Duo lure company with drug tale 'Profugos'

Santiago, Chile HBO Latin America kicks off its first production in Chile this month when it begins filming drug-trafficking mini “Profugos.”

The 13-part series is the passion project of actor-producer Cristian de la Fuente and partner Rodrigo Flores, who hounded HBO execs for four years to get the skein aired.

“Our idea was always to produce a series here in Chile for the rest of the world” with content in either Spanish or English, says de la Fuente.

Flores and de la Fuente’s Santiago-based Efe3 will produce the series with local production company Fabula and HBO Latin America Originals, HBO’s production arm.

But it was a long haul from inception to production.

De la Fuente, who is U.S.-based, and Flores met Fabula execs in 2006 to talk about projects they could sell in the States.

Fabula suggested “Profugos.” “We knew this was the type of content HBO Latin America was looking for,” de la Fuente says.

But they had little luck getting hold of HBO execs through usual channels.

Their break came when a Chilean friend got a job as a driver for then-HBO topper Chris Albrecht, and de la Fuente persuaded the friend to give him Albrecht’s phone number.

A barrage of phone calls later, Luis F. Peraza, HBO Latin America executive VP of production and acquisition, was pulled out of a class at Harvard to take a pitch call from de la Fuente.

De la Fuente and Flores met Peraza twice over the next several months to discuss “Profugos” but, without a contract, the Efe3 pair were on the verge of losing their writers to other projects in Chile.

Their last chance came at the NATPE confab in 2007. The partners told Peraza they had taken a booth and should meet there to wrap up talks on “Profugos.”

“We were in L.A. and we didn’t have a booth,” de la Fuente admits. “We didn’t even have reservations in Vegas.”

But that didn’t stop them. They drove to Las Vegas, calling Peraza every 15 minutes.

They caught him in the lobby of the MGM Grand the same day and had their meet at a nearby Starbucks.

“Fifteen minutes later, we made the deal,” de la Fuente says. Then they drove back to L.A.

Three years later, Peraza acknowledges, “This new project is very important for HBO, and its not just because it’s the first time we’ll produce in Chile, it will also be our first action series.”

HBO Latin America celebrates its 20th anniversary in 2011, and “Profugos” continues its efforts to grow its presence in the region, where it has launched several new programs┬áthis year in┬áBrazil and Chile.

“From the very beginning, we knew if we really wanted to be successful and play a leading role in the region we’d have to produce Latin American original programming,” says Miguel Oliva, VP of public relations and public affairs with HBO Latin America.

Previous hits include serial killer drama “Epitafios,” made in Argentina in 2004, which aired in the 20 Latin American countries that get the Spanish-language version of HBO, and Stateside on HBO Latino.

The momentum generated by “Epitafios” led to three original shows in Brazil — legal drama “Mandrake”; “Alice,” about a young woman who moves from the country to Sao Paulo; and Rio de Janeiro-set “Filhos do carnaval” — plus crime drama “Capadocia” in Mexico, which begins its second season this year.

HBO Latin America is also filming its first comedy, “Mulher de fases,” in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and the follow-up to “Filhos do carnaval” — “Filho da puta” — begins shooting this month.

For “Profugos,” HBO Latin America Originals will stick with the formula it has used in its other projects, leaning heavily on local production, directors and acting talent.

Fabula’s Pablo Larrain, who helmed 2008’s “Tony Manero,” will be in charge of the general direction of the series with a team of helmers including Jonathan Jakubowicz and Javier Patron. Show will preem in 2011.

“When we first started with ‘Epitafios’ everyone in the industry was saying, ‘You guys are crazy, you guys don’t know what you’re doing, you guys are just spending money,’ it seems we proved them wrong,” Oliva says.

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