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Battling Latin American Producers Sketch Out Roadmap Despite Huge Market, Political Volatility

FIPCA, Ibero America’s huge producers’ federation, is looking to power up the region’s knowledge economy and co-production as two longterm answers to huge volatility in its member states film-TV sectors. That drive cuts several ways, FIPCA president Ignacio Rey told Variety in the run-up to Sanfic Industria, one of South America’s biggest industry events. High-end Netflix, Amazon and other streamer originals, imply  new ways of producing: “We’re lacking sufficient labor force capacity for a certain scale of productions,” Rey argued. Challenges abound. In 2022, only movies from Spain, Dominican Republic and Argentina punched home theatrical market shares of over 5%,  running up 22.4%, 14.0% and 8.1% shares respectively, according to the Cannes Marché du Film’s Focus 2023 report. Platform hits is another matter. Over July 2022-June 2023, five of Prime Video’s Top 10 most seen non-English language films or series hailed from Spain or Latin America, led by Spain’s “My Fault” and Chile’s “Sayen.”

That said, “We need to train audiences, the public at large, A whole universe is losing the habit of seeing films in in its own language or that of its neighbors,” Rey noted. To improve communication, FIPCA is just about to launch a WhatsApp group of 700 producers among its member associations. It’s also created other social media. “Before, we didn’t have any direct access to our members,” Rey commented. From mid-September, FIPCA will launch a series of online panels, FIPCA Dialogues. “It’s one way to debate different postures, to listen to one another and for FIPCA to gain a bigger weight,” said Rey. Issues debated in different panels include best case productions; film heritage; and progress, or not, on gender equality, said Fernando Madedo, FIPCA executive director, brought into the Federation because of his specialist knowledge of cultural industry management. 

“What we’ve shot to date is rich in observance of the vision which producers have in, say, Peru, compared to Mexico, Colombia or Uruguay,” he added. Another panel turns on co-production. It ended with two panelists exchanging contacts in order to work together, noted FIPCA VP Diego F. Ramírez. One tried and tested industry growth strategy is the creation of new talent or project development hubs, such as Spain’s Madrid Film School ECAM Incubator and San Sebastian’s Ikusmira Berriak. 

The same could be said of Chile’s Sanfic and Sanfic Industria, its multi-faceted industry division. “We’ve received a huge number of applications, projects in different states, both film and audiovisual, from emerging and established producers,” observed Gabriela Sandoval, director of Sanfic Industria and FIPCA board member as president of Chile’s Association of Film-TV Producers (APCT). “Sanfic and other festivals in the region are platforms to launch new producers from Ibero-America and also position established producers,” she added.

Alongside new talent hub initiatives, few strategies have yielded better fruits in the last decade than international co-production. As overseas theatrical markets contract in general, almost any art or crossover film of any artistic ambition draws down equity tapped by multiple production partners, channelling state backing in different countries. As Sanfic Industria lifts off, much of its early news has turned on co-production, such as Alfredo Castro’s casting on The Court’s “Three Dark Nights,” set up at Spain’s El Viaje Films and Chile’s Quijote Films, Mexico’s El Relicario boarding Ximena Valdivia’s “4Eber,” lead-produced by Peru’s Montaña Rosa Films, and a three-way co-pro on “A Thousand Pieces,” from “La Jauría’s” Sergio Castro San Martin. 

Rebuilding its film-TV support systems, the Brazilian government is looking to double its co-production partner countries around the world, Adam Jayme Muniz, head of the Division for Actions Promoting Brazilian Culture at the Guimarães Rosa Institute/Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told Variety at Cannes. Currently, Brazil holds down 12 bilateral agreements, and a multilateral pact with 10 countries in Latin America. It reopened its bilateral co-production fund with Portugal on Aug. 17. Embraced by its film sector, Latin American co-productions could also flower in its TV drama series sector, Rey observed. Already, Argentina had confirmed the Argentine nationality – so potential access to national public-sector backing – of TV drama series co-productions with Colombia and Brazil. Yet, as it hones a roadmap for the future, FIPCA must face hugely different challenges to the U.S. and Europe.

In the U.S., WGA writers and SAG-AFTRA actors have gone on strike over residuals from streaming services. In Europe, producers are awaiting a possible new pan-European E.U. definition of independent production, prepared by Thierry Breton, the powerful European Commissioner for Internal Market. “Europe has one cinema and economic reality, Latin America’s realities are very different and highly diverse,” Rey noted. In Colombia, one large producers’ concern, as in  Europe, is IP ownership of titles produced for streaming services, Ramírez noted. Latin America is different, however. Platforms are not producing originals in many of FIPCA’s member states. Latin America subsidy systems have been modelled on Europe. Their fragility is not. Over 2018-22, extreme right Jair Bolsonaro’s government in Brazil slowed government subsidies to a glacial pace. 

Argentine producers were debating IP ownership. Suddenly, they now have a bigger concern, Rey observed. If he gets into power, radical libertarian Javier Milei, who won Argentina’s presidential primary on Aug. 14, promises to abolish Argentina’s INCAA film institute. Even Argentina’s murderous military junta didn’t try that. Equally, a new panorama may be opening up in Chile, but for the better. In Chile, Carolina Arrendondo was sworn in on Aug. 16 as Chile’s new minister of culture, after global streamers have pared down original production orders in Chile, due to its lack of tax incentives for production.

“Carolina Arredondo Marzán’s appointment is creating large expectation and enthusiasm in the sector,” said Sandoval. “As producers, we’re confident that with her we will be able to advance on Chile’s having tax incentives that allow us to compete with our neighbor countries and to go on producing at a mid and large scale, and not just depend on Ministry subsidies, but have larger tools to make big productions in Chile, which would really reactivate the sector.” Arredondo’s speech at Sanfic’s opening ceremony on Sunday was received with robust applause. “We hope that finally with her appointment, the government can realize its commitment to raise culture funding to 1% of its budget, from its current 0.3% level,” Sandoval added. “Every country has different problems and we have to determine how we can support producers’ in their discussions in each and every country,” said Rey.