Welcome to International Disruptors, a feature where we shine a spotlight on key executives and companies outside of the U.S. shaking up the offshore marketplace. This week, as the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival has just kicked off, we’re talking to Enrique Costa and María Zamora, co-founders of Spanish distribution and production banner Elastica Films. At just a year old, the company is already making waves in the independent sector. They tell us about the company’s first year, their love of cinema and how they build films that connect with audiences.
At last year’s pared-down Cannes Film Festival, Enrique Costa and María Zamora touched down on the Croisette having just launched their new Spanish distribution-production banner Elastica Films. The pandemic continued to wreak havoc on the theatrical business and that usual buzzy market feeling felt notably muted compared to previous years.
But that didn’t stop the fledgling outfit from acquiring three of festival’s hottest competition titles: Leox Carax’s Annette, Joachim Trier’s Oscar-nominated The Worst Person in The World and Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Oscar-winning Drive My Car. The company also presented Libertad in Critics Week, a production Zamora had been involved through with the duo’s former company Avalon, where they were both partners.
“We’ll always remember last year’s Cannes because it was our first time under our new label and it was such a good market for us,” Zamora tells Deadline.
“It was really profitable for us and a great first festival to kick Elastica off,” Costa enthuses.
And the proof is in the pudding as the indie titles went on to do some solid business in Spanish theaters: Annette had 45,000 admissions ($232,000); Drive My Car earned more than 65,000 admissions ($357,000); and The Worst Person In The World took 250,000 admissions ($876,000). These were encouraging numbers that put Spain in the top five markets for each of these festival darlings, sometimes even beating out historically bigger markets like the UK. And all during a pandemic, nonetheless.
It was a bold move to launch a distribution strand while Covid-19 continued to impact the world but for Costa, who steers that part of the business while Zamora heads up the production side, it made perfect sense.
“I said to María, this is the right moment because everything is so awful at the moment,” he says. The results were so bad that I thought if we have one movie that really, really works, we want to be there.”
The pair had spent 17 years at Madrid-based production-distribution company Avalon before they left on good terms and set up Elastica in Valencia last year. With a wealth of experience under their belt in both arenas, it felt a natural progression to branch out and try something new.
“We knew from the beginning what kind of projects we wanted to buy and what kind of talent we wanted to be involved with,” Costa says. “It was easy for us from the very beginning to identify what space we wanted to operate in and that means distributing and producing movies that we want to watch as an audience.”
The company targets their audience largely through social media and internet campaigns, connecting with influencers who have further reach in the current climate than a newspaper review might do.
“Social media is crucial,” says Costa. “It’s important what the critics say and how they see the movie but at the same time, now we know that it’s also what social media is saying about the film and how word of mouth spreads through things like Twitter and Instagram. We must start building these campaigns super early.”
Elastica was the main producer behind Berlinale’s Golden Bear winner Alcarràs, which it co-produced with Avalon. The project, which is the second film from director Carla Simón, follows the life of a family of peach farmers in a small village in Catalonia whose world changes when the owner of their large estate dies and his lifetime heir decides to sell the land, suddenly threatening their livelihood.
The film has been a big hit in Spain since its release at the end of April, taking more than 250,000 admissions ($1.2M and counting) in theaters and making it the most successful Catalan film in more than 10 years. Encouragingly it was the older “grey-haired” punters that were turning up the cinema, an audience that has proven more difficult for distributors around the world to get back into theaters.
Elastica built up on the film’s Berlin win and launched the film’s Spanish premiere in Catalonia, inviting the President of Catalonia and Minister of Culture to the outdoor event, opting for a green carpet instead of a red one – an homage to farming and the rural life in remote parts of the region that are now disappearing as big corporations move in on the land.
“What we did was really special with that premiere,” says Zamora. “It was very emotional. We brought all these different personalities together and we made the movie close to the audience – they felt a part of it.”
For Zamora, Alcarrás is the perfect example of the types of productions Elastica want on their books – smart and moving personal stories that have something to say to global audiences.
“I keep looking for directors and stories that have a different angle or a special look or a story that is looking at something important that we feel compelled to tell,” says Zamora. “I try all of the time to look for topics that are in our society and that people are talking about, but we can approach from a different angle and bring them to light in ways audiences haven’t seen before.”
Zamora has a passion for supporting first-time filmmakers, many of whom are women, and has produced 10 films with first-time directors so far.
“I love doing debut films and discovering new talent,” she says. “It’s something I’ve done for many years and will continue to do. At the same time, I’m developing relationships with experienced directors as well.”
Elastica’s development slate includes: Simón’s third feature Romería; Las Madres No from Mar Coll; Jaione Camborda’s The Rye Horn; and Elena Martin Gimeno’s Creatura. It’s also developing La Virgen Roja from Paula Oritz with Amazon and has a host of TV projects at very early stages.
The company is also producing Spanish actress Marta Nieto’s directorial debut about the story of a transgender boy and his relationship with his mother. “It was important that we tell this story from the point of view of the mother,” says Zamora. “It’s an angle that I don’t think we’ve seen before.”
Additionally, it’s working on Álvaro Gago’s debut Matria, the director who won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival in 2018 for his short film of the same name.
This year in Cannes, Elastica is going to be active with Costa admitting he’s got his eye on a clutch of projects in what’s looking like a very saturated-package market. The company has three projects premiering at the festival. There’s The Water from Elena López Riera, which is playing in Director’s Fortnight, which Costa describes as a “very powerful movie.” Elastica is distributing the title with Spanish VOD platform Filmin, where it will head after a theatrical release.
It’s also aboard French helmer Mia Hanson-Love’s One Fine Morning, also screening in Directors Fortnight. Costa worked on Hanson-Love’s Bergman Island when he was at Avalon and is continuing that relationship into Elastica.
The company also previously acquired Cannes competition title Triangle Of Sadness from Swedish director Ruben Ostlund, another relationship born out of Avalon when the pair worked on the helmer’s title The Square.
Zamora is going to be spending her Cannes Film Festival watching a lot of movies as the producer is part of the Critics’ Week jury this year.
Going forward, Costa and Zamora say they have no plans to grow too quickly, preferring to take the process organically and thoughtfully.
Zamora notes that there’s a pattern with many producers to bulk up their slate and take on too many projects at once given the boom in global production and the appetite of local and global streamers.
“It’s very tempting at the moment for producers because there is so much production going round all of the time,” she says. “It can be very frenetic but the way I work with directors is much more handcrafted. We need to build things very slowly and take our time.”
Costa agrees adding that he prefers to think of Elastica as a big slow cooker. “As a distributor we have to take our time too. We watch how the movie gets going, growing slowly and slowly and we need to be close to it and nurture it. Of course, we want Elastica to be in good shape but it’s not our mission to produce five features and three series a year and distribute 20 films per year. It’s not about volume, it’s about quality.”
He adds, “We’re old school. We are in love with cinema, and we believe cinema is here to stay. It’s still the most important window into the life of a movie. So, we’re going to focus on being involved with movies that we can bring to the cinema and movies that an audience wants to be a part of. We will continue to look for new talent that we can have the opportunity in facilitating their career by bringing their films to audiences.”
This week’s edition of International Disruptors is presented by Guillotine Vodka.