MADRID — Telco giant Telefonica’s Movistar Plus, Spain’s leading pay TV operator, has teamed with Enrique Lopez Lavigne and Belen Atienza’s Apaches to produce irreverent romantic TV comedy “Verguenza” (Shame).
“Verguenza” marks the second project in Movistar Plus’ original TV series production plan. In January, the Spanish paybox unveiled that will air eight original premium TV series -half dramas, half comedies- every year from 2017, a production level on par in hours produced with the 79 hours produced by European pay TV giant Sky in 2015.
Movistar Plus is already producing Alberto Rodriguez’s TV drama “La peste,” a 16th century thriller, in partnership with Jose Antonio Felez’s prodco Atipica Films, which will premiere fall 2017.
Created, writyen and directed by Juan Cavestany (“People in Places”) and Alvaro Fernandez Armero (“Sidetracked”), “Verguenza” goes into production almost immediately, and is also scheduled for a 2017 release, with a first season of 10 episodes.
Spanish thesps Javier Gutierrez (“Marshland”) and Malena Alterio (“Nobody Can Live Here”) play a couple in permanent crisis, in which he’s a wedding photographer who feels he has a more artistic calling, and she, suffering an unstable job situation, fear she won’t achieve the dreams of youth.
“This is a series about shame, about protagonists who are mediocre at what they do but have dreams of greatness,” said writer-director Juan Cavestany.
As in all of Movistar Plus’ TV comedy projects, “Verguenza’s” episodes will have a 30-minute format, according to development director Felipe Ponton. TV dramas’ segs will last an international standard 50 minutes. (Spanish TV series are traditionally much longer).
Both formats, Ponton said, will facilitate TV series international distribution.
“Our aim is for all series to have a life in the international market. In the case of TV dramas, which will be easier given the international interest in them, there will be some sort of distribution agreement; in the case of TV comedies, it will depend on each one of the projects,” he added.
Apaches, the producers behind films such as Juan Antonio Bayona’s “The Impossible” and his upcoming “A Monster Calls,” initially announced “Verguenza” project in 2011 as the company’s entry into TV fiction production. However, Spanish deep economic crisis and the strong changes suffered in recent years by both Spanish film-TV industry and audiences tastes put Apaches’ TV fiction plans on hold.
“‘Verguenza’ needs to be a groundbreaking TV series in many aspects, not only in its format but also in being perceived as something new. This is a TV series made to be liked in Spain but also to be exported,” said Apache producer López Lavigne.
“We want it to be completely new and distinctive in visual terms and open up a way forward for future TV series, setting itself apart from fiction produced by free-to-air TV broadcasters,” he added. Lopez Lavigne appreciates international TV series such as “Louie,” where locations and natural interiors are very important.
To date, Movistar Plus has received some 700 TV series proposals and is developing some 20 TV projects. In its first two original TV series, “La peste” and “Verguenza,” Movistar has partnered with companies with a proven film production tack record.
“We aim to raising the quality of TV series production, giving them cinematographic values. So it is very logical to partly team with film companies. They are going to supply us the kind of shoot, actors and editing we want,” said Ponton.
Movistar Plus aims to produce one English-language per year, for which it is currently in talks with other European pay TV operators such as Sky and Canal Plus. The rest of the series will be shot in Spanish.
“We don’t want to participate in international co-productions only as a guest or as a financial partner, we would like to find stories that work all across Europe,” said Ponton.
He added: “There are stories that do this well selling to every European territory, such as Sky’s ‘Gomorra,’ a TV series on the Neapolitan Camorra with parts of its plot located in France or Spain. This is a good TV production model. We must find stories that work in several countries but which in turn have a local personality,” said Ponton.
Although the main market for Movistar Plus’ TV production will be Spain, the company will also try to take advantage of its rights distribution -of which, in most cases, it will be a 100% owner. Europe and Latin America, where Telefonica has a strong presence as pay TV operator, look like a priority markets.
With some 4.6 million Latin American subscribers, Telefonica competes under the Movistar TV brand in Central America, Colombia, Peru and Chile. In Brazil, it owns paybox Vivo. Telefonica also controls Argentine broadcaster Telefe, a key player on Latin America’s film and TV production sector.
For its upcoming premium TV fictions, Movistar is interested in accessing new releasing windows in the U.S. market, where Sundance Channel, for example, has started to broadcast non-English language TV fictions such as Canal Plus’ “Les Revenants” and more recently RTL’s “Deutschland 83.”
“This move, although small, is interesting because will it will lend a new vitality to European TV production,” Ponton said.