Interview with Award-winning Producer, Manuel Cristobal

Named as one of the 60 personalities of the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 and European Film Promotion’s Spanish ‘Producer on the Move’ of 2008, Manuel Cristobal is a rising star in the digital domain. In September 2006, he founded Perro Verde Films, a Galicia-based company, which operates two production companies in Spain and is a partner in 6 Sales, a Madrid-based sales agency specialising in animation features. Manuel will be speaking at Power to the Pixel’s Forum on Thursday, 23 October at 10:30 am. His presentation, entitled A Day and Date Distribution Case Study of Going Nuts, will explain how the first feature to cast peanuts as the main characters also became Spain’s first day and date release.

How has digital technology changed the way you work?
To tell you the truth, I have always been very “digital.” When I was 29, I was the executive producer of The Living Forest (Angel de la Cruz, 2001), which was the first CGI animation film in Europe. I have always loved the changes that have come from digital. Today, shooting a film on 35mm does not make sense when you can achieve the same results with inexpensive digital technology.

How much do you rely on traditional distribution and how much do you do yourself?
I have produced six films: three CGI animation films, two live action films and one crazy and adorable project called Going Nuts, which was the first day and date release in Spain. I love using new forms of distribution, but how successful these methods are depends on your target audience and the size of your project. For big projects, traditional distribution is still where the money is. So, if you have a lot invested in the film, you have to go this route. But for small projects, I prefer to manage the distribution myself.

What advice would you give filmmakers seeking distribution partners?
It is important that filmmakers understand how distribution works — how to build momentum, create hype and find the right partners for each project. You have to understand what each potential partner has to offer in order to know which ones will be best for your film.

What distribution advantages do animated films have over other kinds of films?
Animated films have the potential to travel, while live action films do not always appeal across cultures. Because animation is not a genre, but rather a technique, it is necessary to understand if your film is a family film, an art house film or a comedy. To appeal to widespread audiences, we need to create more family films and films for the multiplexes. In Spain, three out of four tickets are sold in multiplexes, so independents should consider these outlets and not only make art house films.

What advice would you give a first-time filmmaker wanting to make and self-distribute an animated feature?
Animation is very expensive, so it is sometimes not suitable for self-distribution. Depending on the market you think you have, you must begin by considering the size of the budget you need. If anyone comes across a low-budget animated project, please call me!!

What one thing would you like to see happen or developed to increase the efficiency of the independent film business?
I am very concerned about the idea of changing from one gatekeeper to another. Why do we want iTunes, Xbox LIVE and PlayStation stores if we can’t have our films there? Are these retailers functioning as broadcasters? Should they have European content? I hope we can talk about it at Power to the Pixel.