Cinema and private TV companies: a difficult cohabitation
by Sergio Ríos Pérez
04/07/2011 - “We’ve left the advertising cake in the hands of foreign groups which own private television companies in Spain”. Director Fernando Trueba opened up the Pandora’s box at the presentation of the figures for Spanish cinema abroad at the 6th Madrid de Cine – Spanish Film Screenings (see news). Although it is nothing new, the problematic and highly unsatisfactory (for both parties) relationship between cinema and television loomed large at the press conference.
“For strictly financial reasons, the media have largely contributed to Spanish cinema’s poor image”, insisted director-screenwriter Mateo Gil, who released his film Blackthorn [trailer] last Friday. “They only talk about us when there is bad news”, added Trueba. To seek out these financial reasons we have to go back eleven years, to the approval of regulations obliging TV networks that show films made less than seven years ago to invest 5% of their revenue in audiovisual production. “There are some free TV channels, which take up 100% of advertising revenue, and therefore it stands to reason that there should be a commitment to reinvest in a local industry”, emphasised Pedro Pérez, president of FAPAE (Federation of Audiovisual Producers).
In January 2010, advertising was dropped from state TV, leaving all the revenue (the “advertising cake” of which Trueba spoke) in the hands of private networks. A few months later, in what was interpreted by producers’ association PROA as a “concession in favour of the interests of television companies” (see news), drama series were introduced in the obligatory contribution, meaning that the share of investment in film was reduced to 3%.
For their part, the television companies have continually described the obligation as unfair ever since it came into effect. However, as the years passed and the regulations took root, they decided to set up film departments to maintain greater control over the projects. “We don’t think the obligation to invest is fair, but we fulfil it and the figures show this”, insisted Álvaro Augustín, CEO of Telecinco Cinema.
The positive impact of television companies, especially Antena 3 Films and Telecinco Cinema, on Spanish cinema has been enormous (see news). “It’s difficult to say that we don’t care about Spanish cinema”, stresses Augustín, who has produced films including Pan’s Labyrinth [trailer] (2006), The Orphanage [trailer] (2007), The Oxford Murders [trailer, film focus] (2008), Ágora [trailer] (2009) and forthcoming flick The Impossible.
One of the paradoxes of Spanish audiovisual production is that drama series are hugely popular, whereas films have great difficulty in finding an audience. Director Fernando González Molina, who after several TV hits made an equally successful leap to the big screen (his movie Three Meters Above the Sky [trailer] was the best-performing Spanish film of 2010 – see news), pointed out that “there is a lack of self-analysis in cinema, asking yourself why audiences go to see your film. There are a series of questions that everyone should ask themselves”.
The TV companies argue that films aren’t profitable. However, many agree that they don’t always handle them in the best way. “Films aren’t a bad deal. Perhaps it isn’t a problem with the sector itself, but with how the networks are making their investment decisions”, said Juan Gordon, producer at Morena Films. “It isn’t true that films don’t work when shown on television. If no attention is paid to them, it’s true that they won’t work, but with the attention needed to put together the programming, they do work”, said Pérez.
This isn’t the only position. Some are calling for a change in the sector’s mentality, including Álvaro Longoria, Gordon’s partner at Morena Films, who argues that “cinema has to be able to stand on its own two feet, because the television companies will gradually diminish both in individual importance and of course for cinema”. Others, like Emilio Aragón, managing director and founder of Globomedia (through which, besides countless immensely successful TV programmes, he has produced several films that provide a perfect example of the synergy between big and small screen), are calling for a truce: “We’re compelled to get along with each other, especially in such a difficult and complicated situation as the current one”.
(Translated from Spanish)