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Ghislain Barrois • C.e.o. of Telecinco Cinema

How to make quality films with commercial appeal, out of obligation

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Ghislain Barrois • C.e.o. of Telecinco Cinema

Cineuropa met with Telecinco Cinema’s C.e.o. Ghislain Barrois in Ronda, where the 9th Marketing and Distribution 2009 course, organised by the Media Business School, was held from July 7-11.

“Spain is different”. So went a famous 1960s advertising slogan, which still applies today when talking about film. This is the only way to explain why Telecinco Cinema, the most successful Spanish production company, behind the biggest domestic box office hits of 2006 (Alatriste [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
), 2007 (The Orphanage [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
) and 2008 (The Oxford Murders [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Álex de la Iglesia
interview: Gerardo Herrero and Mariela…
film profile
]
), as well as Agora [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
, the two Che instalments and Pan’s Labyrinth [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
, is in the production sector only out of obligation [since 1999, a law has made it compulsory for TV networks to invest 5% of their turnover in film production].

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To look more closely at this rather unusual situation, while other production companies were floundering in a sea of financial difficulties, Telecinco’s problem was “finding strong projects. Now that our budget is decreasing [the crisis has affected Telecinco’s turnover and the 5% is therefore less, ndr], we have no shortage of projects. Before, it was the other way round, we had a huge, colossal budget, but we had no projects”.

Telecinco’s decision a couple of years ago to provide 88% of the €50m budget for Amenábar’s major new film, Agora, was a response to this problem, as “the alternative was to produce 20 smaller films, with a much greater risk of not recouping the investment. However, we probably wouldn’t have made the same decision today. The market has changed a great deal, but the decision we took three years ago was absolutely logical and right for the situation at the time”.

Ghislain is straight-talking. His main aim is to “recoup the investment. We’re not an NGO and we don’t produce films out of the goodness of our hearts. I know it sounds awful, but that’s the reality, so we don’t try to hide it. But that doesn’t mean that all the films we make are the same. On the contrary, we know that to achieve this aim, the project has to be coherent and well-made. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the two production companies with the best results are Telecinco and Antena 3, because we never lose sight of economic performance. It’s true that we have promotional support from the TV networks, but this doesn’t explain everything. No amount of promotion can transform mediocre films into gems”.

In other words, Telecinco has made necessity a virtue, offering films that combine impeccable technical and artistic brilliance with unmistakable popular appeal: “We look for films that have meaning and aren’t pointless. But, despite being fully involved in all aspects of production, we’re more financial backers than producers, so we depend on people bringing us projects”.

Projects recently taken on include the new work by Juan Antonio Bayona and Sergio Sánchez (director and screenwriter on The Orphanage) and Eduardo Chapero-Jackson’s debut feature Verbo (“The Word”). These two films will also mark Telecinco’s first collaborations with newly founded Apaches Entertainment, with whom the company hopes “to build a strong relationship, although this obviously depends on our situation and the projects available. Both Belén Atienza and Enrique López Lavigne [the company’s founders] have very extensive experience in the production field. Theirs is the kind of company we’d like to collaborate with in the future”.

Other forthcoming productions by Telecinco include Gabe Ibánez’s Hierro (“Iron”, to be released in October by Paramount); Daniel Monzón’s Cell 211 (December, Universal); Javier Ruiz Caldera’s Spanish Movie (November 27, Hispano Fox Film); Oskar Santos’ El Mal Ajeno (“The Suffering of Others”), produced by Alejandro Amenábar; Ecuadorean director Sebastián Cordero’s Rabia (“Rage”); and El Otro Viaje (“The Other Journey”), the debut work (still in production) by Sebastián Calvo, who is also making the leap from TV to film.

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