Joel Coler Honored at San Sebastian for Service to Festival

Festival thanks the former Fox executive for helping bolster the festival's standing in the United States for the past 20 years.

SAN SEBASTIAN, Spain – The San Sebastian International Film Festival honored Los Angeles-based marketing guru Joel Coler Sunday, thanking him for 20 years of service and his contribution to the international stature of Spain’s top festival in the United States.

Coler, a former Fox executive who has represented the festival in the U.S. for the past two decades, has regularly secured Hollywood names and titles for San Sebastian’s lineup.

Coler said his goal was to “deliver Hollywood to San Sebastian, the kind that sells tickets, makes the press and keeps the festival relevant.” And that is exactly what he has done.

This year’s lineup, which includes films like Savages, Argo and Arbitrage—to name a few—will see a steady flow of star power that include Ben Affleck, John Travolta, Oliver Stone, Richard Gere, Susan Sarandon, Tommy Lee Jones, Ewan McGregor and Dustin Hoffman.

“Twenty years ago the knowledge in L.A. about the festival wasn’t what it is today,” said former festival director Mikel Olaceregui. “A friend told us there was a genius in L.A. and we went to go see Joel.”

A loved figure around the festival, Coler said San Sebastian is like a second home to him.

“This is the year where you can most see the results of his labor with so many American films and stars,” said distributor Peter Marai of Mirada Distribution. “And that has to do with how he has promoted the festival to distributors and producers in Los Angeles and New York in a very endearing way.”

Elsewhere in the festival, Spain’s service sector organization APPA used the festival as a platform to call for French-style tax rebates for international shoots’ local spending in Spain. According to the APPA chief, Fernando Victoria de Lecea, international shoots increasingly opt for alternatives other than Spain’s state-of-the-art studio Ciudad de la Luz thanks to attractive rebates on local spend from Germany (16%), the U.K. (16%-20%), France (20%) and Italy (25%).

“International shoots create jobs, can maintain production houses, train producers and mean an immediate local spend, industrial development and significant promotion and publicity for Spain,” Victoria said.

Also announced, Benicio del Toro and U.S. producer Laura Bickform will reteam for How the Light Gets In, a modern-day love story set at four hotels in New York, London, Paris and Berlin. The two partnered on Traffic and Che. James Greer has finished a screenplay that sees Del Toro play a Chilean novelist living in Paris who unexpectedly falls in love with a woman. The pair is presently seeking a director.