Onsite at BAM (Bogotá Audiovisual Market) 2019, it’s clear that extensive investment in changing the country’s story culturally and economically through benefits and business opportunities is certainly stimulating the film and television industry. Co-producing scripted dramatic projects with Colombia has become quite an attractive option since new laws mean international projects with budgets over $500,000USD can qualify for a 20-40% cash rebate on most Colombian production expenditures. While documentary producers can’t avail themselves of this opportunity, there are talks of a new tax incentive in the works for 2020 for a wider range of media productions and budgets. In the meantime, Canadian documentary storytellers interested collaborating with Colombian creatives in new media and digital media spaces are in luck.
During the BAM conference, I attended an event featuring Canada-Colombia Co-Development Digital Media Incentive funding recipients, one of the initiatives Colombia has developed to stimulate growth in their Orange Economy creative clusters. Proimágenes, Colombia’s film fund, with the Canadian Media Fund (CMF), developed and administer this fund to support digital media co-development between the two countries. The allocated $240,000 CAD provides maximum funding of $60,000 CAD per project in a non-repayable contribution, aiming to finance the creation of a market-ready Minimum Viable Product (MVP) to help develop production partnerships and financing opportunities.
The funding program, supported by the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce and the Ministry of Information Communications and Technologies of Colombia (MinTIC), launched in 2017 and has funded the development of eight digital media co-development projects over two application calls.
At BAM, recipients of both funding rounds showcased their MVPs in meetings with potential investors, partners and industry attendees. Proimágenes’ new media event coordinator Rodrigo Castellanos explained that the application process was very competitive with approximately 200 applicants in 2018-2019 resulting in four recipients. He mentioned some possibility that future funding may expand to include production, which has yet to be announced.
Diverse in terms of financing structure and production splits, the successful projects varied greatly ranging from software to rich interactive media to web series applications of drama, children’s & youth, variety & performing arts, and documentary genres.
I met with Canadian and Colombian Producers whose collaborative projects demonstrated this diversity in terms of stories and final MVPs. We were able to demo a prototype for Espectros (2017-2018), an app designed to take users on an interactive ghost walk through the world’s major cities, or their major institutions. The project received $13,000 from the CMF and $45,757 from Proimágenes resulting in a beta version currently designed for Canadian and Colombian cities that has already generated talks with potential investors and partners. Arctic Horror Stories presented an episode from their upcoming animated horror web series sharing some of the darker traditional tales from northern Canada’s Inuit culture. Produced by Canada’s Taqqut Productions and Colombia’s Conexion Creativa, this project is also a Colombian majority co-production with $11,560 of the awarded $59,560 coming from CMF and Proimágenes coming in with $48,000.
In the documentary spectrum, Garden of Vision (2017-2018), described as an “interactive Virtual Reality cinematic documentary experience,” was awarded BAM 2019’s prize for Best Virtual Reality Experience. A four-episode immersive journey where VR bleeding-edge meets indigenous culture, the project delves into the Americas and human consciousness arriving at indigenous rituals with sacred plants. The first episode of the project Sacred Coca was presented at Venice Film Festival in 2018 and at FICCI 2019 (Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena de Indias) after its demo in the Amazon. The CMF contributed $34,493 to this project, a Colombian majority co-production between 4Direcciones and renowned Canadian VR Company Deep Inc., founded by award-winning documentary filmmaker Thomas Wallner.
The second of two documentary-based projects Artific.io is a Bogota-Montreal interactive multi-episode web series exploring “the transformative power of artificial intelligence”. The project features a mini-website that allows viewers to create AI (artifical intelligence) art while learning about it’s evolution and potential impact on the art world. Currently, the project consists of a pilot episode and beta mini-website that’s been garnering market interest.
Back in Canada, I connected with Artific.io Candian co-producer Diego Briceño, co-founder of of the artist-run non-profit development and incubation coop Makila, home of the well-loved Cuban Hat documentary pitch out of Montreal), who shared his experiences with the co-development funding application and delivery process, along with details on the status of the project.
Calling Montreal his home for 26 years, the Colombian native was visiting Bogotá several years ago when he connected with acclaimed Colombian director Jorge Caballero. The two became fast filmmaking friends, often discussing projects, and when the second call for the co-development funding was announced, Caballero reached out to discuss an idea with Diego.
Jorge had an engineering background that fostered his interest in AI complemented by his award-winning artistic sensibility. His concept about AI and art sparked Diego’s love for and background in digital interactive media. They formed a partnership agreeing to shoot and edit the first 12-minute episode in Canada, with the Colombian contribution covering coding and UX design of a mini-website that would enable users to create their own AI artwork.
Diego described the process of completing the application as very rigorous, involving a process of collaborative writing between Spanish and English (via Google Docs) and the addition of an anglophone writer (to ensure the proposal wasn’t too “spanglish,” noting that project writing styles differ significantly between the two cultures). He also pointed out the process requires submission of two separate applications electronically with many minor but important differences (such as budget templates and character length requirements on forms), and required detailed eyeballing and oversight.
They submitted the application in August 2018; funding was awarded in September 2018 and the deadline to complete and submit all MVP deliverables, including paperwork (which, on the Colombian side is highly detailed and requires precise verification), was December 2018 for ProImágenes’ fiscal year end, triggering the final Colombian drawdown. It was a tight turnaround time and the team continued to iterate following their submission, delivering on the Canadian side in early 2019.
In order to accomplish the ambitious MVP, the team each wore many hats, performing many roles, which Diego explained means they were “todero” in Spanish. They completed the first episode of the web series and created a functional mini-site that was marketed at Sunny Side of the Doc, RIDM, IDFA, and then shifted in direction slightly from the feedback from these discussions. Market interest in the project has been positive and they’ve officially secured a co-production partnership with Amsterdam’s Emmy award-winning production company Submarine Channel, leaders in trans and digital media storytelling. It’s also become clear through this process that the project will shift to a Canadian majority co-production as there are more financing opportunities for digital media production in Canada.
Based on the Artific.io team’s experience and the projects showcased in Bogotá, the co-development fund appears to be fostering innovative and valuable propositions for the digital media market. BAM 2019 demonstrated a great synergy between Canadian and Colombian new media makers, creatively and professionally, and exciting storytelling possibilities to explore.
Read more about BAM 2019 in this report on the A/V market.
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More scenes from BAM 2019 – Actors brunch, TeleColombia Fox Studios tour, chillin on the Narcos plane, interview with Claudia Triana de Vargas Director of @proimagenescolombia and Marco Llinás Vargas from the Bogotá Chamber of Commerce, and a beautiful networking rooftop dinner overlooking amazing #Bogota #mondobam #fun #film #filmmaking #colombia #bam