Rapporto industria: Produrre - Coprodurre...
I produttori del successo di Cannes Los colonos esplorano il suo complesso percorso di coproduzione
di David Katz
In occasione di un Industry Talk del BFI di Londra, Giancarlo Nasi ed Emily Morgan hanno svelato come il film sia stato portato sullo schermo grazie alla coproduzione di nove paesi
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Felipe Gálvez’s The Settlers [+leggi anche:
intervista: Felipe Gálvez
scheda film] has been turning heads on the festival circuit this year, following its Cannes Un Certain Regard premiere, with its combination of artistic daring and political acuity. Telling the true tale of a band of mercenaries in Patagonia, on a mission to tame (read: ethnically cleanse) the land in 1901, its classic western tropes break down into a kind of formal savagery, before a time jump in its third act consecrates these events’ significance to the birth of modern Chile.
With its strong UK elements in the lead cast and funding, the BFI London Film Festival’s industry strand saw fit to present a panel on its equally complex and fascinating journey to the screen, with its Chilean producer Giancarlo Nasi, its UK producer Emily Morgan and Denitsa Yordanova, the head of the UK Global Screen Fund, on call to answer questions from journalist and festival consultant Wendy Mitchell. The Settlers itself could be seen as a testament to the international co-production model, backed by public subsidy, with the movie then finding its initial audiences and acclaim at festivals, before enjoying a strong shelf life in distribution. The panel had lively and particular insights into these facts, delving into the incorporation of nine co-production countries – Chile, Argentina, Denmark, Sweden, the UK, the USA, France, Germany and Taiwan – allowing the film to be made.
With Mitchell referring to the “lab hell” that risky debut features of this kind can face, Nasi spoke of their particular suitability for this project: “We worked on the script very, very hard and until a year-and-a-half or two years before the shoot, and we went to several workshops: Torino, the Cannes Cinéfondation Résidence. We did, you know, the entire route of workshops and co-production markets, followed up by the Venice Gap-Financing Market, which connected us to the Taiwanese-Italian producer Stefano Centini, and then our US private equity. So we really pushed it.
“Some people were telling us we shouldn't go to more labs, because it was too much. But I feel it depends on the personality of the producer and the writers. We felt it was a blessing. It's like a beautiful space to create, so why not?”
Nasi went on to say, “And with our concern about representation, with the indigenous Selk’nam people only previously seen in black-and-white photos, we originally wanted to shoot the film in black and white. At a lab, I remember that a producer said, ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ It’s a first feature, set in the middle of nowhere. A historic piece in black and white. They were like, ‘It's too hard’.”
The English soldiers (played by Mark Stanley and Sam Spruell) – employed by the villainous landowner José Menéndez (Alfredo Castro), a statue of whom still stands in Chile – were always part of the script, so seeking UK co-production funding was an obvious step in order to reach its targeted budget of around €2 million. Morgan noted, “It’s a Spanish-language debut film, and challenging subject matter to private financiers in the UK; it’s not a realistic route to getting funded.” The UK Global Screen Fund, established in 2021 following Brexit and its curtailment of EU MEDIA funding, became an obvious route. Yordanova explained, “For our money, the UK producer is the lead applicant. It's a non-recoupable grant. But it does come with a more conservative cash flow, and The Settlers’ award was capped at £100,000.”
Illustrating further, Yordanova said, “Our funding is about £7 million per annum from the UK government via the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. Of course, it’s in the form of a non-recoupable grant, but it has two caps, one with a total grant potential of £300,000, which we haven't been able to give out yet because we've been so oversubscribed. So, £250,000 has been the highest we've awarded so far. The Settlers was supported by a co-production strand focused on minority co-productions.” To clarify, the production doesn’t have to originate in the UK, but must have match funding in place in order to apply; its specific mandate is to help UK content (including animation and interactive) with growth strategies in the international marketplace.
More light-hearted anecdotes were shared as Nasi detailed the process by which post-production was split surreally across many of the co-production territories, with many flights needed (and sustainability questions obviously assessed). The Taiwanese sound designer Duu-Chih Tu, noted for his stunning work on Wong Kar-Wai’s films, turned in a first attempt more in that placid stylistic vein – not ideal indeed for a western. Of course, an appropriate mix was still found as feedback came through.
As the spirited panel came to a close, where several witty one-liners from Nasi brought the house down, Mitchell could be heard saying to him off-mic, “You should have a talk show.”
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