With Spanish film-makers increasingly looking to work with international partners, Juan Sarda explores the territory’s attractiveness as a co-producer

In 2013 Spain’s strength as an international co-production partner will be more visible than ever.

High-profile projects that bring together Spanish and overseas producers include En Solitaire [pictured], a $20m film about a world sailing regatta co-produced by A Contracorriente in Spain, Gaumont and Le Films Du Cap in France and Scope Pictures in Belgium; Cry/Fly, from Berlin Golden Bear winner Claudia Llosa, produced by Wanda Vision and Arcadia Motion Pictures in Spain and Gran Via in the US; and El Nino, a $10m film by Cell 211 director Daniel Monzon that brings together Spanish companies Telecinco Cinema, Vaca Films, El Toro, Ikiru Films and France’s La Ferme Productions.

Spanish film-makers are in no doubt that going international is the only way to finance larger-scale and, increasingly, medium-scale projects. Mateo Gil, writer of Alejandro Amenabar’s Oscar-winning The Sea Inside and director of Blackthorn says: “I don’t want to lose myself in labyrinths that I don’t know and go to America. The key is to stay home but work on an international level because that’s the only way unless you want to shoot very small-budget films.”

Spain’s renowned talent sector is a big attraction and producers such as Belen Atienza from Apaches Entertainment (The Impossible) say the backing of international partners keeps talent working locally. “For that, we need money and the money is outside,” Atienza explains. Typically, co-productions have contributed around 25% of Spain’s total production with France, Germany, US, Argentina, Mexico and Colombia the most common partners.

‘The key is to stay home but work on an international level. That’s the only way unless you want to shoot very small-budget films’

Mateo Gil, film-maker

Joaquin Padro, director of Barcelona-based Rodar y Rodar, knows the value of an international outlook. Rodar produced 2007’s The Orphanage, a film with a budget of $4.6m that made more than $75m worldwide (the company’s other hits include Julia’s Eyes, which took $18m worldwide, while The Body opened in Spain on Dec 21 and had taken $7.7m by Jan 27).

“We are clearly going towards internationalising our business,” says Padro, noting that with state funds down and public broadcasters cutting budgets, Spanish film-makers and talent need to export their experience and quality. Rodar y Rodar is actively seeking international partners for its new slate of 15 projects that includes 12 in English such as The Hollow Man from director Oriol Paulo (The Body) and a remake of The Orphanage.

Part of Eurimages and the Ibermedia programme, which fosters productions with South America, Spain has much to offer as a co-producer. As Mario Real, former commissioning editor of public broadcaster RTVE and head of studies at the Four Corners development programme for European projects, says: “Our biggest asset is talent, high-skilled technicians and we have great locations and weather but also financing. There are some wealthy production companies and broadcasters investing millions of dollars every year.”

Spanish broadcasters back local film heavily, with RTVE’s budget for cinema at $55m last year, while Telecinco claims it has spent $573m on film production in the last 13 years. However, though RTVE backs European co-productions as part of its guidelines, the current law puts a limit on the number of co-productions or non-Spanish-language films in which broadcasters can invest.

“We don’t have a problem with that because we shoot a lot in Spanish but it makes no sense to put boundaries [on what] you can shoot in English,” says Mercedes Gamero, head of Antena 3 Films, which is working on English-language titles including Eugenio Mira’s Grand Piano with Elijah Wood and John Cusack.

While Spain’s current financial crisis is having a real impact on local production - it is down 20% in the last two years - the new cinema law being discussed by the government aims to make Spain even more attractive to foreign partners, with tax deductions announced for the production of foreign films in Spain. Susana de la Sierra, director of Spanish cinema body ICAA, says: “We are very aware of the increasing importance of co-productions and the new law will foster them in the best way because tax deductions will be very attractive for foreign investors.” The new legislation will have a draft in May and could be passed in the autumn.

Agustin Almodovar has a long record of mounting co-productions with brother Pedro Almodovar’s films. His latest, I’m So Excited, was completely funded with pre-sales, and he has two projects in the works with Argentinian partners: Lucrecia Martel’s Zama, with producer Lita Stantic, and Damian Szifron’s Wild Tales, with K&S.

Almodovar thinks the system “works pretty well but it should be more simple and easy, sometimes there’s too much bureaucracy”.

Spanish co-productions, 2007-11

  • 2011 48 co-productions
  • 2010 49 co-productions
  • 2009 51 co-productions
  • 2008 49 co-productions
  • 2007 57 co-productions

Source: ICAA