Film producing is about making connections, getting in touch with the right person at the right time, having a good sense of what works, what sells, and who will be the next star, either in front or behind the camera.
Panama, blessed with a strategic geographic location, is all about connections too: bridging the North to the South, the Pacific to the Atlantic, and tradition to modernity. This April, Panama City opened the first subway in Central America and became the epicenter of the Latin American film industry by hosting the new PLATINO, the Ibero-American Film Award as well as the International Film Festival of Panama and MEETS, the first co-production platform in the region.
Filmmakers from near and far were called to join each other in this vibrant capital to present their stories in order to find that crucial connection that would move their scripts to the screen.
I was invited to attend the first ever MEETS, the Latin American Film Market, as part of a group of experts: producers, sales agents, festival programmers, distributors, as well as some talent agents. We came to listen, give advice to directors and producers, and possibly build connections to further the whole process.
When asked, what a producer actually does, I always reply that we are the ones who bring value. I'm the one who connects stories to talent, money to projects, films to festivals, product to the market. I'm the one who takes risks and believes in a person, a cause, and a team. The producer recognizes the potential of an idea or a finished script, and then guides and supports the vision of the finished film.
I enjoy being on either side of the table, either as a filmmaker or as an expert. I notice that the power distribution is not as uneven as it may appear at first. Novice producers, writers and directors often come cap-in-hand, begging for a check or an invitation, in the hope of solving their problem and green-lighting the film.
A Filmmaker is like the captain of a ship entering the Panama passage at sea level, looking up at the lake level, located 85 feet higher in order to enter the world famous canal. It can be overwhelming and frustrating to stare at that big gap of altitude, which must be overcome. Here is where the ingenuity of the three locks comes to play: each lock gradually fills up with water and then allows the gate to open to the next level. Little by little, even the biggest and heaviest cargo will float up until the planes are leveled. Then, the captain can smoothly sail onward.
I'm learning in my career that success comes step-by-step by following a focused idea and allowing things to unfold naturally rather than forcing a quantum leap, a lucky punch or a big break.
We, the decision makers, search for partners with whom we can connect on eye level, with a strong personal and unique voice: writers, directors, and producers with an exceptional vision. Successful are the ones who are able to communicate with an open mind and are willing to adapt to any weather, thus allowing us to navigate the waters together.
Starting a film production entails entering a relationship for at least a few years, a relationship where trust and communication is key. The most attractive partners are connected, not just among each other, but also to a vision and a power from within.