraging figures for the Spanish filmindustry, revealing that there had been a rise in audiences of 18 percent in2003 over 2002 (there was no increase at all in 2002 after 2001's box-officebreaking year of Torrente 2 and The Others).

The year saw 110 films being made in Spain, he said, of which 67 were100 percent Spanish financed, and the rest, 43, were co-productions.

Releasing final figures for 2002, Perez said production had risen inSpain by 38.3 percent over the previous year, turning over Euros 1.4bn,with a 22 percent rise in employment in the industry, which was still heavilyconcentrated in Madrid (52 percent of all production) and Barcelona (33percent) although Valencia and Galicia were showing small but significant risesin production.

However, Perez, currently pressing the country's new culture ministerCarmen Calvo for more Government assistance, stressed that only 14 percent ofSpanish film budgets comes from state funding while the rest, 86 percent, isprivately raised.

With the new Socialist leadership promising to be more focused oncultural matters than the previous conservative leadership in Spain, the filmindustry is much encouraged by Calvo's decision last week to drastically lowertaxes on books and music products in a "cultural exemption" measure which sheconfirmed would be extended to the audiovisual sector.

The powerful FAPAE is pressing the PSOE leadership for several measures:it wants the Fondo de Proteccion film subsidy fund to rise to Euros 70m peryear with a guarantee of an annual increase; for a quota of 25 percent to beinstituted for local productions on Spanish screens (it currently stands at 17percent); and for film and TV tax breaks to rise from a low 5 percent to 20percent, bringing the Spanish industry in line with its European counterparts.

Announcing the tax cut for books and music products, Calvo said the"cultural exemption" law would definitely be extended to the audiovisualsector. She also added that she was in favour of film quotas, saying"stimulating film production is a way to express ourselves as a nation".

Although young, former lawyer Calvo is experienced in cultural matters,having served as the culture councillor for eight years in the regionalAndalucian government, where she was responsible for the new Picasso museum inMalaga and the Media Business School in Ronda.