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San Sebastián 2023 - San Sebastián Industry

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San Sebastián discusses the strength of local European content and the USA’s greater awareness of global voices


The professionals gathered at Spanish Screenings XXL’s Creative Investors’ Conference shared some insights into global trends in the market

San Sebastián discusses the strength of local European content and the USA’s greater awareness of global voices
A moment from the Creative Investors’ Conference (© Festival de San Sebastián/Pablo Cifuentes)

The San Sebastián International Film Festival has held its Creative Investors’ Conference for the second year in a row, as part of the Spanish Screenings: Financing & Tech events, organised by Spanish Screenings XXL. While last year’s events included a presentation of some of the most eagerly awaited Spanish projects (see the news), this year focused on professional talks, since said presentation will take place at Rome’s MIA in October (see the news).

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Under the umbrella of global trends in production, distribution and exhibition, the event tackled topics such as what present and future the industry is facing and must adapt to in order to thrive, as well as how to find strength in new international collaborations. During its banner panel, entitled “The Global Film Industry: State of the Union 2023”, Goodfellas president Vincent Maraval, Blueprint Pictures co-chairman Pete Czernin, WIIP head of global drama David Flynn and MK2 managing director Fionnuala Jamison addressed the professionals’ main takes on the situation.

“Our awareness of global voices has increased,” Czernin explained, to which Maraval added an interesting take: “Films coming from the USA are going more and more local, and are becoming less interesting for international audiences. This leads us to a situation in which more and more audiences in European countries are looking inwards and starting to prefer content created in their own country, closer to their own lives, cultures and also pasts, since nostalgia is a selling point. [...] For example, at the moment, we know when we are making films that are stronger for Europe or Asia than for the USA, and we focus on them,” Maraval continued. In the words of Jamison, “It’s exciting to see a younger audience open up to international films.” According to Maraval, “The audience is there - for example, last year’s Decision to Leave was Park Chan-wook’s biggest theatrical success, and Top Gun was Tom Cruise’s biggest success ever. The new generation is looking much more comfortable with the stories we are providing; it’s a great landscape, and I’m optimistic.”

Through its organisation in collaboration with the USA's CAA Media Finance, one of the international market’s leading talent agencies, the talks have also placed a special focus on the current US landscape, how the leading streaming platforms and this year’s strikes are causing it to shift, and how US independent producers are finding the talent and the projects they need to keep the machine going, as well as exploring their interest in Spanish-language content. Through fireside chats with Participant narrative film director Diego Nájera, Plan B co-president Jeremy Kleiner, and Killer Films co-founders Pam Koffler and Christine Vachon, a message was passed on: US companies are opening up to European talent. Kleiner said, “We would love to open up to non-English projects like, for example, projects in Spanish, since there is a huge audience in the USA and the rest of America for this content.“ Koffler continued, “I wish the US industry worked with more international directors; I watch the international Oscar entries and I ask, 'Could that director work with us here?'“

The point of view of non-US producers was also tackled during the talks, especially through “The Producers' Perspective of 2023 and Beyond”, with Haut et Court’s Carole Scotta, Quiddity FilmsEmily Morgan, Mod ProduccionesFernando Bovaira and K&S Films’ Matias Mosteirin. According to Mosteirin, “Our current activities are focused on how to make a local success, and after that, how to make your products be seen somewhere else, because there are no global successes except for US-produced content like Marvel films, Stranger Things and so on.”

“The studies in Europe show European films travel to between three and five countries, on average, so we need to make that number bigger,” added Scotta. “Here in Europe, or at least in Spain, the system is not pushing the big blockbusters that can be a magnet for bringing people to cinemas,” Bovaira added. “We need to stick to the market and help it as much as we can. Theatrical is still the most important phase for us, and we have to keep it healthy,” added Scotta, who proceeded to give advice on how to resist the power of the platforms: “We should really try to keep control over our IP and be political about it, because this is the only way we can stay independent and take risks.”

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