Juan Gordon, Álvaro Longoria and Pedro Uriol • Producers
by Sergio Ríos Pérez
03/05/2010 - Since its creation in 1999, Morena Films has had a clear idea: “We’re producers and we’re in Spain, but we could be in France, Italy or Germany. Our market is the world”, says Álvaro Longoria, one of the company’s three producers, along with Juan Gordon and Pedro Uriol. Although over the last 11 years, they have backed works including Steven Soderbergh’s two-part Che [trailer] movie, Rodrigo Plá’s The Zone and Oliver Stone’s Comandante, the company’s real breakthrough came in 2009 thanks to the immense success of Daniel Monzón’s Cell 211 [trailer, film focus].
And their success looks set to continue this year, with releases lined up for the following films: Julio Medem’s Room In Rome [trailer, film focus] (see news); Icíar Bolláin’s Even the Rain [trailer, film focus] (see news); David Pinillos’s Bon Appétit [trailer] (see news); and Paco Cabezas’s Neon Flesh, among others.
Morena operates as a kind of three-headed dragon, where each producer works in an independent but almost interchangeable way. “From the beginning, we wanted to get away from the classic production company with one producer”, explains Longoria. The reason is completely business-related. “With three producers, there’s always a film on the go. Perhaps one is going badly and another very well, but we have stability, something that most production companies lack”, he adds.
“Each one has his own contacts, talent, working philosophy and tastes, but if we see that one of the other producer’s projects has market potential, we back it”, Uriol points out. “If there were five of us producers instead of three, it would be even better”, adds Longoria.
“We’ve realised that the market is international and we can’t limit ourselves to Spain”, explains Uriol. “As far as we’re concerned, success in France is just as important as in Spain, for example”, adds Longoria. To achieve this international standing, “either you become a Spanish partner of reference for major international productions, or you stick to the Spanish directors you usually work with and support them on that journey in making bigger and more international films that naturally open the door to many different markets”, points out Gordon. “Medem is a perfect example. An English-language film has opened up a huge market for him and, as a director, it’s another world”, concludes Longoria.
“The idea of small-scale craftsmanship in cinema is very romantic, but this is an industry. It operates like one and it shouldn’t be what it isn’t”, Longoria insists, adding that “you can’t have amateurs in an industry, because they ruin it”. Although Morena’s catalogue is far from commercial, they are “very selective when it comes to financing or green-lighting a production, for we all started out in the financing sector”, explains Uriol. This vision has earned the company an excellent reputation for reliability, as Gordon indicates when he comments that “we finish films on time, within budget and with good results. It’s clear that all the money we’ve raised for the film has gone into the film”. Concludes Longoria: “You can have a great film, but if you never deliver it, it doesn’t exist”.
This philosophy also applies to their relationship with directors. “It’s essential that they have someone who gives them a truthful opinion and talks to them in plain terms”, says Longoria, adding that “Medem was amazed at some of the things I said to him”. According to Gordon, “[directors] live in a world where everybody worships them and nobody tells them the truth. Our job is to offer creative support”. As Uriol explains, “the important thing is that the rules of the game are clear from the start”.
“We are very present during shooting, editing, post-production, marketing and launches”, claims Uriol. “We’re specialists in turning down 30 posters”, jokes Gordon, adding that “distribution companies handle 30 or 40 films per year and the approach is not really tailored to each individual film”. Uriol says: “We don’t disappear. We’re almost the first to start the project and the last to leave”. The bags under his eyes, a day after the world premiere of Room In Rome and Bon Appetit at the Malaga Spanish Film Festival, after many months of hard work, are the best proof of this.