Escobar: El Patron del Mal

Local helmers see big opportunities in smallscreen formats

Dominated by Caracol and RCN TV, Colombia’s television duopoly can be credited with spurring the film production surge of the past decade as TV-trained talents applied their experience to bigscreen projects.

Now, some of the country’s leading producers and helmers are venturing in the opposite direction, accepting TV gigs as networks tap into local filmmakers’ experience to produce skeins with higher production values. In turn, they enjoy financing ease and quicker returns, not unlike their counterparts in the U.S., where David Fincher, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg have found success on the smallscreen.

Among the entities embracing the switch, CMO Prods. made a TV version of its blockbuster Sonar no cuesta nada and continues to churn out skeins and pics.

For producer Diego F. Ramirez of 64-A Films and helmer Carlos Moreno, the logistically demanding experience of making Caracol TV’s hit biographical series Escobar: El Patron del Mal prepped them further for the rigors of filmmaking. “After this experience, we feel we can do anything,” says Ramirez.

Director Sergio Cabrera, Colombia’s most renowned helmer in the ’90s (“The Strategy of the Snail”), has been working in television in recent years, helming RCN Colombia’s La Pola and 60-episode period thriller “Doctor Mata.” “You can’t live off filmmaking in Colombia. It’s riskier and raising financing is problematic,” he says.

Pan-regional companies such as Discovery Networks also are tapping into Colombia’s rich talent resources and competitive production costs to develop original material. In December, Discovery launched a training program/competish for local producers. Out of 60 proposals, five were chosen to have their docus produced.

“We have identified interesting new talent,” says Discovery’s Michela Giorelli, who is encouraged by greater security and stability in the country and plans to announce a second round in August.
Others are exploring not just television but digital media as well. Dynamo and Rhayuela Films are both developing music- and dance-themed transmedia projects that encompass film, TV, the Web, smartphones and live events.

“We decided to become not only producers but content developers in all media,” says Diego Ramirez Schrempp, head of TV and new formats for Dynamo, who’s in co-prod talks with various cablers. Per production head Rodrigo Guerrero, Moreno’s “Que viva la musica” calls for unprecedented Web promotion and online casting.

“We’re inspired by the TV renaissance in the U.S.,” says Rhayuela’s Steven Grisales, whose transmedia project Buenaventura mon amour, helmed by Jose Luis Rugeles, was invited to the Cannes Market’s Cross Media Corner.

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