OSCAR Winning Producer of “Secret of their Eyes” Reveals Secrets of Argentina Movie Production

Oscar Winning Producer Vanessa Ragone

We all love a little glamour (and let’s face it, often filmmaking is anything but glamorous) and the talk offered by Vanessa Ragone, had a bit of glamour when she unveiled the Oscar she won for producing “El Secreto de Sus Ojos” (The Secret of Their Eyes). For a moment, all of us gathered yesterday in the Ministry of Economy felt like we were on the red carpet and whipped out our cell phones for a quick photo-op.

Vanessa pointed out a lot of differences between producing in Argentina and in Hollywood.

1) In Argentina, the director, not the producer or production company, has the right to final cut.

2) No completion bonds are available in Argentina (this is insurance that guarantees that the film will be completed no matter what or the insurance company will pay investors, in the case of the star dropping dead half way though the shoot, for example. Also, if the director does not meet the schedule, the insurance company can replace him or her and become the owner of the film). In Spanish this is called “seguro de buen fin”.

3) Ironically, it is much easier to sell Argentine films to the US and Europe than other Latin American Countries.

4) Banks won’t make loans to movies in Argentina–not one Bank wanted to participate in “The Secret of their Eyes”, even with a director, Campanella, who normally has huge box office success in Argentina and renowned actors like Franchella and Darin. Most of the financing comes from the INCAA (Argentine Film Board which is a government entity funded by tax on movie tickets), pre-sales to foreign distributors and co-productions.

Vanessa then outlined what made the Secret of their Eyes one of the biggest commercial successes in Argentina in 2009 (more than one million people saw the movie).

1) Campanella himself picked the date–the long weekend after the winter school vacation, when parents would be tired of watching children’s movies.

2) A partnership with TELEFE, one of the largest television stations, which gave them free television spots.

3) Releasing on 90 screens during the first week, unheard of for an Argentine movie.

4) A strong anti-pirated dvd campaign, involving police raids.

5) Releasing the dvd in all points of sale at the same time, and for the low price of 30 pesos (normally dvds cost 70 pesos, which is very high for the public).

Overall, the talk made me feel very hopeful about the future of Argentine cinema and happy to meet a woman who rose from a poor country family to become one of the most successful movie producers in the country. In addition, government officials that were present mentioned new economic initiatives aimed at the audiovisual industry: low interest loans and a special film studio to be built outside of the city. This industry contributes over 3% of the GDP and is growing fast.

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