Sin Films - Close your eyes - (Photo: Manolo Pavón)

José Alba and Odile Antonio-Baez, heads of the Andalusian production company Sin Films, address the crucial moment in which they find themselves, with a multitude of ambitious projects in sight after achieving growing notoriety thanks to projects such as 'Guernika', 'From Lost to Rio', 'Oliver's Universe' or their participation in the imminent 'Close your eyes', the long-awaited return of Víctor Erice in feature film production.

En su 15 birthday, the initial goals of Sin Films They have been fulfilled. With a team currently made up of a core of six professionals, have helped shape intimate works such as Viaje al cuarto de una madre, films aimed at large theaters such as Sevillanas de Brooklyn o From Lost to Rio, ambitious epics like Gernika and works with their own identity such as Oliver's universe.

Pecado Films - José Alba - Olide Antonio-Baez (Photo: Julio Vergne)The tandem formed by Jose Alba y Odile Antonio-Baez (who entered the company as a junior producer to consolidate herself in the leadership team in a very short time) does not seek to pursue shared themes, but rather stories or opportunities that awaken a feeling of connection and belonging. Some arrive just a few months before the actual start of filming, such as Víctor Erice's latest work, Close the eyes; others are the result of negotiations and the producer's sense of smell, as will be Is it the enemy? which is based on the biography of the famous Miguel Gila to, under the authorial filter of Alexis Morante, help place the comedian in the audience of the popular imagination that he deserves.

Alba and Antonio-Baez they talk with Panorama Audiovisual to review the new stage of the company, which is born from the foundations of several productions with notable success, and will be supported by projects of important ambition.

Sin Films - Gernika

Ambition since independence

Sin Films proudly wears its label as an independent producer. His current ambitions do not involve eternal growth. The producer adopts the label boutique to represent the commitment and care with which they assume each of the projects they work on annually, with a figure that currently ranges between three and four feature films.

Antonio-Baez is satisfied with the company's current position in the production ecosystem. It has consolidated its role as one of the Andalusian production companies that has “grown the most” in recent years, always based on betting on initiatives with notable complexity. As the person in charge explains: “When we produced Gernika we did it with a very high budget compared to other independent production companies. We ally ourselves with Sony International, which not many people in Spain had done before. The project positioned us as an independent production company, but capable of making very ambitious productions.”

José Alba: “We consider essential the freedom, the independence and be able to have one voice. We care about the authors and we are on top of the projects.”

Step by step, the production company has been occupying a role of partner of trust for many Andalusian productions, while it has forged ties with international production companies, supported by pan-European initiatives such as Creative Europe MEDIA Slate Funding. Sustainability is one of his obsessions; Freedom, as Alba comments, is another non-negotiable requirement: “We consider freedom, independence and being able to have a voice fundamental. We care about the authors and we are on top of the projects.” “In the end, independent producers are the ones who often allow new authors or more controversial films to have their place in the market,” adds her partner.

Sin Films - Oliver's universe (Photo: Julio Vergne)

Personal vocation without limits

With the mantra of “not dying of success”, Alba and Antonio-Baez They approach the choice of themes carefully. As they both acknowledge, they enjoy all types of cinema: from authorial to commercial. The criterion, therefore, dispenses with scales to be strictly personal and experiential. Alba explains it this way: “We like to enjoy the entire process of a film. It is true that it is always a business, but we have to have that desire, as well as some type of personal identification with the story, the authors or the moment in which it has arrived." Therefore, Pecado Films will move away from the concepts of genre production companies, such as A24 o Pokeepsie. Anecdotes, causalities or the desire to support a story or an author (apart from the obligatory profitability projections) will end up deciding yes or no.

Sin Films - GernikaAs an example, Antonio-Baez remembers what the process was like for two of the projects whose filming will begin imminently. On the one hand, Is it the enemy? arose after José Alba read The Book of Gila: Tragicomic Anthology of Work and Life, an edition from Blackie Books that combines memoirs with graphic vignettes and stories. After contacting Malena Gila, daughter and heir of his legacy, and proposing the appropriate approach, the project goes ahead with the authorial vocation that his director, Alexis Morante. The story of the second of the productions allows a jump in space-time to the San Sebastián Festival, where the Pecado Films partner saw Josefina, Javier Margo's feature-length debut. After establishing contact with him and his team, they decided to support the leap to a feature film. to the face by Javier Marco, Goya for Best Fiction Short Film 2021.

“There are two ways to tell two stories: one clearly has a more industrial process, and the second comes from a more authorial world, since it is from a creator that we fall in love with, who shows us what he does and that we want to accompany him,” he summarizes. the producer.

Sin Films - Oliver's universe (Photo: Manu Trillo)

Who sees my movie?

José Alba has expressed in different forums his interest in the audience studies. The renewed consumption habits of new generations add to an ecosystem that revolves around video-on-demand platforms. Today, the extraordinary has already become natural: the new majors they already control their own distribution routes.

Odile Antonio Baez: "Although now there is much more data, we continue playing with the same rules that years ago, while there are many players who play with all the deck of cards”.

All of this happens in one it was of the data, which initially promised to shed light on the always complex measurement of the success of different audiovisual products. Paradoxically, the production company is forced to work, to a large extent, blind. This is how the founder of Pecado Films puts it: “No one knows if the works are arriving and if they are supposedly successful, because we are not having the real numbers. We can see that a movie is number one on a platform, but we have no real information of who and how is watching it. “Now there is more uncertainty than before.”

“They are very jealous with data such as the target audience profile, the time consumed or the way of consuming. This makes it difficult for independent producers to take an audience design approach with projects. Although there is now much more data, we are still playing with the same rules that years ago, while there are many players "They play with the whole deck," completes Antonio-Baez.

Sin Films - Journey to a mother's room

The platform toll

The omnipresence of video-on-demand platforms, their large investments in original production and Spain's commitment as a setting for the creation of global content has led a significant number of production companies to seek enter the circle of Netflix, HBO or Prime Video to consolidate its growth in the ecosystem of Spanish production with a global outlook.

Odile Antonio Baez: “Being a producer small brings positive things like do not depend on platforms and have independence to creatively control the projects together with the authors.”

Alba and Antonio-Baez are considered as outsiders of this trend, recognizing that it is not something they have pursued to date. Alba, more emphatically, goes so far as to state that the company “will never abandon independent production.” This is how he explains the decision to walk in parallel with the trend: “We are entrepreneurs and, although it may seem ridiculous, we like to risk money and invest in developing projects. (…) We are not going to be able to compete with their investment in development, who may have 25 scripts purchased that they will never produce, but we will carry out our projects.”

Antonio-Baez reaffirms his partner's words, although indicating that, in his view, they are the largest producers medium to large those who are committed to turning to video-on-demand platforms to maintain their structures. On the contrary, Pecado Films, being made up of a team of six people (scalable depending on needs) has extra freedom: “Being a small production company will have its positive and negative things, but the positive thing is that we do not depend on platforms and we have the independence to creatively control the projects together with the authors".

Sin Films - Human Animal

Dependence on subsidies

When Pecado Films was preparing to complete the financing for Oliver's universe, it was a subsidy on the edge of the ICAA which allowed them to shape the film exactly as they had imagined it. It is not an exceptional case: the film financing model in Spain has made production companies extremely dependent of government support, to the point that they become vital on many occasions to achieve the support from banking entities. Is this dependency positive? Is a financing model imaginable in which production companies are not waiting for calls and distributions?

“The thing is that, right now, the structure does not allow it…” José Alba begins his reflection: “If there were a Patronage Law or an incentive that would allow you to finance a work on its own, without problems. But since it does not exist, the ICAA is still needed.” For Sin Films, the point model current is not the ideal. For Alba, perhaps the solution is found in the american market: “Perhaps the most logical and obvious thing would be that there were really powerful incentives and that, with them, you could raise your financing. Now there are so many limits, that you end up conditioned. This makes it very complicated to build a project of more than four million in Spain with only Spanish capital.”

José Alba: “Perhaps the most logical and obvious thing would be that there were some incentives really powerful and that, with them, you could raise your financing. Now there are so many limits, that you end up conditioning. This makes it very complicated build a project of more than four million in Spain with only Spanish capital”.

One thing does not mean the other: for Alba, “protection and public money” have to continue to exist to benefit the Spanish industry compared to other external agents that come to Spain to carry out their projects. The issue is complex, and therefore requires a complex analysis, but always, as both those responsible for Pecado Films emphasize, two elements must be weighed: the value industrial of the work, but also the justification cultural and artistic.

“This is also a debate about whether government-driven cinema should be driven as an industry or as an art. But regardless of this, what is clear is that with the current model it is very difficult for an independent production company to finance a film entirely without public aid," says Antonio-Baez, aware of the elephant in the room of the Spanish audiovisual industry.

Close your eyes (Photo: Manolo Pavón)

El proceso de Close the eyes

Odile Antonio-Baez trusts that his participation in Close the eyes, the return of Víctor Erice to feature films, allows them to take a step forward in their consolidation as a reference producer in the Spanish industry. This project, a co-production together with Tandem, Pampa Films y Nautilus Films, had its bitter premiere at the Cannes Festival, but today it has obtained the support of a good part of Spanish and international critics. Erice is still Erice, and finally, 31 years after The quince sun (and after the failed The haunting of Shanghai) is already a reality.

José Alba:Victor Erice has had all the independence, freedom and resources what I needed to do the movie I wanted”.

Sin Films joined Close the eyes just eight months after the start of filming, a time in which they managed to add the support of Canal Sur, the Junta de Andalucía, Televisión Española and the ICAA. The proposal came directly from the hand of Cristina Zumarraga, one of the people in charge of Tándem Films, who finally decided to create the project after a time in which Erice himself was presenting the concept of the feature film to the industry.

The result could not have been better for the Pecado Films team. This is how Alba tells the experience: “The filming was complex due to the size of the film and because Víctor Erice had all the independence, freedom and resources that he needed to make the film he wanted. It is his film: we have supported him and given him feedback, but the truth is that Víctor's voice is still there and it shows. The filming requires a lot of physical intensity, which meant that we had to take care of it in different ways, but, beyond that, everything has gone really well.”

Sin Films - Mamacruz (Photo: Julio Vergne)

A hyperactive horizon

Odile Antonio-Baez would not depart from count all projects that they have in their hands. His superstition, especially with those with whom financing is not 100% closed, makes him cautious. Even with these limitations, and beyond the film about Gila and the support for Javier Margo's next film, the production company has several projects in hand.

Among them, a film stands out, with filming about to begin, in which they are also involved Zeta y Tandem, con Linen Staircase to the address; a horror tape led by a female team; an additional project with Tándem, and a short film with the support of a French production company and the ICAA. These shoots are those projected for 2024 y 2025; In the very short term, Pecado Films will release Close the eyes in September; Mamacruz, by Patricia Ortega, in October, and Animal/Human by Alessandro Pugno, in a class A festival which will be confirmed soon.

Pecado Films faces a new era, with more larger projects and one significant exposure both inside and outside our borders. Fifteen years later, the mix of independent production, ambition and small teams continues to give good results.

A report by Sergio Julián Gómez

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By • 21 Sep, 2023
• Section: Cine, Cinema / Production, Reports