One of Eugenio Derbez’s “big goals” in relocating to Los Angeles was to expand his business model and creative interests, especially in the North American market, and so far it’s been a very busy first year for 3Pas Studios, his fledgling Santa Monica-based film and TV shingle co-owned by Ben Odell.
“We formed 3Pas Studios off the success of ‘Instructions Not Included,’” says Odell, former president of Pantelion, which is a joint venture between Lionsgate and Televisa. “It’s not only a platform for Eugenio’s acting and directing, but also for creating original content for the U.S. Latino and Latin American markets and beyond.”
The company inked a first-look deal with Lionsgate/Pantelion in August 2014, after the studio released Derbez’s breakout hit “Instructions Not Included,” which earned $99 million worldwide.
“He’s the perfect blend of passionate actor, filmmaker and comedian,” says Pantelion CEO Paul Presburger. “As the only Latino studio in Hollywood, it’s important to us at Pantelion to make films that resonate with our core audience, while also entertaining all fans. We are proud to be in partnership with a true pioneer, and (the success of) ‘Instructions Not Included’ is a testament to Eugenio’s talent and his authentic relationship with his fans.”
The prolific star and 3Pas are also making a big push into English-language television, and they recently unveiled a first-look deal with Universal TV. “We sold our first two English-language comedies within our first year, which is pretty exciting,” says Derbez. ABC picked up the shingle’s “Don’t Judge Me,” a comedy inspired by Derbez’s life story, while NBC picked up “The Great Brown Hope,” a single-camera comedy created by Isaac Gonzalez (“Bordertown”).
“I’ve always loved producing, and now I’m producing my first English-speaking film — which I’ll also star in, called ‘How to Be a Latin Lover,’ ” he says. “We’re in pre-production right now and plan to start shooting in April in L.A.” 3Pas Studios will produce under its Lionsgate/Pantelion deal.
Derbez also plans to do a lot more directing through 3Pas Studios. “I’ve been directing my own stuff almost my entire career, and I really love it, but it’s been mainly in TV, not movies,” he notes. After making his feature film directorial debut with “Instructions,” he’s been looking for more projects to helm.
A potential next directing project could be “Ponce,” a spec script from writer Max Botkin (“What Happened to Monday?”) about the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de Leon and his search for the fountain of youth although set in modern-day America. “It’s a contemporary piece, with some comedy, but it’s more of a drama,” he reports. Production is scheduled to start later this year.
“Because I know the Latin American culture and market so well, I feel I can bring a lot to the table here with my company,” he adds. “As Mexicans, we always laugh when we watch ‘Mexican’ characters in American films, because we can tell immediately that they were born here and have the wrong accent, so it’s basically faking the culture. And I know what my audience laughs at, what they cry at, and my goal is to give a chance to new writers and actors who can bring a new, authentic flavor to the projects.”
Combining that cultural authenticity with a strong business model should help the star realize his ultimate goal: “To conquer Hollywood,” he says.
“I’m still working for my core audience, but I’m trying to also work for the general market and create this fusion, so the Spanish-speaking audience can come to my movies, relate to the story and see familiar faces — but do it so the movie also works for the general market. So the plan is, make Hollywood movies that bring the Latino audiences to the theaters,” he says, noting hits like “Instructions” and the “Fast and Furious” franchise that bring the Latino audience to the movie theaters. “The Latino audience is a huge demographic, and if you give them the right product, they’ll buy tickets,” he says.
Derbez has also worked with DishLatino since October 2014 as their “first-ever celebrity spokesperson,” says Alfredo Rodriguez, vice president of DishLatino. “Eugenio connects very well with our target audience, not only through his humor, but also through his authenticity. People feel a connection to him, and I think it’s because he genuinely appreciates his fans and wants to create content that speaks to them. We’ve worked to incorporate that into the ads we’ve created with him.”
One of the star’s most popular spots with the programmer was “Streaker,” with a naked Derbez interrupting a soccer match, which went viral when launched on April Fool’s Day last year (it has since racked up almost 3 million views). “What viewers don’t know is that when we filmed the video, he’d just broken his rib while shooting a movie,” adds Rodriguez. “So there was Eugenio, running around a freezing cold, wet soccer field at 3 a.m. with a broken rib. Everyone on set was struck by what a great sport he was. He never for one moment complained, and it reminded me how lucky we are to have him representing our brand.”
Derbez was also heavily involved in the creation of DishLatino’s latest spot, “Latinos,” which also features his actress wife, Alessandra Rosaldo.
“When you’re working with one of the top comedian/actor/directors with cross-cultural appeal, you want to tap into that creative genius,” notes Rodriguez. “That’s exactly what we did. It was the first time the two of them had worked together in an ad campaign, and they seemed to really enjoy the experience