Producer on the Move 2014 – Portugal
by Vitor Pinto
- Cineuropa met up with Nuno Bernardo, a producer at beActive and European Film Promotion’s Producer on the Move 2014
An EAVE graduate, Nuno Bernardo is the founder of the Portuguese film, TV and digital studio beActive and was nominated for the International Digital Emmy Awards for the Brazilian series Final Punishment and Jason Butler's Irish-Portuguese feature Collider. He has also produced the features The Knot [+see also:
film profile] and Beat Girl as well as the documentary Road to Revolution. Bernardo is currently shooting The Stand Ups in Ireland and is developing Get Happy, which he has co-scripted with Paul O’Rourke and Pat Connolly.
Cineuropa: beActive has specialised in transmedia projects. What pushed you to invest in this field, which is still so under-exploited in Portugal?
Nuno Bernardo: beActive was founded in 2003 with the aim of developing the art of storytelling applied to new media as a complement to the traditional ones. We took our first steps with a series called Sofia’s Diary. We used mobiles, the internet, radio, magazines and TV to tell the story of what was to become Portugal’s most famous teenager. And we have been exploring new means and new platforms to distribute our products ever since. Back then, the term transmedia had not yet been coined. We were simply trying to reach our audiences – no matter the platform.
beActive’s implementation strategy was internationally orientated (Ireland, the UK, Brazil). What were the biggest challenges of that process?
One of the problems we initially had – and that we still have, actually – is that we target young audiences. Our products are less mainstream, and we explore new formats, which prevent us from producing more in Portugal. Local channels, particularly public TV, tend not to produce for this target. And you cannot even find an ICA co-financed film for children or teenagers. This turns the whole internationalisation process into a difficult task. Markets and international buyers are seeking successful formats, and if you can’t produce locally, experiment with new ideas and content, and ultimately be successful within your own borders, it becomes nearly impossible to sell new content and formats. This leads us to work with other markets such as Canada, Ireland, the UK and Brazil – that’s where we found people who believed in us and supported our projects.
Your company’s line-up is eclectic; it includes projects for younger audiences (like Flatmates), thrillers and sci-fi (Final Punishment and Collider), and even a documentary on the Arab Spring (Road to Revolution). What are your selection criteria? Is there a genre you intend to prioritise in the future?
We mainly target the youngest audiences, but we don’t limit ourselves to them. We will continue to produce series for them, but with a particular family-driven focus – projects that can be seen by children, teenagers and parents as well. But it is also our intention to continue producing documentaries for wider, adult audiences, and to open up to several genres such as sci-fi, horror films and thrillers. We want our productions to be as eclectic as possible in terms of their themes and contents.
Can you tell us about your upcoming projects The Stand Ups and Get Happy?
We are actually already shooting The Stand Ups, a documentary that follows five comedians taking part in the Edinburgh Comedy Festival. It is all about the backstage part of stand-up comedy; it shows the difficulties and the expectations of those who choose to do it. It’s a mixture of observational documentary and comedy; it shows the most private side of those who get up on stage to make people laugh. We are shooting until mid-August in several Irish cities, including Dublin. Other locations include London and Edinburgh. Get Happy is a family-driven project about a popular teenage actress named Kelly who wants to escape from the harassment of Hollywood’s paparazzi. She decides to hide in Dublin as an exchange student, trying to live a “normal” life. She meets a boy who shows her what life is like as an ordinary teenager, which is something she has never experienced before. Things eventually get complicated when the media find out where Kelly is. Currently in development, Get Happy is being financed by the Irish Film Board. Principal photography is expected to start in 2015.
In an article you published recently in a Portuguese daily, you mentioned the possibility of imposing a quota system for local productions and criticised the lack of a local tax shelter. In your view, could those things be the drivers behind an effective development of Portugal’s audiovisual industry?
Audiovisual production can only exist in small countries if you combine three essential aspects. First: a certain “obligation” for broadcasters to include local productions in their programme schedules. Second: tax credits that ease the financial burden for channels and broadcasters, attract international productions and promote co-productions. Third: funding schemes based either on “soft money” (ie, ICA funds) or on “private equity” (the typical FICA funds). If these three systems co-exist effectively, the diversity of funding schemes will reduce the burden of the obligations that channels, the State and broadcasters have, and will allow producers to develop solid and sustainable business models. If you invest in a single funding model – as happened in the past with the FICA fund and as is currently happening with the new film law, without any complementary models – all the financing burden is put on one single entity, rather than having it shared among the State, ICA, broadcasters, TV channels and producers.
What are your expectations of the Producers on the Move event?
I want to extend my network of contacts, and make links and potential partnerships, which could turn into co-productions. I also want to increase the international visibility of beActive. We already have some meetings scheduled, and I hope my agenda will be full during the days we are in Cannes.
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