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Enrique López Lavigne on ‘Spanish Shame,’ Pioneering Comedy in Spain

Top Spanish producer drills down on what is changing in Spanish TV production

SAN SEBASTIAN —  One of Spain’s leading producers, Enrique López Lavigne, presented Juan Cavestany and Álvaro Fernández Armero’s “Spanish Shame” at the 65th San Sebastian Film Festival. “Shame” is the first whole series to be screened at the Spanish event and Lavigne is one of Spain’s most international producers having worked on “28 Weeks Later,” “The Impossible” and “Out of The Dark.” The producer is also building a more independent and personal slate with smaller productions such as Cavestany’s “People in Places” and Nacho Vigalondo’s “Extraterrestrial.” “Shame” is his first TV show, produced with Movistar +, but probably not the last. At the festival, Lavigne also participated on a round table on New Agents in the Film Production and Distribution.

A black romantic comedy about a hugely embarrassing couple could prove to be group therapy…

The reaction from the first screenings has been amazing. There are situations in which you know that the main character is going to make a blunder and the audience won’t want to look at it. It’s like a series you won’t want to watch. “This is going to end very badly,” you think. This fatalist feeling about the daily life is very Spanish. At the end, everything goes wrong, because you provokes yourself.

There are many aspects in the series that are deeply rooted in Spanish traditions, but they’ve rarely been tackled by Spanish TV before, why?

The arrival of the new platforms was necessary for the production of a series like this. It was the first series commissioned by Movistar + out to an independent producer, something very cool at a time that the company developing strategies to fidelize customers to compete with other platforms. We’ve been waiting eight years since we made the pilot for a platform to board “Shame.” In fact, the very first episode is set at the time of Spain’s economic downturn beginning eight years ago.

I’ve been pitching Spanish broadcasters for eight years. Everybody laughed a lot. But, in the end, they were all very afraid about the lack of political correctness. Obviously, until new platforms, this was a project doomed to never get made.

The general editorial tone of free-to-air Spain’s TV production has been very different

Spanish free-air television has always had a sickly-sweet tone with regard to what exactly we are, with a total lack of criticism, made in order to not bother anyone. In “Shame” the protagonist has a lot of aspects which are regretable. At the end, you understand him. You don’t want to identify with him and we’d rather think he is the neighbor, your brother-in-law. But he is all of us. We haven’t learnt how to be self-critical, something Jewish humor does marvelously.

How much freedom did you have to make “Spanish Shame”?

Movistar + gave Juan and Álvaro the opportunity to make a series that hadn’t been done before. They were two directors coming from very different territories, one from a more socially committed and complex cinema (Cavestany) and the another one from some big hits (Armero). Movistar is opening up a window to new creators, new formulas and new stories. As a producer, the adventure was very exciting. It’s my first series and it has been built without betraying what I like the most.

You have the first whole series to compete at the San Sebastian fest. This is a milestone.

The whole ten-episode season offers a well-defined story with a specific arc in terms of tone and storytelling. “Spanish Shame” tells a story in more than four hours. Its journey is what appeals to me.

Is TV cannibalizing film?

New technologies offer a complete experience. We’re living a very ambitious, exciting process. What we called television is not television anymore, and it has come to stay. Things that seemed very difficult or inaccessible are now real.

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