Open your eyes , Lucia and sex , Agora , The others , Cannibal , Cousins , Biutiful … If, speaking of cinema, we mention some of these titles, immediately the name of its director comes to mind. But none of these films would have been possible without the participation of our Luna de Valencia Award this year. His name is Fernando Bovaira and he is a producer. And what is that? This is what Castellón explains to us, whose career took him from his native land to Hollywood, after creating his own production company, Mod Producciones, finishing marking the path of Spanish cinema in recent decades.
For anyone to understand, what is a producer? And, above all, what is a good producer?
Producer work has many facets. There is a creative component where you accompany the scriptwriter, the director in the whole process: when assembling a film in the artistic team, in the technical team, see how to obtain the maximum benefit of the financing you have. Then, you have a financial part that has to do with how the funds are obtained to finance that project and that implies an economic responsibility, with which there is a part of management also very relevant. And finally you have to accompany the commercialization of the film. So it is a job that requires an important versatility. Now the title of producer seems to be almost given away because you see people who only participate in the financing and arrogate the title of producer. But come on, among the people in the industry we know who has produced what. And there is very important complicity with talent. And in that complicity you have to have a foot in the support for that talent, but you have to have another foot in the market and in the economic reality of the projects. That is the producer’s job.
What is the most important thing for you when choosing a project?
Well, sometimes I meet with directors and, more than the project, it’s how I see them in terms of mood, of creative capacity. And from there we started to see what it could make sense to produce. In other cases, you just get a script or have read a novel or an article in a newspaper where you think there may be a film that can be produced. Sometimes there is a project that you may like a lot, but that is unrealizable because it requires financing conditions that are not acceptable. But the engine is always the intuition, something that leads you to want to be two years of your life accompanying a project that has an uncertain outcome. You have to have a lot of faith to embark on that.
It seems that Spanish cinema is always in crisis. Tell us one bad thing about the situation … and a good one
I miss a certain stability, support, cultural policy on the part of the institutions at this time, especially the central administration. It seems to me that there is no real commitment to cinema at a time when cinema is very threatened. We are on the verge of technological disruption and support is needed. Even so, things are being done, but let’s say that we do not have a stability to be able to plan our productions with a certain advance. Sometimes, since you conceive a project, you develop it, until the day of filming begins, it can take two or three years and not having that stability makes it difficult to have a certain planning. That in terms of the bad. The good thing is that the result of all that technological disruption, everything that is happening with the Internet, with the platforms, there is a great demand for content and that is good for the creators, not only in film production, but in everything that It is audiovisual production.
Not long ago, a colleague of yours declared in another interview that with all his films he was always on the verge of mortgaging. Is it so difficult to produce cinema in Spain?
Well, it depends. It depends on the project. There are projects that can be relatively easy to finance and there are others that are very difficult. In these moments, it seems that the simplest thing is to finance comedies of a certain budget, of two and a half million, three million euros. However, financing dramas or films with a certain narrative complexity, is becoming more and more complicated. I say, it depends on the project. If you have the right creative elements and the right cost and you are playing the right genre, which in this case is comedy, you have it much easier.
Numbers, figures, financing, let’s say that the facet of the producer is not the most colorful within a creative work. What encouraged you to choose this profession?
Well, I’ve always liked movies since I was a kid. Intuitively I knew that I wanted to dedicate myself to this, but I was also aware of my limitations. I saw that I had a more appropriate head for the decision than for what creation is. So, I cut myself that way myself. I have always wanted to dedicate myself to production, which I certainly came to after having worked in the acquisition of films for Canal Plus and in distribution. So I knew that my path had to be that of production. But you do not know very well how to explain it. These are things that you unconsciously mature.
From Castellón to Hollywood, where you were working, and with a very hard career, how do you see this journey with perspective?
Well, I studied in Valencia and in the United States, and I arrived in Spain at the end of the 80s when the audiovisual began to revitalize. Until that moment there were only two public channels, but private television channels began to appear and there seemed to be a certain need to “renew the costumes”. Well, that, generationally I arrived at the right time. And then, maybe because I lived in the United States, I had the opportunity to collaborate in certain movies with Hollywood. In the mid-90s I worked with an important producer that was New Regency and that also opens a little mentality.
We always see Hollywood cinema as that ideal to which we aspire. What did you get from that American learning?
Many times the experience can be summarized in one point of view, it gives you a totally different point of view. You see things on a more global scale in a business that is becoming more global every day, just like in other sectors of the economy. I was with them for three years and the truth is that I learned a lot. I worked in distribution and there you learn what the markets are and, indirectly, what are the production methods of Hollywood and what are the power relations in there. Anyway, that is a baggage that you bring, yes.
You have made films of different sizes in terms of production, from Agora de Amenábar, to Caníbal by Manuel Martín Cuenca. How do you approach both types of projects?
Well, the work at the end is very similar, what changes is the scale. Obviously a movie like Cannibal could not have Agora’s budget , but what is the work itself does not seem to change much. In the end what you have is a script that you have to produce in the right conditions and you have to find enough market so that investors can recover the money invested. In some cases the involvement of the producer for the type of project is greater, in others it is perhaps a more authorial film where you trust everything to the creative decisions of the director. Each project is a world, but it is a world that is quite similar to the others. Simply that there may be larger planets or smaller planets. Taking into account that there is no small film, that is to say, that there can be a film of a very low cost that can be much bigger than one of a bigger budget in terms of artistic ambition and result.
You have worked with directors as different as Amenábar, Martín Cuenca, González Iñárritu, Julio Medem, Imanol Uribe … What difference is there in working with one or the other?
Inevitably you have to generate a certain creative tension, but that creative tension can not be broken, because if there is something that you have to maintain throughout the process, which is a long process of coexistence, after all, it is complicity. But complicity does not mean that you absolutely support everything, but you also have to question and through that questioning try to understand what is in the head of the other. Again, each director is a world, he has insecurities, completely different needs and you have to manage this, too. The summary of this is that you have to manage the talent.
While in Valencia, Cifesa has always been spoken of as a historical example of a Spanish Hollywood. Is this possible in Spain or ours is another model and must we accept it as it is?
Well, at this moment there is a lot of talk about industrializing creation. Industrialize creation, industrialize creation … It’s what Hollywood did with the old system of studies, what Hollywood is doing with all these superhero films, what Cifesa used to do, I think that’s very complicated. I believe that creation can not be industrialized. Another thing is that you can generate a factory that makes very similar movies, because that, like the movies of superheroes, that are very similar to each other. But I do not see the conditions in Spain for this industrialization, let’s say, mechanical.
How do you feel most satisfied with your profession after your long journey?
What do I feel most satisfied with? Well, having dedicated myself to this for many years and I hope to continue dedicating myself because it is a privilege. Devoting myself to something that you really like and having that encouragement to continue one day after another is very rewarding. Recognizing that privilege, that’s what satisfies me the most.
We caught you in the middle of the shooting of Alejandro Amenábar’s last film, while the war lasts . We would ask you to tell us something about the project. It started with a certain controversy …
Well, Alejandro returns to direct in Spanish after fifteen years, from the sea, with a history that is very from here. It is a history of the past, of many years ago despite what, by the reactions of some, may seem (have already spent eighty years), and that, however, as he himself said, has a certain contemporaneity with what is the state of this country at the moment. That there are situations in which the past seems a mirror of the present. It’s a very complex film of production, where we have many challenges, economic, casting … But come on, I’m very happy with how the process is going.
What are you most satisfied with?
Well, for example, with the casting decisions that have been made. We have a script that is very solid, very solid. Hard to attack. And a movie that is going to have drama, but a lot of emotion too, in which the viewer is going to be subjected to a certain dramatic complexity in which he will see himself reflected.