Industry Report: Animation
Case Study: Nocturna
by Cartoon, the European Association of Animation Film
19/03/2008 - Paco Rodriguez founded PPM Multimedia in 1990, where he spent 10 years working in distribution and co-production financing as well as executive producing several animated series for children. He is presently Executive Producer and director at Filmax animation on the ongoing productions, Nocturna, Donkey xote and The Hairy Tooth Fairy I & II. He has also acted as Co-Executive Producer on other major animated feature films, including El Cid: the Legend, P3K: Pinocchio 3000 and Gisaku.
What were your first steps in the pre-production of Nocturna?
We followed the classical steps of development. When you receive a 45-page concept with design and script, the first thing you have to think is how you’re going to maintain the balance between the 3 most important points in production: artistic elements, money and time. At the beginning of the development process, we analysed the artistic part with the directors.
After this «artistic confrontation», we decided on the budget, the amount of money we wanted to invest and the amount of money we needed to find through co-productions. We signed the agreements between the producers, the executive producer, and the directors, and tried to maintain under control the tricky question of time…
How did you find your team?
We wanted to have a high quality film, but we had limited financial resources: only 240.000 € for 900 backgrounds. The directors wanted to work with a French artistic team, but it was too expensive for us. We launched an international contest and we received proposals from all over the world. We tested the capacity, the talent and the quality of the candidates and we hired the background artists to work with us in Barcelona. Concerning the animation in Spain, we were very lucky, because we worked with the best animators in Spain, and at very good prizes, for a very simple and good reason: they were free, there was no animation work at that time, the 3D production is stagnant.
Which are the difficulties you faced during the production?
Everything was fine and on time during the animation process. We started to have problems during the compositing and colouring phases, mainly because of the subcontracting company. I learned one essential thing during this film: “You never know who you are working with.” You have to be very careful when you are putting your own movie in the hand of another company for subcontracting purposes. It’s a bet. A very difficult bet. After 4 months of difficult relationships with the sub- contracting company, we were overwhelmed by the work and we realized that it was necessary to stop the production. We asked a lawyer to find a solution to end the contract with the subcontracting company. In the meantime we had to stop the production during 4, 5 months. This situation forced us to create our colouring and compositing team. Every month we had to rethink the balance between the artistic elements, the cost and the time schedule of the production.
How did you finance Nocturna?
The budget of the film is almost 8 million €. Filmax obtained a support from the Spanish Ministry of Culture and from Eurimages. To reach the 8 millions, we had to find international partners and co-productions. First of all we contacted our French partner (the same we worked with for the film “Pinocchio” in 2000), who brought us the subsidy of the CNC. To cover the last 20% of the budget, we looked for a third partner. We talked to a Canadian company, but the deal aborted. We contacted a British company, but they couldn’t find the financing. We lost one year searching for a suitable co-producer.
After three years of negotiations, we still had a gap of 2 million €. We reduced our ambitions and changed certain aspects of the movie. We eliminated some expensive charges linked to the 3D animation. And then we started the production. It took 5 years to do this film. We planned to finish the production in 2006 but we finished it in 2007. It was a nightmare to finance the movie, there were 24 sources of finance, local, national, regional, pan European funds, so 24 persons to convince, to keep informed…
When was Nocturna released in Spain? What about the commercial results?
We did 150 prints of the movie. It was released in October 2007, which is the worst time to release an animated feature for children. For the animation department Nocturna was «our baby», but for the company’s distribution arm, it was only one movie between 15 or 25 they release each year. So there was no passion. The reason given for launching the movie in October was because… “there’s nobody in October”.
We had marketing meetings 2 years ago with the communication «gurus», where we proposed several ideas to promote the film. According to the marketing department, it was too early to promote the movie. A few months ago, we asked for a merchandising plan, and the only answer we got was “we cannot see a merchandising plan for this movie”.
I think the promotion investment was too low, only 500,000 €. Nowadays if you don’t put at least 1.5 million € in marketing, you’re nothing, you’re nobody on the Spanish market. In France, it was more or less the same situation. The French distributor released the film with 120 prints in October with the same bad results. Our previous animation movies were released during Christmas or summer and they made good box office results. October is a bad month because you have only the week-end to make results, 3 days is not enough. Kids don’t go to see a movie in the evening during the working or school days…
Cartoon Master Potsdam, Germany, November 2007