Spanish producers have avidly begun turning to foreign partners in a bid to finance their films.
In fact, co-production talk has dominated recent Spanish events - such as first-ever Italian-Spanish co-production market in Madrid; the Spanish Film Screenings of Malaga which saw meetings between the UK's Film Council and Spanish producers; the first annual EuroForum Co-Production Market in Las Palmas and the Spanish Film Screenings of Lanzarote.
With cash strapped Spanish broadcasters still holding back from acquiring local films and the state film institute ICAA reportedly lagging in automatic subsidy payments, producers say finding alternative funding options is key in getting their own films made.
What's more, Spanish companies are also reaping benefits by boarding European co-productions. Among some examples are two of the biggest EU co-productions of the year, The Bridge Of San Luis Rey and The Tulse Luper Suitcases, as well as recent Italian box office hit Christmas On The Nile (Natale Sul Nilo), Italian miniseries Luisa Sanfelice and Eric Rohmer's Triple Agent, the latter two now shooting.
Producers say they are interested in seeking mutually beneficial "reciprocal" production-distribution relationships and learning about any funding they can potentially tap into outside Spain, where pickings are slim. As Lolafilms CEO Andres Vicente Gomez puts it: "Spanish cinema is not in crisis. The agents which finance films in Spain are in crisis. If more or costlier or better films aren't being made it's for lack of money."
Although producers expect the impasse with recession-struck broadcasters to end soon, more than anything because of the latter's legal obligation to invest in Spanish product, they also expect fewer films to be acquired this year, and at reduced costs. Nor are producers overly optimistic about potential ICAA budget increases or promises to study improving tax benefits for local private companies investing in film or TV.
"I can talk about how many films I have in development or how many films I'd like to produce this year," Gomez says, "but I can't say how many I will make because films cost so much these days they have to be pre-financed." After having done well co-producing Christmas On The Nile, Gomez is now seeking co-producers on director Luis Llosa's English-language The Feast Of The Goat.
Likewise, producer Francisco Ramos of Alquimia Cinema says he is seeking to extend and forge new reciprocal co-production agreements such as those he has set up with France's Fidelite Productions on Maria Ripoll's Utopia and Samuel Benchetrit's Janis & John, or with Italy's Cattleya and Medusa Films on I Am Not Afraid (Io Non Ho Paura), Callas Forever and Luisa Sanfelice.
By joining with multiple foreign partners and tapping into subsidies and soft money schemes wherever possible, European mega-productions such as Tulse Luper and San Luis Rey become possible. Fledgling outfit ABS Production-Barcelona is a 20% co-producer on all three parts of The Tulse Luper Suitcases, the first of which screened in competition at Cannes. ABS co-principals Eva Baro and Antoni Sole say they are "focusing on co-productions to learn a lot and hopefully repeat relationships."
They add that on their own projects they "seek financing outside Spain because otherwise it's impossible to get things moving." ABS is now developing Paul Tickell's The Tempest with its Tulse Luper co-producers Kasander Productions and Delux Productions, together with Net Entertainment.
The Bridge Of San Luis Rey is a $24m co-production between Garrett McGuckian of the UK's Pembridge Pictures, Denise O'Dell of Spain's KanZaman, Samuel Hadida of France's Davis Films, Michael Cowan of the UK's Spice Factory and Jason Piette of the UK's Movision.
Based on Thornton Wilder's 1927 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel set in 18th century Peru, Bridge stars an ensemble A-list cast headlined by Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, Kathy Bates, F Murray Abraham and Geraldine Chaplin, and shooting entirely in Spain. "This is the biggest independent picture being shot in Europe this year, so it is quite an achievement," says Cowan.