MADRID — Building its increasingly impressive lineup of titles from Spain, Netflix has made an early acquisition of global rights to “Pieles” (Skins), a social-drama addition to a burgeoning new genre talent factory overseen by Spanish director-producer Alex de la Iglesia (“Perfect Crime,” “Witching & Bitching”).
The Netflix deal was clinched by Vicente Canales’ Film Factory.
“Skins” is a spinoff of Spanish actor-turned-director Eduardo Casanova’s short “Eat My S—,” about a girl who has a hyper-realistic anus for a mouth, which screened at 2016’s South by South West Fest.
Turning on “malformed people looking for a place in society,” “Skins,” a choral multi-story drama, also features a girl without eyes, De la Iglesia told Variety at last September’s San Sebastian Fest. It is Casanova’s feature debut.
The movie will enroll fellow stars of “Aida,” one of Spain’s biggest TV comedy series hits, such as Carmen Machi, Ana Polvorosa and Secun de la Rosa. Candela Peña (“Torremolinos 73”), Jon Kortajarena (“A Single Man”) and Joaquin Climent (“To Steal From a Thief”) co-star.
“‘Skins’ is a punk, rebel and violent riposte to the social construct, all the pressure society is subjected to,” Casanova said.
De la Iglesias produces “Skins” out of his Madrid-based Pokeepsie Films, which he runs with actress Carolina Bang, in partnership with Kiko Martinez’s Nadie es Perfecto.
An early acquisition deal for “Skins” — rather than a co-production, as some Spanish media suggested — gives Netflix more flexibility in its financing and local release, opening the door for the movie to bow in Spanish theaters, which is required by law for access to national subsidies. Otherwise, however, it looks as if Netflix will have global exclusivity.
Netflix launched here in Spain last October, with a client take-up estimated at well below one million. That compares to more than 80 million in the rest of the world, including 47 million in the U.S., as of March 31.
When acquiring Spanish films for distribution, Hollywood studios often focus on titles that will make most of their money in the domestic market, and therefore acquire Spanish rights. But Netflix looks at a movie’s international potential.
De la Iglesia told Variety that “Skins” hews close to an American indie tradition, which may aid its viewership abroad. “Far from being a future project, Netflix is a current and essential bet for Spanish production,” he said.
But Netflix is just only beginning to ramp up its investment in local content, whether via original production orders or early acquisitions of movies and series.
“If you look at Netflix, by hours of content available, local [national] content in most major Western European markets typically represents between 2% to 5% of the catalogue,” said Richard Broughton of Ampere Analysis. “E.U. content represents a much larger proportion of the catalogue.”
On May 25, the European Union proposed 20% European content quotas in all E.U. territories for Netflix operation and European product-investment requirements in E.U. countries that demand them. Most European Netflix services meet a 20% European content level, according to an Ampere Analysis study.
Spain is one of only four territories in the 28-member E.U. that currently imposes an investment quota on national VOD services, so it may be more likely to extend that to Netflix.
Analysts have warned that E.U. content and investment quotas could result in higher costs and lower returns on investment. But that is almost certainly not the case for Spain. Even if a VOD investment quota were set at the same level as that for free-to-air broadcasters and pay-TV operators in Spain, at 6% of annual revenue, Netflix could probably meet that threshold at present simply through its first original series order in Spain, an untitled work from Bambu Producciones announced this March.
“Depending on how the quotas were structured, they could cause issues if they were applied across smaller markets without large local production sectors, they were set at broadcaster levels (i.e. 10%-12%) or higher, [and] they were based on share of programming spend rather than share of revenue,” Broughton said.