Paco León • Director/actor
by Alfonso Rivera
29/07/2012 - Actor Paco León is Spain’s first celebrity to release his first feature as a director, for which he was also producer and screenwriter, in cinemas, on internet, and on DVD all on the same day.
Carmina o revienta is a fake documentary that stars his own mother (Carmina Barrios) and his sister, actress María León (who recently won a Goya for best newcomer for her performance in The Sleeping Voice [trailer]). It won three awards at this year's Malaga Film Festival: Best Actress, Jury Special Prize, and Audience Award.
Cineuropa: You could say that your film is an example of "guerrilla filmmaking" because it was made on a low budget...
Paco León: It cost about € 100,000. Thanks to digital, if you have a good story, you can shoot it on a small budget and reach the public. You have to reinvent yourself, because times are tough.
You reinvented yourself to become the first celebrity to release their film via three exhibition routes at the same time.
I took a risk and rejected offers for a conventional release that were generous but didn’t allow me to combine a cinema release with internet and DVDs. It has to be able to be done, and we had the right conditions for it. I had to carry out the experiment, with a low-budget, direct, and popular film, that had received sufficient media exposure but no subsidies, so that it was legally possible. And also, to be honest, because of the type of film that it is: experimental on all levels. This simultaneous release is an interesting experiment for the Spanish film industry.
Were there challenges?
A lot. There was resistance from exhibitors, the industry’s most conservative element. They want to maintain privileges that they really should share to restructure the way films are produced and exhibited. Nothing can be done today without internet and I don’t know if this is a model, but it is a track in the right direction. I wasn't able to exhibit in as many cinemas as I would have liked. Distribution in cinemas will be limited: some in Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Malaga, and Valladolid. The venture was driven by the people who wanted to see the film in villages where there are no cinemas and where, with the conventional distribution model, they weren’t going to be able to see it.
It’s hard to believe that all these film exhibition routes can’t coexist harmoniously.
Music is already doing it. Nobody thinks it’s ridiculous to listen to music on iTunes and to buy CDs online, and this coexists perfectly with concerts and live performances. Today, there is more audiovisual consumption that ever, although sadly it’s through piracy. But this shows that people want to see films and series, and we have to make it easy for them. You can very easily watch four films at home and one in the cinema each week. With my release, I am targeting this audience who do not go to the cinema but download [films] for free from the internet because it’s easier and faster, offering them [the film at] a very cheap price: € 1.95. For less than two euros, you can see the film in the safety and comfort of your own home. It’s an alternative to piracy.
As an avid social media user, you also checked what your Twitter followers thought of a possible release online.
Yes, it all started there, from my own market research to my followers. I asked them if they would pay this price to see Carmina o revienta online. I received a thousand tweets in one hour. You suddenly realise that there is a social need to watch films released on a low budget.
How long do you think it will take for what you are doing, which is still new, to become common practice?
It’s going really fast. The Americans are already doing it. They, unlike us, really know what they are doing and have an industry. Film exhibition is moving in this direction.