Sean Penn's 'Gunman' Offers New Fiscal Plan, More

Variety Staff


7:30 PM EDT, July 31, 2013


Spain: Spanish co-producer Adrian Guerra has created an innovative funding scheme for the Sean Penn starrer "The Gunman," tapping into the country's tax breaks to benefit the local industry. Guerra has created financial consultancy/broker Oceano Media, intended to help international producers seeking to explore other global financing and settings.

It's also good news for Spain's beleaguered production sector. The action thriller, lensing in Barcelona, employs more than 300 people and has contracted with 700 suppliers, Guerra told Variety. Local spending reaches double-digit millions of dollars.

That's manna from heaven for Barcelona: The number of movies shooting in the city is 50% of what it was in 2012, down to half a dozen this year.

"The situation is dramatic," Guerra said. "Some suppliers have burst into tears saying that 'Gunman' has saved them from closing down."

Joel Silver and Andrew Rona are producing the pic via Silver Pictures. Penn also produces. Euro film-TV group Studiocanal finances. Guerra's Barcelona-based Nostromo Pictures co-produces, with Guerra taking an exec producer credit. Partnering with PriceWaterhouseCoopers, Oceano Media, a financial broker and consultancy headed by Guerra and partner Xavier Parache, also raised Spanish tax credit coin for "Gunman" via the Aie production consortium.

The film also stars Javier Bardem, Idris Elba, Ray Winstone, Mark Rylance and Jasmine Trinca.

-- John Hopewell and Emilio Mayorga

Will TV OK Film Ads?

France: Filmmakers in France and marketing mavens around the globe are carefully watching a proposal to reverse the country's ban on film ads on French TV.

France is the world's fifth biggest market, with $1.75 billion in 2012. If nets can run ads, France would immediately become a pricier and more competitive market, since TV ads are always the most costly element of marketing.

The ban was enacted in the early days of television, to provide a level playing field and prevent U.S. majors from squeezing out local indies with big-budget ad campaigns. The ban is grounded in the so-called cultural exception principle, which ensures film and TV content are treated differently from commercial goods.

However, Gaul's audiovisual board, CSA, is looking for new revenue for cash-strapped broadcasters. The org is polling exhibitors, broadcasters, producers and distributors, among others, and will release a conclusion in the fall. It will then be up to the government to make a final decision on what to do.

TV channels must plow 3.2% of their income into co-production and acquisition of European films, of which 2.5% must go to French pics. So the webs' financial health has a direct impact on the local and Euro film biz. CSA adviser Christine Kelly said the networks are the main financial backers of films and sports, and the French TV groups could earn €40 million-€60 million ($52.9 million-$79.3 million) in ad revenues.

The prospect of lifting the TV ad ban for films is hugely unpopular among local industryites.

"France's independent distributors are already faced with declining DVD revenues," said Christophe Lambert, CEO of Luc Besson's EuropaCorp. "If they had to increase their P&A investment for theatrical releases, some of them would simply go under."

-- Elsa Keslassy

Media's Post-Partum Elation

United Kingdom: Parenthood is a 24/7 job, and for the past two weeks, that's also been true of reporters covering the Royal Addition. After the media kept vigil around the clock, sometimes in record heat, coverage now has slowed down -- and many will be relieved to hear it will slow down even further.

Sky News presenter Kay Burley was one of the hundreds of reporters who waited more than 36 hours outside the Lindo Wing at St. Mary's Hospital in London, where Catherine, the Duchess of Cambridge, gave birth July 22.

The followup story on July 24 announced the infant's name: Prince George Alexander Louis of Cambridge. "And of course we will be fascinated by the christening of the new baby, whenever that happens, and whether or not Kate and William will take the child with them when they go on tour," Burley said.

Otherwise, Burley reported, "We won't be focusing on them every day." She added that the couple need time to readjust to life as parents, and speculated that William might need a new job. His work as a helicopter pilot with the Special Air Force seems a bit risky for a new dad, she noted.

Before the baby-wait began, Burley and Paul Harrison, Sky's royal correspondent, had done reams of prep, Burley said. "We had lots of info and trivia that we could throw in from time to time," she added. "We never knew when we were going to be told anything, so we had to have the same enthusiasm at all times, because we are a 24-hour news channel."

And when the waiting became insufferable? "There were photographers and reporters from all corners of the globe," she said. "In the quieter moments, we were all interviewing each other."

-- Diana Lodderhose

Odessa Steps Into New Era

Ukraine: Odessa used to be the Soviet Union's answer to Hollywood. From the silent "Battleship Potemkin" onward, it hosted some of the Communist Bloc's best-known stars and filmmakers. In the past few decades, it's fallen on hard times and has been off the film world's radar, but there are signs of a comeback on two very different fronts: a radical rethink of filmmaking styles and the emblematic rebirth of an old studio.

The just-wrapped Odessa Film Festival included Alisa Pavlovskaya's "I Don't Wanna Die," which was shot guerrilla-style around Odessa on a budget of $5,000, with the cast and crew working for free. Local film mavens are predicting it could serve as a template for filmmakers around the world who have no options other than to work on a shoestring.

German journalist Sebastian Saam, who is researching a documentary on Odessa's moviemaking heritage, told Variety of Pavlovskaya: "This production challenges Odessa's filmmaking veterans not only in the way it has been fi nanced, but content-wise. Odessa's romanticism and enthusiasm for cinema is still present, but the approach is radically different. Costumes and makeup were left in the closet, and a brutally honest face of the city is shown. Maybe this could help defi ne a new film identity for Odessa."

The film, which world-premiered at the Moscow Film Festival, is a hallucinatory depiction of life in Odessa's cultural underground, as artists, musicians and writers struggle to survive in a society that seems to value only money. It's a gritty, European equivalent of America's mumblecore films.

Maksim Firsenko, who produced through his shingle Porto-Franco Film Studio, doesn't see the microbudget approach as ideal, but given the circumstances, it's the only option for many filmmakers. "It is not a way out for Ukrainian cinema in general, but it sets a precedent for young filmmakers who want to shoot films, but don't see any other way of making them," he says.

Firsenko plans to produce another four films in the next year.

While "I Don't Wanna Die" stands as a symbol of the New Ukraine, so too does the newly reborn Odessa Studio, which is hoping to lure production again to the region.

The studio was set up in 1919, two years after the Russian Revolution, and its rise and fall mirror that of the film business in Ukraine. In 1988, it was set for a makeover with a multistory block under construction on an adjacent plot. But when the Soviet Union fell apart, the project lost its Moscow coin, and, 25 years later, the building still remains half-finished. The studio's grandiose gates, with lions placed on either side, are now crumbling, a reminder of its former glory days as well as of post-Soviet malaise.

But topper Andrey Zverev is tasked with reviving the studio's fortunes, thanks to a combination of state aid and private coin from a Kiev oligarch. For the past year and a half, Zverev has been upgrading its facilities and buying brand new equipment.

In the short-term, Zverev is focusing on attracting productions from Russia and other nearby countries. Among filmmakers to shoot there in the past year were Ukrainian helmer Kira Muratova with "Eternal Homecoming," which screened at the just-wrapped Odessa fest, and Georgian director Nana Djordjadze with "Fedor," which is in post. The studio also intends to produce its own pics, and has submitted an application for funding for seven projects to Ukraine's State Film Agency.

-- Leo Barraclough

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