The Tricks of Spanish Film (Part I)

Before we put down the old structures we need to know how they operate. Spain’s film production is based on public money. No discussion about it. The law established an AUTOMATIC subsidy of 33% of the “producer’s investment”. Not bad! No, especially if the concept is so elastic to include the money the television stations are obliged to invest in Spanish/European movies (5% of their total income).

But first, some concepts clear:
a) AUTOMATIC SUBSIDY means that even if the film makes a ridiculous box office, let’s say 100,000 Euros it may receive 1,200,000 Euros in subsidies about 2 years from the commercial release. It’s really automatic!

b) European norms, extremely enforced in Spain, demands that all channels buy Antenna Rights from local producers summing up 5% of their gross income. That is a tonne of money and the producers’ line up for that. The antenna right means they will exhibit free 2 years after commercial release as many times they wish. It can be prime time (rarely) or 2 a.m. (most common).

c) The public televisions (strong everywhere in Europe) pay between 200,000 Euros to 2,000,000 Euros per film. Sometimes, when the product is “hot” the price can go higher than that.

So, the 33% is advanced in the banks because it bears the State of Spain as guarantor and the money of the television, payable only when the film is delivered is also acceptable collateral for the banks. BUDGET COVERED. Nobody ever invest 1 Euro out of their pockets. Got that? Once this is understood, we can move further and look at official results in the page of the Ministry of Culture of Spain at the following address.

Spanish Film Festival

We can see the results in it, the number of spectators in the movie theatres, who distributed it, the public and private TV channels who bought the antenna rights. All this information is public for anyone. The hidden information is the budget of each film. Only available if a judge authorizes! All the producers alliance want to avoid in order to close any web page they dislike.

 

But let’s consider that every one of the films I picked here as examples had an average budget of 1 million Euros. That’s low as you can get and the results a national shame.

Film: A RAS DE SUELO (2005)

* Spectators: 76
Gross Box Office Results in Spain: 392,10 €
* Distributor by: FAUSTO PRODUCCIONES, SL

With the support of: TELEVISIÓ DE CATALUNYA, S.A.
TVV TELEVISIÓ VALENCIANA

Film: MARIPOSA NEGRA

Producer: FAUSTO PRODUCCIONES, SL
Distributor: SHERLOCK FILMS SL
Spectators: 5.062
Gross Box Office Results in Spain: 23.512,95 €

Film: Faltas Leves

• Producers:
DACSA PRODUCCIONS, S.L.
STEINWEG EMOTION PICTURES, S.L.
• Con la participación de: RTVV;CANAL SUR; EITB; TV CANARIA; TELEMADRID
Distributor: COMPAÑIA PREMIUM DE VIDEO Y TV,S.L.

Spectators: 2.785
Gross Box Office Results in Spain: 9.907,40 €

Film: Mucha Sangre

# Producer: MASSA D’OR PRODUCCIONS, S.L. (www.massador.com)
# Con la participación de: TVE, S.A. and VÍA DIGITAL

Spectators: 6.595
Gross Box Office Results in Spain: 27.238,75 €

Film: De niños
Producer:
MASSA D’OR PRODUCCIONS, S.L. (www.massador.com)

# With the support of: TV3 TELEVISIÓ DE CATALUNYA
LA SEPT ARTE (Francia) and TELEVISIÓN ESPAÑOLA (TVE)

Distributor: ALTA FILMS S.A.
Spectators: 17.885
Gross Box Office Results in Spain: 66.490,20 €

But aren’t there minimums to achieve in order to get the subsidies? Yes, on paper there are many rules. The last producing company here above listed has never, ever made its goals but always got it all it needed. To complete, the head of the company, a radical Catalonian separatist is preparing a film which roughly can be translated to” Catalonia against Spain = Spain against Catalonia”. Famous for her hatred and xenophobic discourse we can wait for a “wonderful” piece of inflammatory and disgraceful “patriotic” film. Paid with public money. For who is not acquainted with Spanish history, Catalonia is an autonomous region of Spain but part of Spain. There is a small minority of racists who preach intolerance and separation of the rest of the country. This person, strangely enough, was in the grace of the right-wing Government in Madrid from 1996 to 2003, and then she moved her political ideals elsewhere.
By the rules, these and the absolute majority of film companies would be shut down by now but depending of the governments and sympathies they always re-float. All with public money. And observing their madness over the new medias (read here INTERNET) the issue for them is not to be “pirated”, nobody wants their movies anyway. The issue is that facts as related here come to light.
Sorry guys from the legacy times! I didn’t die and I this will still go on. ( to be continued)

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Civil Rights X Copyright: Non Negotiable!

Traitor, ungrateful, miserable, bastard, etc. Those were a few names I was called since I decided to make public my positions regarding the on going “battle” between copyright warriors and digital libertarians. I guess many people got it very wrong from the start. The “libertarians” have written a Manifest and I support it without reserves.

What is being played here is something much deeper than a “cat chasing the mouse” fight in a small country like Spain that I guess more than half of humanity ignores where it is and a much larger percentage the history it carries back for more than 2,000 years. Yeah, two millenniums but cutting to the chase: back in 1936 a coup d’etat started a civil war in the country and Europe and the rest of the world turned their backs. It was Spain and it was not their problems. Thirty nine years of bloody dictatorship followed those events. Currently, Spain can and probably will be played as a “game-scenario” for the worst case scenario again. In 1936, Germany and Italy supported the fascists and bombarded the civil population in such bloodshed until then unknown by humankind. When in 1939, Hitler spread the fire through Europe and the world, the main powers already knew what to expect.

Guernica

Guernica by Pablo Picasso

After working many years in the entertainment industry, in many different positions, and also selling my blood for small (independent) companies in an idealistic stupid way, I gathered enough knowledge of all the tricks that can be played by every single player of the game in film and music productions: from the writer to the distributor, passing thru the producer and directors reaching down the secretary of production. I never saw a positive liquidation (final accounts where the remaining “profits” should hypothetically be paid to the producer), never at all! Even if there were cents left, the producing company would still “owe” the distributors. If there were profits, they would fall into expenses accounts and future developments. No profit, no income taxes to be paid. Reset to zero and everybody continued to be friends as always. That’s how the game is played. Producers feed writers and directors with bread crumbs, paying their mortgages, buying groceries and so they are on the leash and “grateful”. Buyers of TV stations are invited by producers to banquets, vacations in the Riviera and receive generous incentives such as loads of champagne boxes as Christmas gifts (totally legal) to allocate their resources to those friendly producers in their circle. The so acclaimed high level employment that the entertainment industry, specially film bring to the economy in general averages 4 to 5 employees (sometimes including the owner of the joint) earning 1,200 Euros per month without legal hours respected (40 hours/week in Spain) They should be “happy” because they are in their way to the glory. That’s their due to be paid to the industry before gaining the right to “really do something”. All the rest, when the subsidies fall in place, and when the TV purchases also combine, out they go hiring. There is literally an army of desperate people out there to get two months salaries (average production time). And they all fly in as mosquitoes in the jungle. It is marvellous to see and sad to realize that they also live out of dreams. That is to be respected, to live by a dream and side line with starvation the remaining half of the year.

Europe

This is Spanish, French, Italian and almost all Europe’s reality, let alone the US where I have friends earning the same since 1991, yes, correct, 18 years ago and the same weekly pay. This is only possible in Europe because there are special “social cushions” where the mass, the people who really make the film, can fall back in the work insurances and not turn into homelessness. This is the truth and I dare anyone to proof me the opposite hiring an independent research firm without conflicting interests in these industries.

So you should be guessing why am I “betraying” my people. What is my interest in that? My answer is: I want to see different people, new talent, new ideas springing and new ways of doing business. The mediocrity is produced by a system which was profitable until the means of reproduction were scarce. I loved to see what Arin Crumley did with “Four Eyed Monster” and hated when 10 days before principal photography my film had to be cancelled because one co-producer decided she was making me a favour co-signing the deal (allowing with that to advance the subsidies) and ordered me to relinquish all my rights to her. It was a brutal, it was stealing and it was a rape but I was strong enough to resist it and send her to hell. My film was not done but I look forward to the future and she looks to the gifts she must to give the local TV station managers these Holidays. I guess I’m better of than she is. Ever and forever! I play for the future and the rest struggle to retain petty privileges.

I guess talent is to be nurtured, embraced, and cared for. Italy had one of the most vibrant filmmaking scenes of the entire world and is reduced to rubble. One Italian actor told me once: “The old ones, as brilliant as they were, didn’t allow space for a new generation and now we have mediocrity or rare exceptions”. That is not the future I want for Spain, for Europe and as a matter of fact for nowhere.

Digital have changed the scenario forever and there is no coming back. They, “artists” have the social cushion where to fall (and some have multimillions in banks and property); let them lay in peace there. It’s not acceptable to even discuss neither negotiate civil rights giving in to the defence of copyright. Let alone when the copyrighted material was paid with public money. The architect charges the project of a bridge, he is paid by the government or whoever, but he doesn’t retain the right to charge everybody who crosses that bridge. Point Period. It’s also a given that nobody can copy the project, construct the same bridge design elsewhere and say it is their own creation. The right to have your credits in the making of a film, music or theatre play are not in discussion. Your merit was to create them and you were paid for it. You screenwriters and directors: how many of you begged producers to give you a chance? How many of you waived salaries? Give me a break! If anyone copy the authorship of my writing and publish it without even naming me, I will sue in the courts of law. If my name is mentioned, please go ahead! You are welcome to reproduce anywhere! Creative Commons, some rights reserved, namely authorship is reserved. Reproduction? Do it yourself with some clicks!

What about music then? Music Companies paid dearly radio stations, TV programmers, etc. to play your music in order to have your music reaching the public. That was also the reality. Just a few years ago. So, let’s drop the masks! Kids would win a luxury car; the multinational would make tonnes of money.

And in the most physical side of the matter: it is not possible to control what you are doing thru your broadband. Simply as that! The USA has developed and distributed sophisticated software which scrambles outgoing and incoming IP address to give away to Iranian people surpass the censorship of the Ayatollah’s. The only way around, and even so, it would be hard as hell, would be a Chinese cyber patrol model.

Civil Rights Movement

NON NEGOTIABLE CIVIL RIGHTS

So, my friends, Sarkozy did whatever he pleased (except place the “Prince” in the EPAD) and people talked but didn’t care too much about the Hadopi. Anyway there is a way around. Good and dearly respected French friends of mine have written that response to me these last days and made me reflect why the Spaniards are so different: because the mere idea of the government censoring our acts is beyond any acceptance. The memoir of the dictatorship is in the DNA perhaps and we cannot trade the civil rights for an obsolete copyright law, flawed from the beginning to the end. Again, Spain is a laboratory of freedom in Europe. Hopefully this time, people will join us and take this task as if it was the defeat of the National Socialism 70 years ago and not turn their backs in indifference. What happens here, if successful, will spread. At least in Europe and Latin America; such a proposal in the USA, well… that is for another book.

Internet is burning in Spain (and the government too)

Prime Minister Zapatero was the first elect government back in 2004 as a direct consequence of the new technologies (internet and SMS’s) and risks to be the first to lose the government if he doesn’t back out the pretension of adopting a repressive policy against internet downloads.

Spain's Prime Minister Zapatero

To start, we have a millionaire industry where artists live in Hollywood style palaces that causes no pity in the general populace. Second, in Spain, P2P is not illegal: everybody pays on purchase of any blank DVD, CD, Ipod, laptop, or whatever electronic device a “canon” (tax) that goes to feed the multimillion arches of the author’s collection agencies. Third: piracy is to copy and sell the works of others. That is not the case here, the right to copy was acquired once you paid for the copying/media device.

But, blind to the fact that about 75% of the population is connected to the Internet and out of these 80% download products for their own consumption, the government decided to “slip” into a general economic law to combat the recession, instruments which wash away the role of the courts of law and transfer such powers to the Ministry of Culture commanded by a representative of the old filmmaker’s union the right to cut connections and web sites if they considered fit to do so.

Copyright’s laws must to be totally reformulated. It’s unconceivable that the “property” remains the authors “property” 70/80 after his/her own death. It is also immoral and outrageous that in Europe and other countries where films are basically paid of with public money remain as a private property.

The consequences of such acts were swift: in 6 hours 58.000 blogs in Spain where raised against it and within 24 hours more than 1 million pages reflected the issue according to Google.

Today, the government (Ministry of (in) Culture) called the most influential figures of Spanish internet spheres to “discuss” the issue. González-Sinde, the Minister of (in) Culture abandoned the meeting in the middle of it.

Ministers of the Socialist Government of Spain

She must go immediately and a serious discussion about copyright extent must to be carried out in Europe and in the whole world. The beds are burning and we won’t stay passively waiting repressive laws in the style of the disgraceful Hadopi’s law in neighbouring France.

The greatness of humility

Kevin Spacey has given a magisterial speech in the generally shameful FICOD 09 which touched and moved tremendously people who are not just for the quick buck and the ever lasting ancillary rights (70 years after death of the author). If for nothing more, the fortune spent on the event is paid out by his conference, wisdom and lesson of humility. Humility which in the Romanic languages is usually confused with humiliation! Congratulations Kevin Spacey!

KEVIN SPACEY

Mr. Spacey has made an outright plea for the “lucky ones” to allow space for the new generations to raise the ladder (better said: the elevator) and be allowed to show their capacity. He has recalled how Jack Lemmon has helped his way up and how they shared the same values regarding the “talent elevator”. The real good ones don’t need to oppress to get their way in the podium of greatness.

Many topics where raised during his intervention and he showed an open-minded posture regarding the digital revolution. “Those who feel and can see the future is embracing it”, he said. It seems clear that Mr. Spacey has seen a long time ago as far as producing a film with a plot centred on nothing less than “Facebook”. He couldn’t be clearer about it when he related to the music industry which embraced the repression model: “if you don’t give people what they need, when they need and how they need at affordable conditions, they will find their ways and get it for free”.

For the complete English conference click
Kevin Spacey

Chapeau Kevin!