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Brazil | Building Out the Culture Industrial Complex

 

Source: Estado de S. Paulo »  Portal ClippingMP.
By: Sonia Racy
Translation: C. Brayton

Marcos Prado speaks out about the difficulties of producing films in Brazil, the challenges of distribution, and what comes next.

As the Oscars approach, Mar­cos Prado laments the rarity of Brazilian films among the nominees. Why does Brazil produce such a small number of films?

“I have no precise answer to these questions, but I know from experience how difficult it is to produce movies here,” says Prado, producer of the two Elite Squad films, the celebrated documentary Estamira, and the feature-length Artifical Paradises.

Is it a matter of inadequate marketing? “We lack domestic marketing, as well as strategies for foreign markets and government support,” Prado says.

While awaiting the results of Oscar night, Prado spoke to this column about what he says are exciting new projects.  The following are selections from that interview. .

After Paraísos Artifi­ciais | Artificial Paradises, what is your next project?

I will direct a film called Nó na Garganta | A lump in the throat — about football hooligans. We have already applied to BNDES and are raising other funds. Our budget is R$ 10 million.

We want to show why these young men identify so passionately with their team, their intense way  of life. There is a warlike aspect to this. I want to explore this underworld, which, while it generally involves young men of a more inferior social status, also attracts middle class youth to football violence. We are trying to understand, not to justify or to judge.

Any other projects on the way?

We are working on a screenplay on the life of Brazilian jiu-jitsu master Rickson Gracie — a story about his life, not about fighting, however.

We also plan a film about the invasion of the Morro do Alemão shantytown complex in Rio de Janeiro. Both will be directed by Zé Padilha. The film about the shantry we are provisionally calling The Invasion of the Alemão. The plot will deal with a book by Rodrigo Pimentel and Gustavo Almeida, to be published this year.

Invasion of the Alemão is a play on words: alemão is slang for the military police. Pimentel is a former military police captain and author of the novel Tropa de Elite.

Also emerging from our Pandora’s box: a TV series based on Elite Squad. We are still negotiating with channels interested in airing it.

Neuza was commenting just the other day that Brazil is in the initial stages of a migration from the ever popular novela — soap opera — to U.S. style one-hour dramatic series and half-hour situational comedies.

How did you and Padilha start working together?

We were always fast friends. Padilha was working in a bank. One day, he said to me: “Brother, the Age of Collor has let me down.”I answered: “Not me!”

Of course, the difference was that I had no savings to be confiscated, I was flat broke anyway! And then he told me he had long wanted to make documentaries, as I had been doing for quite some time, He proposed a documentary on coal miners. We eventually wound up make Elite Squad.

Was Elite Squad originally planned as a documentary?

It was, but we wound up producing a fiction because we could not find a way to document what goes inside the police forces. You cannot just sit there interviewing the talking head. That is boring. So Zé spent two years working on the screenplay. And it worked out well. .

Does Ancine work?

It works, but it is a bit slow and rigid.

And what about BNDES?

It helps.And there are other incentives as well, but all of them are expensive. The Brazilian film industry cannnot  become a true industry under the current rules governing Brazilian cinema.

Is it hard to arrange financing for films here in Brazil?

It is not easy. Ancine regulates the movie industry and limits the extent of federal subsidies to  R$ 7 million. There are also state and municipal incentives, which raise this ceiling some, but not very much. The problem is that this level of funding is too low for more ambitious productions.

Brazilian directors are beginning to work overseas. Padilha, for example.

They are going abroad because this is a dream they dream of fulfilling.  Padi­lha is becoming a director well known to the gringo audience and as a result will have more artistic freedom in the future. He is currently making a US$ 100 million film, Robocop 4. He has little artistic freedom, however..

In raising funds through the Rouanet Law, the maximum tax-free donation is R$7 million?

Correct. R$ 3 million of these  R$ 7 million go to distributors — the vast majority  of them subsidiaries of foreign companies. They are allowed by law to reinvest the percentage of box office receipts they would ordinarily remit to their parent company. Exercising this right, they become co-producers. For example: I am a film distributor,  I find myself interested in your project, and so I invest in your film, but only after you sign a contract with me. In this way, I have to give up the portion of the film rights that belong to me.

So that means that onlyh R$4 million in funding is available?

More or less, because this arrangement with the distributors is a common practice virtually everywhere in Brazil. And so you realize that you end up losing more and more of the own rights to your own film. A lot of producers also have to cede rights to investors and others.

For example: if you make a film without the participation of Globo Filmes, your film never gets launched. And so you concede 20% of your own rights and now, because 50% of ticket sales belong to the exhibitors, there is very little left of your share.

Producers have no way of making money off of Brazilian film productions.

On the rise of Globo Filmes, via Wikipedia:

In 1997, in a bid to enter the film industry, the Globo organizations created their own production company, Globo Filmes, a company that sought to rebrand all sectors of the national film industry. In a very short time, Globo Filmes would grow into a major monopoly that ruled the Brazilian film industry. Although its movie division was initially miniscule when measured against its TV networks, Globo successfully entered one of the culture industry’s most important niches, a niche it had never entered before.

Between 1998 and 2003, Globo was directly involved in 24 film productions and its supremacy in this area was definitively established in late 2003, when films produced by Globo Filmes took in 90% of the national box office earned by Brazilian films and 20% of all films exhibited in Brazil, foreign and domestic.

Brazilian box office sales for 2012. Disney leads the way, as it often does.

Is there any way out?

A lot of producers take it out of the salaries …  Along comes Ancine and says you are not allowed to do that. So you have to run an obstacle course to find some way to secure your funding. This is just plain wrong. The film industry has to be able to survive without resorting to such subterfuges.  But it’s not easy.

Did you distribute Elite Squad yourself?

Yes, we did, and we structured the finance in order to receive 70%. We set up a distribution company, called Nossa, in partnership with Conspiração, O2, Lereby and others involved in the industry.  The market liked the structure we came up with and market players cooperated on the creation of an option. The only problem is that this requires the producer to invest in the launch of the film, which the Rouanet law does not permit.  We are trying to reinvent a formula that would allow Brazilian cinema to become an economically viable industry.

What do you think of the competition between DVDs and movie houses?

Movie houses are declining, that much is true. The more purchasing power and technological savvy people have, the more they watch films at home. Still, the principal source of a producer’s income comes from ticket sales.

Government statistics on the market are optimistic, but quotas favoring national and international produtions seem to be slow to respond — judging the diet offered by our own cable TV operator.

The Brazilian movie market is the most vigorous of all the art forms. In 2011, according to an Ancine report, …  some 143.9 million tickets were sold and the gross revenue of movie box office was R$ 1.44 billion, both of them new national records that situate Brazil among the most important markets in the world.

Tickets sold represents a good deal less than one Brazilian per session.  U.S. box office for 2012 was 1.54 billion, or let us call it 5 movie tickets per capita.

“The number of feature-length films launched — 99 — was the highest in the last decade,. says  Ancine executive director Manoel Rangel. After the market began growing again in the 1990s, the Brazilian film industry has consolidated itself. The aesthetic values of its  productions and its alternative cinema are heating up. Competition remains fierce, of course. There were no Brazilian films among the box office champtions in  2012.

Brazilian cinema attendance ranks 13th in the world, with 80,000,000 tickets sold per annum, according to NationMaster. It also ranks 13th in films produced, with 81.

boxofficeweekend

Brazil has 2,098 cinemas, half of them located in the Southeast.

The U.S. slipped to 5,697 in 2011 and has declined steadily since 1995, when it fielded 7,744.

Above: The Brazilian mass market suggests that very few national films obtain Hollywood levels of box office success at home.