Filmarket Hub Success Story: “Oblivion”
Today I want to talk to you about another of our success cases at Filmarket Hub. The project is “Oblivion”, the first feature film script by Spanish journalist Fermín P. Pina. The project was one of the seven selected to pitch at our 4th Pitchbox event, during march 2017. Thanks to his participation in the event, he met distributor Juan Barquin, and now the film is set to be produced by La Dalia Films and will be released in cinemas by Festival Films.
Do you want to know more about it? Following, here’s the key players opinion on the matter.
FERMÍN P. PINA
Journalist & Screenwriter
What’s “Oblivion” about?
“Oblivion” is a thriller set in the flood of October 1957 in Valencia, Spain, after the river Turia overflowed and wrecked the city. The flood took hundreds of lives, being the biggest natural disaster the city has ever had. The film starts with the finding of six bodies amongst the mud, which present bizarre scars all over the body. A courageous journalist and a rough policeman investigate the case in front of the silence and difficulties Franco’s regime impose. All the action happens in a grey, obscure and submerged in chaos Valencia.
How did you come up with the idea and how long have you been writing your script?
The Valencia flood is a subject that has fascinated me since I was a child. It’s something that conditioned and reconfigured the city (the river was diverted and doesn’t go across the city anymore), and which also my family lived through and suffered directly. I found that to use that setting for a fiction story was a very attractive idea and I started developing a story for a comic book. In mid 2016 I realized that what I was writing could have the potential as a film script and I changed the format and the story to present it to film aids from the local government, which the project was granted.
How did you document and familiarize yourself with the real story in order to recreate the city of Valencia in the 1950s?
Fortunately, the Valencia flood is a very well documented event. In 2007, with the 50th anniversary of the tragedy, several features and articles were published on the matter, where there was a lot of precise and graphic information; there was also a TV documentary shown on the Valencian television. I’ve got almost all the bibliography that has been published on the subject, articles from back then when the tragedy happened…Without trying to make a documentary nor limit myself to the period’s authenticity, I’ve wanted to make “Oblivion” as a faithful reflection in terms of context, setting, the when and the where of the story. Loads of anecdotes, happenings and even some real life character have several plot lines in my script.
What were your references when writing the story?
The thriller is my favorite genre, so, there have been loads of stories that have inspired me. The One Page on Filmarket Hub of this project has as references “Marshland” (Alberto Rodríguez, 2014)(police investigation, opressive environment, a serial killer…) and “Spotlight” (Tom McCarthy, 2015) (journalistic investigation to unveil a truth that those in power try to hide). There’s a lot of different pieces I’ve been inspired by: police novels, genre TV series, every time I see the first season of True Detective I think I’d like to write something similar, so I figure there’s a lot of that TV show in Oblivion.
What was the state of development of the project when you decided to submit it to the market on Filmarket Hub so you could participate at 4th Pitchbox?
At the end of 2016 I received funding from the local Valencia government, so I could keep developing the script, after I presented its treatment. After that, I inmediately submitted it to Filmarket Hub’s online market, which coincided with the opening of the 4th Pitchbox call.
Once you were selected, what were your expectations and objectives in terms of the event?
Because it was my first feature film project, to be selected was already a huge surprise in itself. I didn’t expect it to go further than that, so I focused the event as an opportunity to learn from the rest of screenwriters and to learn a little bit better how the film industry works.
How do you value your experience as a screenwriter at 4th Pitchbox?
As a general evaluation, participating in 4th Pitchbox has changed my life. Thanks to the event my first feature film script will become a film. More specifically, having the chance to present my work in front of the best film production companies in Spain it was fantastic. I was very pleased with my seven minutes pitch and I enjoyed being able to tell my story To meet six other screenwriters, all of them with an interesting and rich baggage and a incredible track records as writers, has allowed me to get to know the industry better, as well as to make good friends along the way. The networking event afterwards with the production companies was a great opportunity as well, and I think it is in those face to face meetings where I was able to best sell my work.
What was the thing you liked most about the proposal of Festival Films and La Dalia Films?
After the event I had various requests to read my script from different production companies and distributors. In a couple of weeks I had two formal offers to buy my script, so I had to evaluate which one was the best option and choose.
Festival Films and La Dalia Films was the lowest economic offer, but it was very attractive for other reasons: the viability to make the film a reality, the possibility to still opt for the local government funding and the fact that I’d have a distributor from the very start of the filmmaking process.
What advantages do you think an online platform such as Filmarket Hub and its events can bring to the table in front of more traditional methods of finding financing, coproduction etc.?
The online market at Filmarket Hub gives a lot of visibility to screenwriters that, otherwise, would be almost impossible to get to film production companies. Nowadays, competitiveness in screenwriting is very strong, so to get your script in the hands of an actual producer is almost impossible. To have a market where production companies are the ones browsing for content to produce, is a luxury. On the other hand, the periodical events (meetings, Pitchbox…) are something unique. To get together in a room the main production companies, TV broadcasters of the country, and to be able to present and try to sell them in seven minutes your work, is an opportunity that doesn’t exist in any other space.
Do you have any other projects at the moment?
Though I’m still not able to leave my journalism job, in this last year and a half I’ve been able to write a bit more. A couple of treatments for feature films, a bible and pilot for a TV series…I’ve again obtained state funding, I submitted my project to TV Pitchbox…plus, together with my producers and parallel to Oblivion we are developing another feature film project, but this time with very specific production conditions.
What advice would you give to a screenwriter trying to sell he’s or her’s first script?
I think I’m not in a position to give advice yet, but what I’ve achieved this last year and a half can be of use as reference to someone else. Firstly, reread and rewrite from a theoretic stand point, for which you need a solid education. Writing techniques, language, style, narrative structure…To know the theory helps a lot when having to apply that knowledge in a practical way, and you shouldn’t be afraid of rewriting and changing history.
On the other hand, to know the market and the film industry is an advantage: to be aware of public funding, screenwriting contests, and lastly, and risking to sound pro-corporations, Filmarket Hub. Two years ago I had written a couple of short films and I had some notes from the screenwriting classes I took forgotten, in the end of a dusty drawer.Today, I am working on the 4th version of my script for Oblivion after getting feedback from my producers, who will kickstart the whole production process in a few months. If I hadn’t been selected at 4th Pitchbox, I doubt any of this would be happening.
Distributor & Producer
How did come about the creation of Festival Films and what is your editorial line?
Festival Films was born in 2003, with a clear idea of becoming a distribution company focused on releasing european arthouse cinema. Today we keep that auteur line having released more than a hundred titles from directors such as Kim Ki-duk (Spring, summer, autumn, winter…spring) or Terence Davies (The Deep Blue Sea & Sunset Song), and Spanish titles such as The night my mom killed my dad or 2 francs 40 pesetas, The world is ours, etc.
How do you value your experience at 4th Pitchbox?
It was very interesting, it was the first time we went to an event like this and we didn’t expect to find so many interesting projects. It was a pleasant surprise for us and a new way to acquire content, as you’re always on the lookout for new projects and to find them from such an early stage of development, is a great opportunity.
What attracted you to a project like Oblivion amongst the rest of projects pitched at the event?
There were several projects that attracted our attention, but after the pitch and the meeting we had with Fermín about his project, we loved his proposal and totally convinced us with the line and tone he wanted to give to the film.
How was the whole process, from the first meeting at the pitching event until the formal agreement? Did La Dalia Films get involved from the get-go to produce the project?
As we’re in an evolving process at Festival Films, this project is perfect to enter as a small coproducing partner with La Dalia Films (with whom we have worked on The night my mother killed my father). So, we spoke to them and they loved the project, so shortly after we started closing the deal on the three fronts.
This is not the first collaboration between Festival Films and La Dalia Films. What’s the key to a successful relationship between producer and distributor?
As distributors, we are delighted to be a part of the films we distribute from the start, so we can bring in our know-how about film distribution and to value every step, as well as to start to develop a marketing strategy from the beginning which will position the film early on for its future release in cinemas.
In what stage is Oblivion right now? Does it have director and/or any cast confirmed?
Right now we’re in a development and financing phase, and with a clear idea about who could be our director, we’re in talks now to close this position.
What will be then the next steps to take in the development of the project?
Mainly, to close the financing plan and who is going to direct the film so we can start sizing up the project, thinking of starting production in 2019.
What advantages do you think Filmarket Hub brings with its services and events compared to more traditional methods used in the film industry?
It is a great opportunity, a platform which has as big markets such as Berlin, Cannes…are unavoidable in the business we’re in. Filmarket Hub has become an indispensable tool for our acquisitions department.