What a surprise to talk to Marina, founder of the Spanish international sales company, 6 Sales and as of Cannes 2012, founder of a second international sales company, with different partners, Dreamcatchers.
When I teach young filmmakers who are making their first forays into "The Business", I tell them to be conscious of the fact that they are writing a book about themselves and that everybody in the business has a book describing who they are and the book should always be checked before entering any business transactions. I tell them that the people they meet going up are the same people they will meet going down, that ours is a business of constant ups and downs, if not of people on their career ladders, then of countries on their economic swings. I also tell them that as they meet people, they will eventually see that those people they become friends with or whom they like the most for business all seem to know each other and those whom they don't like and don't want to do business with also all seem to hang out together in their separate world. It's an odd form of natural selection or social networking.
Though I say this to students, it still surprised me to find that rule in effect regarding Marina with whom I had not spoken in many many years...since an AFM when she was with another company...Lumina I think it was. But I have always enjoyed watching her films – most recently Blancanieves which is up for 18 Goyas in Spain and which won the Cine Latino Prize in the Palm Springs Film Festival amongst many other prizes from different countries. It has been a pleasure seeing how well she has fared as head of her own company...now in fact two companies.
One example of this “birds of a feather” phenomenon is that during Sundance I was entranced by Sebastian Silva and his two films, Crystal Fairy and Magic Magic. You can read more on my previous blog. Marina is the international sales agent for Magic Magic, for which, she tells me, Sony already acquired half the world during AFM 2011. Wild Side in France, who also distributed Drive, is quite high on the film which they acquired at script stage and is making a push for Cannes Film Festival. She attributes a “Polanski” touch to Sebastian, especially his early films in which the viewer never knows exactly what is going on but there is a sort of secret communication between the characters. She is also the international sales agent for Jake Paltrow’s new film, Young Ones link which just started this Friday and which has a great script and a great cast. Not only is Jake a distant cousin, but both scripts for Young Ones and Magic Magic were brought to her by Brian O’Shea who has his own international sales agency The Exchange. He too is a good friend and his publicist partner Laurent Boye is a especially good friend. One more association is with Alicia Keyes who recently completed Blaze You Out and about whom I wrote a blog about a year ago. Alicia and she have been working on a project for the past six years.
The early history of Marina herself is illuminating and sheds a light on why she is so unique. While Young Ones is shooting in South Africa and is a South African-Irish coproduction (thanks to the efforts of Marina and a big group of various people around the world), it is supposed to take place in Colorado, where Marina herself was conceived and where she gave birth to her own first child almost seventeen years ago.
We spoke of the culture shock her parents experienced when her father came to University of Colorado for his PhD in aeronautics (he’s built the HISPASAT communication satellites over Spain today). He and her mother left Spain while it was ruled by the dictator Franco to go to this hippy town; her mother spent the first year attending every protest in Boulder she could. Imagine the feelings experienced by her parents who were raised in such a repressive society that her mother thought that babies were conceived by kissing because the act of kissing was censored in all movies released in Spain.
Marina began her career studying business administration in Spain and France but realized how much she loved film and so she returned to Boulder where she studied film at the University of Colorado with the avant garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage, with classmates Derek Cianfrance and Joey Curtis, who 17 years ago at the University began writing Blue Valentine. Her sister, six years her junior, also trained there to be a pilot and still lives in the US today, thus giving the family reason to return every Christmas.
Her five years in the U.S. during College were her most creative; she loved the University which was very different from the staid and more theoretical studies in Europe. And she still loves the creative energy of the U.S. where people are eager to try everything. But there was no real business in Boulder and she had a one year old baby. New York was too tough and so she returned to Madrid where her first job was with Alta Films as the assistant to its founder. Her second job was with Andres Vicente at Lolafilms. Andres was the most gifted person she ever met in energizing and motivating people to further his productions, but it was Nicole Mackie (today at Fortissimo) who was head of sales there and who taught Marina everything she needed to know about sales. When Lolafilms lost their deal with Telefonica, Marina formed her own company, Lumina, with Robert Bevan and Cyril Megret in London. In 2005, with two children, going back and forth from Madrid to London was quite difficult as the Headquarters were based there. So after transitioning by hiring another manager she left and started 6 Sales in 2006. The company was renamed Salt and is still operating today.
With a story like that, who could not admire Marina. Sharing our insights, I confided in her my belief that half of the “Spanish” in the New World were probably of Jewish origin, coming to the New World with Columbus to escape the Inquisition. She did not see this as far-fetched, in fact added that the fact that people with the last names starting with “San” or with names with “water” in them, like Rios (rivers) or Fuentes (fountains) were known to be of Jewish origin. Her partners in 6 Sales are Israeli and when she visited Israel she felt very much at home. So many Israelis reminded her of her own extended family. Like the Italians and the Spanish feel so similar to one another, so she felt with the Israelis.
She is in L.A. now, primarily with her second company Dreamcatchers as they start on the second installment of Mariah Mundi link to Cinando. Just to show my readers how far in advance sales agents must work, the first installment of Mariah Mundi and the Midas Box. has not yet been finished and will debut in Cannes. It is a large family film about magic and is based on a bestselling novel, orchestrated by the Brussels Philharmonic which did The Artist, with music composed by Fernando Velazquez, who also composed the music for Universal’s current hit, Mama and for The Impossible. This film should hit big.They are already in discussions with U.S. distributors and agents about the second part.
“We want to become one of the main European Sales Agencies of top quality commercial product. Films like Blancanieves will be an exception but they show how much we love cinema. It is not a commercial film by traditional standards but it’s quality and has won so many awards -- almost Oscar nomination and 18 Goya Nominations!! Mariah Mundi and The Midas Box will be more our type of product. We are now commencing production on the second part with a budget of $30M. We have a great advantage over U.S. companies as well because we have soft money to bring together with my partner’s FUND (Arcadia Capital). And now our next projects are Prodigious and Oliver’s Deal and we are announcing the beginning of production of Claudia Llosa’s new film Cry, Fly on March 11th in Canada. We will present a promo in Cannes this year. This is the first English language film of Peruvian filmmaker Claudia Llosa with The Milk of Sorrow ."
Read more about Cry, Fly covered in Varierty.
Claudia Llosa is the niece of the Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa and the film director Luis Llosa. She wrote Madeinusa which premiered in Competition at Sundance in 2006. The Milk of Sorrow won Berlin Film Festival in 2009 and was nominated to the Foreign Oscar the next year.