Tag Archives: Movistar+

Tackling terror

Co-creators Dani de la Torre and Alberto Marini explain how Spanish drama La Unidad (The Unit) blends hard-hitting action with complicated stories of police officers fighting against international terrorism.

After more than two years of development and writing, crime drama La Unidad (The Unit) debuted on Spain’s Movistar+ last month to become the most watched premiere in the streamer’s history.

Blending authenticity and action, the six-part thriller charts the previously unknown work of the country’s elite National Police unit in its fight against jihadist terrorism, as Spain is targeted following the arrest of the world’s most wanted terrorist leader.

Dani de la Torre

Led by Commissioner Carla Torres, the unit faces a race against time as it attempts to uncover and dismantle the threat, while members of the team also try to resolve conflicts in their personal lives.

The series, produced by Movistar+ in collaboration with Vaca Films, comes from creators Dani de la Torre and Alberto Marini and boasts a cast that is led by Nathalie Poza, Michel Noher, Marian Álvarez and Luis Zahera.

“La Unidad is a very complex series and I feel very privileged because [in developing the series] I worked with the Spanish police, one of the most professional and efficient police forces in fighting international terrorism,” says de la Torre, who also directs the show.

“We have been a part of the day-to-day work of the police and attended different operations and briefings, and we even spent time with an infiltrator. This gives the show a unique and distinctive flavour. This is a very special force, they have to work with police all over the world, because this type of terrorism is a global threat. This made the production of the show more complex, because you have to take the production to those places in order to explain how international terrorism operates.”

The director says the series also stands out because of its focus on the officers’ “normal lives,” adding: “They have to take their kids to school, they have to do the shopping, as we all do. But, at the same time, they have to chase some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world. Those characters are also what makes the show special.

Alberto Marini

“You’re not going to see conventional, traditional cops where they have a dark side and either they’re violent or drink a lot. They are normal people with normal problems that will be recognisable. At the same time, they have to do this work in a very anonymous and discreet way and that makes them very special.”

Marini, who writes the series with Amèlia Mora, picks up: “We had the opportunity to meet the real men and women involved in the anti-terrorism fight. We discovered how they work and what they are like. Even if our characters are not copies of real people, they are inspired by the real professionals we met, starting with Carla, the head of the unit. The entire series is based on the collaboration with the police and the people we had the opportunity to meet.”

The pursuit of authentic characters also set up one of the key themes of story, as Marini explains. “When Dani and I had the opportunity to enter the headquarters of the anti-terrorism department in Madrid, we were surprised by the amount of Arab people working there.

“Several police officers, men and women, involved in this fight are Arabs and several are practising Muslims. We wanted to make clear that the Arab and Muslim world is a completely different thing from the jihadist world. In La Unidad, you’re not going to see a fight between the East and the West, but you’re going to see a fight between fanatics and the people who try to defend society from fanaticism, regardless of religion, culture or race.”

Filming took place over 18 weeks in Madrid, Catalonia, Melilla, Malaga and Galicia, as well as international locations such as Perpignan and Toulouse in France and Lagos and Makoko in Nigeria.

“What has been difficult from a filming standpoint is not so much the technical part but finding the balance between all the different worlds and the different characters,” says de la Torre. “We have to reflect characters speaking in a certain way and with a certain way of thinking. We have used four different languages – there is a huge variety. So putting all this together and finding the right balance has been the most challenging part.”

The writers spent a lot of time working with real anti-terrorism police

Both coming from a film background, Marini and de la Torre say working on La Unidad was a new experience. “We learned a lot. The first rule we learned was this is not a feature film. A series has a different language, a different format,” says Marini.

“It is a character-driven series, so we focused on characters and [making sure we could] enter their minds [and understand] their way of life. We took advantage of an opportunity we don’t have in feature films.”

The series debuted in Spain on May 15 and writing has already begun on a second season. Meanwhile, distributor Beta Film has shopped the show to HBO Latin America.

“In the beginning, when we were reading the scripts, we understood it was going to be something very special and immediately jumped on the project,” says Beta exec VP of international sales and acquisitions Christian Gockel. “For us, it’s an important show that right now is one of the hottest in the market, especially because it was already shot [before the coronavirus lockdown]. Everyone wants to see the show.”

A second season of La Unidad is already being written

Domingo Corral, Movistar+’s director of original production, agrees that La Unidad has the potential to travel to audiences around the world and says it stands as a marker for the kind of dramas the streamer wants to produce in the future.

“When we do a show, first we want to entertain,” he explains. “That’s the basics of any show. Once you establish that foundation, you try to build complexity. La Unidad is a good representation of that. We are trying to entertain people but, beyond that, we are trying to explain how global the world is today.

“If you think about the health crisis we are going through right now, it is something affecting everyone in the world, not just one or two countries. Unfortunately, the same applies in this case to terrorism, and that’s reflected in the series.

“The other thing that is key for us is characters. Even if our shows are very entertaining and full of action, action without strong characters or an emotional engagement with those characters is nothing. Our ambition is to make shows like this.”

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The wrong man

Building on the global trend for true crime dramas is En el Corredor de la Muerte (On Death Row), a Spanish drama based on the true story of a man falsely accused for murder and facing the death penalty in the US.

Miguel Ángel Silvestre (Sense8, Narcos) plays Pablo Ibar, who must fight to get a fair trial from the day a triple murder was committed to the day of final sentencing in 2019 when he could either be released or sent back to death row to be executed.

In this DQTV interview, Silvestre recalls hearing about the real-life case in Spain and why it was important the four-part miniseries dramatised the events objectively, leaving viewers to their own opinions about the death penalty.

He also talks about his approach to playing Ibar and how the production was committed to keeping the drama grounded and rooted in reality.

Based on the book by Nacho Carretero (Fariña, aka Cocaïne Coast), On Death Row is produced by Bambu Producciones for Movistar+ and distributed by StudioCanal.

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Holding out for Hierro

The Canary Island of El Hierro lends its name to Spanish crime drama Hierro, a ‘southern noir’ story of the hunt for a killer. Executive producer Alfonso Blanco reveals all.

From being named best coproduction project at Berlinale 2015, it’s been a long journey to bring Spanish drama Hierro to the screen. Now backed by Spain’s Movistar+, the series will have its world premiere at Series Mania next week.

The title comes from El Hierro, a small volcanic island in the Canaries, where a corpse is found the water. Diaz, a local businessman, is set to prison for the brutal murder, until Candela, a forceful, temperamental judge, makes her first decision after arriving on the island – to release Diaz. While falling foul of the islanders, Candela believes she must do her duty, while Diaz is out to prove his innocence and uncover who has set him up.

The eight-part drama comes from Portocabo and Atlantique Productions in coproduction with Movistar+ and Arte France, with Banijay Rights distributing internationally. The series, which was filmed on El Hierro, was created by Pepe Moira and directed by Jorge Coira, with the cast led by Candela Peña (Princesa) and Darío Grandinetti (Wild Tales).

Here, executive producer Alfonso Blanco, from producer Portocabo, tells DQ more about the series.

Alfonso Blanco

Tell us about the origins of Hierro.
Hierro was designed as a coproduction to suit the international marketplace. Having observed the market just when Nordic noir was at its peak, we devised a new term to approach the market with – southern noir. With this term in mind, a brainstorming process culminated in an original idea by Pepe Coira in line with what we were looking for. From the very beginning, a story about a judge, a singular landscape and the island of El Hierro converged as a happy starting point.

How was the series developed?
The series was presented to the international market, firstly, at the Berlinale’s Co Pro Series event and then at Series Mania. During these two markets, the international coproduction was confirmed with Arte and Atlantique Productions, and Banijay Rights also joined the project at this time. After this, Movistar+ came on board, this being the company’s first international coproduction. The subsequent development process involving all parties was particularly fruitful.

Who are the main characters?
The main characters include a judge, recently arrived on the island, and a shady local businessman, the prime suspect of the crime. In this case, the main characters aren’t police officers. It’s a crime drama in which both characters and plot were developed from a realistic perspective. Everything that happens in the series could believably have taken place on El Hierro.

What do the stars bring to the series?
Both Candela Peña and Darío Grandinetti are renowned faces in cinema but are new to television series. The character of the judge, written two years before the final casting decision, was already named Candela – maybe a hint that the part was waiting for her. Both Candela and Darío’s approach to acting is based on realism. They are the best actors we could have wished for and they suit the characters perfectly.

What was Pepe Coira’s writing process?
Pepe came up with the original idea and is the creator of the series. Over a year, he wrote side by side with a team of five writers who worked closely with both Pepe and the four coproducers.

Actor Candela Peña with director Jorge Coira

How would you describe the tone of Hierro and how did director Jorge Coira work on the visual style?
Hierro is a character-driven crime drama with realism as its main focus – luminous and with great visual power. That is why Jorge Coira was the best choice. He’s a great director of actors and has his own visual universe.

How does this series present a new take on the crime genre?
We conceived the series as southern noir – a place of luminous landscapes and passionate characters, full of humour and intensity, and reflecting the reality of Spanish life.

How and why is the crime genre changing?
Crime drama is in constant evolution. It has changed over the past few years, in the same way as other genres, but what may be different now is its accessibility. Nowadays, an audience can watch the same series at practically the same time all over the world.

Why do you think crime stories continue to resonate with audiences around the world?
Crime stories engage due to their genre. To place characters in extreme situations is something that engages and excites audiences. Crime stories also have a universalising effect; the mechanics of a crime thriller can be followed in almost any country. In addition, the duration of a miniseries allows for greater evolution of characters, helping to create a frame in which to develop different stories and characters. The genre also permits a sociological approach to different realities, therefore the variety of stories is infinite.

How does the series balance strength of characters with the plot?
In Hierro we always had a clear idea that in a hierarchy between characters and plot, the characters came first. The story had to evolve in a natural way. To look for forced cliffhangers and effective turns wouldn’t fit into the series we were creating. We were looking for a series written upon the truth, on an existing reality, and we wanted to bring that reality into the story.

Darío Grandinetti stars alongside Peña

What was the biggest challenge during production?
The distance. El Hierro is the most remote of the Canary Islands, and getting all the equipment, the crew and the cast there was quite tricky. We also had to quantify our needs very accurately because to get things there was time-consuming.

How does the setting of the Canary Islands influence the story or the characters?
The protagonists of the story are not only Candela and Diaz but El Hierro too. The story couldn’t have happened anywhere else. El Hierro conditioned the life and reactions of all the characters enormously.

Why do you think Spanish drama is so popular right now?
Spain has been producing high-quality television drama for years, it’s not something that has just started. There is a solid television drama production industry in Spain. It began in the 1990s and now, 25 years later, it’s a very mature and capable industry. The worldwide success of series like La Casa de Papel [Money Heist] has turned the attention of international industry towards something that was already happening in Spain.

How is the industry in Spain changing? What new stories are being told?
In the beginning, there were only pubcasters and two private broadcasters in Spain. With the entrance of new operators, new opportunities arise. This has generated healthy competition, affecting the industry in a positive way. The OTTs and [pay TV platform] Movistar+ are not as conditioned by audiences, generating a space in which to produce more ambitious content. Now broadcasters are also open to coproductions, which will undoubtedly also affect the industry positively.

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Walking with Gigantes

Gigantes (Giants) director Enrique Urbizu takes us through the opening scene of the Movistar+ drama, which focuses on a family that runs a prestigious antiques business as a front for their drug empire.

The first minutes of a movie or show are decisive in establishing the tone, the heartbeat and, if you allow it, the style that should continue throughout the story. It is the entrance into history for the viewer, determining their first impressions.

Gigantes begins with the image of a puddle reflecting the cloudy sky of Madrid. There is also a dead bird. Three inverted figures approach until they are stood in the dirty water.

Enrique Urbizu

Two children follow their father, Abraham Guerrero, in a strange procession: in single file, the trio are dressed for mourning. The bells ring to mark death. It’s cold. Nobody talks, nobody cries. A fence encloses the frame.

The procession reaches the door of an old warehouse at the stone walls of the historical centre of Madrid. A wooden sign reads ‘Antigüedades Guerrero’ (Guerrero Antiques). Following a gesture from their father, the children stop by the door. Abraham enters. The children look in opposite directions: Daniel on the left and Tomás to the right of the frame.

Abraham comes out with an old leather suitcase, and the three continue on their way. Stone, wood and leather – textures of the warrior world – are visible.

Looming over the entrance to the Guerrero building is an image of Saturn Devouring His Son, originally painted by Spanish artist Francisco Goya, in the shape of a rosette. It represents the curse of the family – the father who consumes his descendants. This is an allegory that becomes the ‘soul’ of the first chapter of Gigantes and an anchor of meaning for the entire series.

Preceded by the shadow of Abraham, the sad procession enters a building and climbs the stairs; stairs that will be linked forever to their destinations. Dark, wet, eternal.

It’s an old-fashioned house, steeped in another time and with quality wood furniture – old Spanish. Cold light, cold day.

On the table is the suitcase, which is full of money. The children count bills. Tomás, the smallest, seems the most meticulous. Write carefully the figures in your notebook. Try to hide your tears.

Gigantes airs on Spanish network Movistar+

Abraham, sitting on his throne, watches over his territory. His presence imposes silence. In a corner of the room, a baby is stirring in his crib. He starts crying.

It has to be Daniel, the older brother, who cares for the little ones. “Today you can mourn your mother, tomorrow no longer. She does not cry anymore in this house,” Abraham dictates.

Emotions are buried; it’s forbidden to show any hint of weakness. The wild and permanent exercise of power through violence.

After burying their mother, the Guerrero brothers face a wild education, a sentence that marks them for the rest of their errant lives.

These first minutes condense some of the main narrative and aesthetic keys that make up the staging of Gigantes.

The series is stylised, tense, risky, adult and complex. We wanted to be more attentive to the characters than to the development of a criminal plot. The characters are what infect the character of the series.

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In the Zone

Directing brothers Jorge and Alberto Sánchez-Cabezudo talk about the inspiration behind Spanish thriller La Zona (The Zone), an eight-part drama that follows the hunt for a murderer three years after a catastrophic nuclear tragedy.

Deadly nuclear disasters of the kind that have become synonymous with locations such as Chernobyl and Fukushima have all the ingredients for compelling television drama. Death, tragedy, environmental devastation and the displacement of hundreds, if not thousands, of people can inspire a wealth of stories, not forgetting the chance to recreate catastrophic explosions and the events that precede them.

One such series currently in production is the aptly titled Chernobyl, the first coproduction between HBO and Sky Atlantic. Starring Jared Harris, Stellan Skarsgård and Emily Watson, it dramatises the true story of one of the worst man-made disasters in history and the people who tried to save Europe from tragedy in April 1986.

The two disasters were also the inspiration for Spanish drama La Zona (The Zone), though this series transplanted the cause and effects of an explosion to a fictional setting in northern Spain.

The eight-part series, commissioned by Spanish pay TV platform Movistar, follows what happens after a nuclear power plant meltdown leads to the creation of a contaminated no-go area and leaves the nearby provincial city and its inhabitants in a state of shock and mourning. One of the victims is police inspector Hector Uria (Eduard Fernández)’s 20-year-old son Fede.

Brothers Alberto (left) and Jorge Sanchez-Cabezudo are behind La Zona

Three years after the event, the discovery of a mutilated body in a warehouse and a spate of other mysterious killings take Hector’s search for the murderer deep into the contamination zone, where he uncovers a smuggling racket controlled by the company in charge of the clean-up.

As a survivor, he must also confront the demons of his past – the same demons also haunting doctor and public health official Julia (Alexandra Jiménez), Hector’s wife Marta (Emma Suárez) and his daughter Ester (Marina Salas).

The police thriller, created and directed by brothers Jorge and Alberto Sánchez-Cabezudo (Crematorium, Grand Hotel), is produced by Movistar in collaboration with Kubik Films, Feelgood Media, Kowalski Films and distributor Beta Film.

“It’s something mysterious, very intense and exciting,” Alberto says of the idea behind La Zona. “We work a lot in documentaries so we like to go deep into the news. We were about to pitch the project but we had to stop because of Fukushima [in March 2011] so we put the project aside.

“Then two years ago we asked what was happening with Fukushima and it was really amazing. We discovered a lot of things were going on and it was about normal people. So we found a lot of interesting things to add to the project.”

The story follows the aftermath of a nuclear disaster and the hunt for a killer

The brothers admit their working relationship is “complicated.” Alberto says: “We work together so we design the production, the settings, the casting, then when it’s time to shoot, Jorge directs and I’m more like an executive producer, supervising the whole show.”

They also write together, taking half the episodes each and adding lots of visual elements to the scripts so their vision is on paper before shooting starts. La Zona is a thriller at its heart but it’s also incredibly atmospheric.

“There’s a lot of silence, a lot of scenes without dialogue,” Jorge notes. “We also have a lot of perspective, but it’s not just one point of view; it’s many, of the same thing sometimes. It’s very interesting to shoot that way because you have one main character but, in the second chapter, you have another point of view, and again in chapter five. It’s very funny to play with what the audience knows about the characters and what the characters know about the investigation. It plays on the tension.”

The murder investigation is at the heart of the story, with Hector on the hunt for a killer. “The special thing about this detective is he’s a victim too, so we felt very interested in this paradox,” Alberto says. “He has to contain the rage of the people but also he’s a victim, so he has to feel that grief.”

Jorge continues: “That aspect is very strong and also very emotional – there are two faces to the same character.”

La Zona has been picked up by broadcasters in countries including Germany and the US

Unsurprisingly for such an ambitious series, there were notable challenges – not least in finding the location for the fictional power plant and its vast no-go perimeter.

“We shot in more than 160 locations, all in natural locations,” Alberto reveals. “Our focus was on the north of Spain, in Asturias. It’s very green and the nature is amazing but it also has industries that are abandoned, like a ghost, in the middle of nature, so that feeling was very important for us. It was a challenge to produce and have so many locations, so we had two units.”

Finding the perfect locations, with many disused buildings that could simultaneously be described as contaminated and abandoned, also meant the need for building sets was vastly reduced.

“From the beginning, the important thing was to get this local and realistic aspect of the aftermath,” Alberto says. “People had to believe from the start that something like that happened in Spain. We started scouting right from when we were writing so we could add that nature, landscapes and places into the script.”

The Sánchez-Cabezudo brothers expect to return to the thriller genre in the future, but say their future projects will also continue to tackle contemporary social issues and draw inspiration from real events.

For now, La Zona continues to pick up international admirers. Earlier this month the show was taken by US premium cablenet Starz, while Germany’s ZDF acquired it last October. Movistar owner Telefonica, meanwhile, secured the series – its first original drama – for its pay TV services in Poland and Latin America.

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¡Viva España!

Without much noise or fanfare, Spain has been steadily building a reputation as one of the hottest producers of scripted drama, with homegrown series finding fans around the world. DQ takes an in-depth look at the wave of new series coming out of the country.

Spanish drama may not attract as much attention as Nordic noir or the ‘Korean wave,’ but there’s no question the country’s scripted series are now enjoying decent levels of profile around the world. And with significant increases in content investment from free-to-air (FTA) channels, pay TV and SVoD platforms, Spain’s storytellers are poised to deliver a new wave of diverse and ambitious shows to the international market.

One of the first firms to identify the potential of Spanish drama was German distributor Beta Film, which was responsible for the international roll-outs of Gran Hotel and Velvet, two exquisite period pieces produced by Bambú Producciones for FTA network Antena 3.

According to Beta Film executive VP for acquisitions and sales Christian Gockel, the success of the Bambú/Antena 3 partnership convinced his company to board two new productions from the same stable: Morocco – Love in Times of War and Farinia – Snow on the Atlantic. “They have raised the bar yet again by taking the unique blend of romance and drama we know so well from Velvet,” he says.

Morocco, says Gockel, is set in war-torn Spanish Morocco in the 1920s, where a group of nurses look after troops. Farinia, meanwhile, “centres on a fisherman who becomes a wealthy smuggler by providing South American cartels a gateway to Europe.”

Farinia is a good indicator of how Antena 3 – the dominant force in FTA drama – has diversified its slate in recent times. The channel also launched Vis a Vis (pictured above), a female-prison drama produced by Mediapro drama label Globomedia. Distributed by Mediapro sales arm Imagina under the title Locked Up, that show broke into the English-speaking market, airing on Channel 4 in the UK and on foreign-language SVoD service Walter Presents.

Gran Hotel was produced by Bambú Producciones for Antena 3

Walter Presents also picked up fellow Antena 3/Globomedia drama Pulsaciones (Lifeline). The psychological thriller is about a surgeon who unravels a medical scandal after suffering a heart attack and having strange nightmares when he receives a donor heart. “Last year, Locked Up exploded onto the international scene, heralding a renaissance in Spanish scripted excellence,” says Walter Presents curator Walter Iuzzolino. “This year they’ve done it again. Lifeline is a thriller with shock narrative twists and epic cliffhanger endings.”

The growing appeal of Antena 3-commissioned drama to the global market is further underlined by a deal that will see Netflix air miniseries The Cathedral of the Sea around the world. Based on Ildefonso Falcones’ bestselling novel and produced by leading Spanish prodco Diagonal, the story takes place in 14th century Barcelona during the Inquisition.

Explaining his remit, Antena 3 senior VP for drama Nacho Manubens says: “Although we produce sporadically for our other channels [laSexta, Neox], we mainly focus on Antena 3. We commission more than 600 hours of TV per year, with 120 primetime hours and 500 daytime hours. We have a range of genres, since our audiences demand variety and innovation. In thrillers we have had hits with Bajo Sospecha, Mar De Plastico and Vis a Vis. In period dramas we have had El Tiempo Entre Costuras and Velvet. These are both lines we will continue exploring.”

Antena 3 has developed a reputation for edgy shows – something Manubens wants to maintain. “We cannot take risks in every show we produce, but we try to keep making shows that push the envelope like we did with Casa De Papel [aka The Money Heist, the latest show from Via a Vis creator Alex Pina].”

Sé Quién Eres (I Know Who You Are) was a hit for Mediaset España

Public broadcaster RTVE and Mediaset Espana, owner of commercial networks TeleCinco and Cuatro, have also upped their scripted game. For RTVE, key titles have been El Ministerio del Tiempo (The Ministry of Time) and Isabel, produced by Onza Partners/Cliffhanger and Diagonal respectively. Isabel, one of several royal-themed shows on the market, ran for three seasons and travelled well internationally. Buoyed by its success, RTVE also made a foray into English-language drama with Reinas (Queens), about the rivalry between Mary, Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I.

Mediaset España, meanwhile, had a hit with Sé Quién Eres (I Know Who You Are), a Filmax production about a charismatic university lecturer’s possible involvement in his niece’s murder. The show was bought by several networks, including the influential BBC4 – its first Spanish acquisition – with head of BBC programme acquisitions Sue Deeks calling it “the dramatic equivalent of a page-turning thriller.” Mediaset España’s increased investment in event series has also seen it back Forgive Me God, an eight-part miniseries about a nun battling delinquency and the drug trade.

Alongside the increased ambition among FTA channels, there are also new opportunities in the pay TV and SVoD arenas, according to Pilar Blasco, MD of Endemol Shine Iberia, a division that includes Diagonal. “Spain has always been a strong market for local original scripted programming and this has enabled us to build an industry of creative writers, showrunners and directors,” she says. “The big game-changer, however, has been increased commissioning of Spanish productions from the likes of Movistar+, Netflix, HBO and Amazon. As a result, the Spanish drama industry is flourishing with higher budgets that tell more daring stories from a broader range of genres.”

The most high-profile example of Blasco’s point is Telefónica’s decision to invest €70m (US$84m) a year in scripted series for its pay TV platform Movistar+. According to Domingo Corral, head of original programming at Movistar+, the plan is to launch 11 original series a year, initially for SVoD customers. The emphasis will be on “Spanish-language series dealing with Spanish stories created by Spanish talent,” he says.

Movistar+ drama La Zona is set four years after a nuclear accident

Titles include La Zona, a story set in northern Spain four years after a nuclear accident. Also coming soon is La Peste, set in 16th century Sevilla against the backdrop of a plague. Movistar+ has also done a deal with Bambú for a spin-off from Madrid fashion-store series Velvet, which ended on Antena 3 after four seasons. The new series, Velvet Collection, will take the story forward to the 1960s and relocate to Barcelona.

At first sight, Corral’s insistence on super-charged Spanish series seems like it will limit their international appeal. But he takes the view that “great storytelling and characters have universal appeal.” Besides, he adds, Movistar+ series will have 50-minute episodes, rather than the 70 minutes typical to Spain. This will make them a better fit for the global market. Also, Movistar+ has spared no expense on talent, pulling in writers and directors from the country’s admired cinema scene.

Beta Film is continuing its relationship with the Velvet franchise and is also distributing La Zona, says Gockel. “We believe La Zona is one of the most exciting shows coming from Spain this year. It’s an innovative eco-crime thriller with a high budget that will catch viewers around the globe.”

About Premium Content has picked up rights to eight-part mob thriller Gigantes, while Sky Vision has secured global rights to La Peste, which is budgeted at €10m for six episodes. Sky Vision MD Jane Millichip gives an upbeat assessment of Movistar+’s shows: “With La Peste, they have assembled an incredible team with a proven track record. The partnership of Alberto Rodriguez and Rafael Cobos has delivered a deeply engaging story that delivers a thriller of scale, a pungent sense of the past and a modernity that will satisfy audiences.”

Big-budget series La Peste is being distributed by Sky Vision

Movistar+’s investment in drama is especially timely given the growing competition. In April, Netflix launched Las Chicas del Cable, another sumptuous period piece from the Bambú stable that tells the story of four young women working for Spain’s national telephone company in the 1920s.

Also muscling in on the Spanish market is Fox Networks Group (FNG), which has just done a deal with Mediapro’s Globomedia that will see future series of Via a Vis air on its pay TV networks, rather than on broadcaster Antena 3. This is Fox’s first foray into original scripted series, with Vera Pereira, exec VP of FNG Iberia, saying it “will give us greater visibility and relevance in the market.”

Success in scripted formats is also contributing to Spain’s creative revival, with Star-Crossed (The CW), Red Band Society (Fox) and The Mysteries of Laura (NBC) all reimagined for the US market. Televisa USA is also teaming with Lantica Media to produce an English-language Gran Hotel, while Lionsgate has been linked to a US adaptation of Bambú’s Velvet.

The final dimension to the Spanish market’s new dynamism relates to the ambition of the producers. Bambú is part of StudioCanal and has coproduced time-travel drama Refugiados (Refugees) with BBC Worldwide. Diagonal, meanwhile, sees projects like The Cathedral of the Sea as a new phase. “It is a huge leap for the company as it moves into international coproductions,” observes Blasco. “It’s an ambitious project that would never have been commissioned without the support of Netflix.”

Velvet Collection follows on from Velvet

Another leading Spanish producer, DLO, recently became part of the Banijay network and has also picked up a commission from Movistar+ — a series based on Julia Navarro’s best-selling historical novel Dime Quien Soy. In a similar vein, Lagardère Active-owned producer Boomerang is well-known for El Tiempo Entre Costuras (The Time in Between), a 2013 hit for Antena 3 that went on to sell into 75 territories. Now the company has identified Latin America as a key expansion opportunity and is working on a brace of series for broadcasters in Chile. Bambú is also building its profile in Latin America, via a development deal with Televisa in Mexico.

Mediapro is also involved in an eclectic mix of domestic and international series. It coproduced English-language drama The Young Pope and is working on Paradise, a Finnish-Spanish copro that takes place in a Spanish village on the Costa del Sol with a large Finnish community. Other projects include The Head, a copro with Sweden’s Dramacorp in which 10 scientists, trapped in a laboratory at the South Pole, realise one is a killer. “We are also working with DirecTV Latin America on El Fútbol no es Así, a crime series set in the world of Spanish football,” says Mediapro head of content Javier Mendez.

While Mendez welcomes the influx of pay TV drama funding, he says a key opportunity for Mediapro is the international market – especially in light of the fact it has a distribution arm, Imagina. “Series like Narcos show it is possible to find great stories that have the ability to travel all over the world,” he explains. “Increasingly, our strategy is to back good stories regardless of where they come from, because there is a huge appetite for drama around the world.”

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Converging on Cannes

The great and good of the television industry are once again packing their bags for another week in the south of France. DQ previews some of the drama series set to break out at Mipcom 2017.

Mipcom is often viewed as an opportunity for US studios to showcase their scripted series to international buyers. But this year the US will be jostling for attention with dramas from the likes of Spain, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Scandinavia and the UK.

The Spanish contingent is especially strong thanks to a major investment in drama by Telefonica’s Movistar+. Titles on show will be Gigantes, distributed by APC; La Peste, distributed by Sky Vision; and La Zona and Velvet Collection, both from Beta Film. The latter is a spin-off from Antena 3’s popular Velvet, previously sold around the world by Beta.

Beta Film’s Morocco – Love in Times of War

Beta is also in Cannes with Morocco – Love in Times of War, as well as Farinia – Snow on the Atlantic, both produced by Bambu for Antena 3. The former is set in war-torn Spanish Morocco in the 1920s, where a group of nurses look after troops, while Farinia centres on a fisherman who becomes a wealthy smuggler by providing South American cartels a gateway to Europe.

Mipcom’s huge Russian contingent is linked, in part, to the fact 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Titles that tackle this subject include Demon of Revolution, Road to Calvary and Trotsky – the latter two of which will be screened at the market. Trotsky, produced by Sreda Production for Channel One Russia, is an eight-part series that tells the story of the flamboyant and controversial Leon Trotsky, an architect of the Russian Revolution and Red Army who was assassinated in exile.

Russian drama Road to Calvary

Other high-profile Russian projects include TV3’s Gogol, a series of film-length dramas that reimagine the famous mystery writer as an amateur detective. Already a Russian box-office hit, the films will be screened to TV buyers at Mipcom.

Japanese drama has found a new international outlet recently following Nippon TV’s format deal for Mother in Turkey (a successful adaptation that has resulted in more interest in Japanese content among international buyers). The company is now back with a drama format called My Son. NHK, meanwhile, is screening Kurara: The Dazzling Life of Hokusai’s Daughter, a 4K production about Japan’s most famous artist.

Brazil’s Globo, meanwhile, is moving beyond the telenovelas for which it is so famous. After international recognition for dramas like Above Justice and Jailers, it will be in Cannes with Under Pressure, a coproduction with Conspiração that recorded an average daily reach of 40.2 million viewers when it aired in Brazil.

Nippont TV format My Son

From mainland Europe, there’s a range of high-profile titles at Mipcom including Bad Banks, distributed by Federation Entertainment, which looks at corruption within the global banking world. From the Nordic region there is StudioCanal’s The Lawyer, which includes Hans Rosenfeldt (The Bridge) as one of its creators, and season two of FremantleMedia International’s Modus. The latter is particularly interesting for starring Kim Cattrall, signalling a shift towards a more hybrid Anglo-Swedish project.

While non-English-language drama will have a high profile at the market, there are compelling projects from the UK, Canada and Australia. UK’s offerings include Sky Vision’s epic period piece Britannia and All3Media International’s book adaptation The Miniaturist – both with screenings. There’s also BBC Worldwide’s McMafia (pictured top), sold to Amazon on the eve of the market, and ITV Studios Global Entertainment’s The City & The City, produced by Mammoth Screen and written by Tony Grisoni.

All3Media International drama The Miniaturist

From Canada, there is Kew Media-distributed Frankie Drake Mysteries, from the same stable as the Murdoch Mysteries, while Banijay Rights is offering season two of Australian hit Wolf Creek. There’s also a screening for Pulse, a medical drama from ABC Commercial and Screen Australia.

Of course, it would be wrong to neglect the US entirely,since leading studios will be in town with some strong content. A+E Networks, for example, will bring actor Catherine Zeta-Jones to promote Cocaine Godmother, a TV movie about 1970s Miami drug dealer Griselda Blanco, aka The Black Widow.

Sony Pictures Entertainment, meanwhile, is screening Counterpart, in which JK Simmons (Whiplash, La La Land) plays Howard Silk, a lowly employee in a Berlin-based UN spy agency. When Silk discovers that his organisation safeguards the secret of a crossing into a parallel dimension, he is thrust into a world of intrigue and danger where the only man he can trust is his near-identical counterpart from this parallel world.

If you’re in Cannes, don’t forget to pick up the fall 2017 issue of Drama Quarterly, which features Icelandic thriller Stella Blómkvist, McMafia, Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Child in Time, Australian period drama Picnic at Hanging Rock and much more.

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