San Sebastian Creative Investor Conference: 8 Takeaways

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They came, they saw 10 presentations of high-end Spanish films and they may have been won over. Just showing up, however, was perhaps the most important factor.

Never in the history of the San Sebastian Festival have so many top American executives visited the Spanish resort town for the two days of the inaugural Creative Investors Conference, held September 19-20. and co-organized by CAA Media Finance. .

At the conference, investors debated with a level of candor beyond that of ordinary seminars, the state and future of the film industry across eight panels in total, moderated with verve by consultant Wendy Mitchell. .

Since there are a lot of guys running or racing in the international part of this business, it was worth noting some of their takeaways:

Europe’s great hope: the platforms that really welcome cinema

In the United States, platforms already buy big when it comes to films. Think Sundance. Europe is another land: the platforms have largely retained much more, thwarted in France, for example, by regulated windows. This, however, may change. “If Netflix wants to survive against better capitalized companies like Amazon and Apple, its chance lies in cinema,” said Vincent Maraval of Wild Bunch International during the conference’s keynote. It may not be a chimera. In Spain, “over the past year we have seen a strong demand for films” from platforms, said Javier Méndez of The Mediapro Studio. Elástica Films María Zamora agrees. “The series are working really well” [on streamers], but I feel that there is a return to cinema. The platforms want to come to the titles.

John Sloss wants to start a movement

Reflections on how producers could restructure relationships with platforms was a main thread running through the conference. Cinetic’s John Sloss, speaking with Christine Vachon during a closing keynote on Tuesday, said he wanted to start a movement. “Streamers aren’t really in the library. That’s an understatement,” he said. So his idea was for the producers to approach streamers with a new proposal: “I know you want to overpay a lot for this movie. What if you paid a little less, but only owned it for 18 months, as opposed to perpetuity? Because that’s how valuable it is to you. France, now Spain, pursued similar duty reversion programs.

Pause everything

On August 30, Netflix announced theatrical release dates for 18 titles in a slate of over 40 films. “There’s been a race to catch up with Netflix among streamers and now people recognize that’s not necessarily the best business model,” 30West’s Trevor Growth said. So now there’s kind of a break. I think there will be a step back, a return to distribution and exhibition in theaters. This pause, however, currently appears to be hurting sales activity. With a few notable exceptions — AGC Studios on “Hitman,” “The Dating Game” — trading in Toronto was generally dire. Most of the San Sebastian Accords to date have been international co-productions, meaning the producers tie up foreign capital, not sales.

A name of the game: co-production

So, for Europe at least, harnessing public funding in a wide range of countries via international production partners is really a name of the game. complex but powerful patchwork of soft money from mostly Scandinavian film agencies and minimal guarantees from distributor SF Studios and sales agent MK2 that enabled him to secure 85% of the financing for “The Worst Person in the World.” by Joachim Trier. These funds were raised in just 12 months. “It’s really very easy. You start knowing the right people to apply to, the right time, the right setup,” she said. Similarly, budgeted at 11.5 million euros ($11.5 million), “Triangle of Sadness” was “a huge European co-production”, said Mike Goodridge, one of its producers.

Will the theater return?

The embrace of cinema by platforms was one of the main topics of discussion at the Conference. Another was the possible return of theatrical activity. Opinions differed. Mature audiences were coming back, but the big challenge is attracting the 25-49 demo, noted Wild Bunch’s Cecile Gaget. “We are not coming out of COVID. The protocols are here to stay, probably indefinitely, and they have a profound effect on small films,” said Killer Films Christine Vachon. “We have to be creative, to make films more of an experience, of events, to bring them back,” Gaget insisted. When they are events, they can catch fire. For much of this year, emerging from its Berlin golden bear, “Alcarràs” ranked as the second-biggest Spanish release in Spain, Zamora noted.

Development: a priority

This is where small businesses can make a difference. An example: Louverture by Danny Glover and Joslyn Barnes. As part of an in-depth diversification, it is developing its independent development activity. “You have a lot of companies in LA that have overhead, but they don’t have money for development. So they come to us knowing our tastes, knowing the kind of artists we like with work.

The American independent scene: the challenges

“This is a difficult time for the traditional American independent film scene. Historically, this scene has been driven by equity or by territorial sales layered on top of equity,” said Cinetic’s John Sloss. “The idea of ​​being an equity investor in an environment where theatrical release and the rights to that are so uncertain is a difficult thing,” he added. That said, “We made more movies in the two and a half, three years than we ever did,” Vachon said. “It’s a strangely healthy time for us.” But there aren’t many companies like Killer. Vachon also acknowledged that when she releases a film in the market, the reaction she gets is that “we like it for about two-thirds of what you actually need to get it done”.

Talent, talent, talent

So what is the key to success in an uncertain environment?

Talent. “If a company can attract talent, it will triumph, if not it will fail,” said Domingo Corral of Movistar Plus+ during a panel discussion on “OffWorld”, his latest series. Talent also attracts talent. “I couldn’t say ‘no’. Movistar’s offer was for me to work with the best screenwriters in Spain and Fran Araújo. “The perfect project,” said writer-director Isa Campo.

The “Offworld” talent lineup ended up being the strongest of any drama series in Spanish history.

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