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Mipcom: Pau Freixas Talks about Families, Fiction, Comedy

At Mipcom, Filmax brings onto the market the Catalan director’s 'Welcome to the Family,' which is currently shooting

BARCELONA — Pau Freixas is a key name in contemporary Spanish TV creation. Regularly linked to Arca Audiovisual, part of the Filmax Group, he has directed most recently hit TV thriller series “I Know Who You Are” as well as “The Red Band Society,” which won Best Series at New York’s 3rd Intl. Emmy Kids Awards and was the subject of a U.S. remake for Fox produced by Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and ABC studios.

Now, the Catalan director is developing another thriller, “The Takeover,” drama series “Four Sisters,” and “Welcome to the Family,” a 13-part genre blending comedy hour, on which he serves executive producer.

“’Welcome to the Family’ has a first layer of comedy, but beneath that it shows the social emergence of new family models among many other essentials, including suspense,” says Filmax International CEO Carlos Fernandez.

Tell us something about the plot, concept of “Welcome to the Family”

It’s a story about new family models that aren’t the traditional one of children living with their parents, all blood relatives. There’re family structures of all types. Having said that, the series mixes a strong concept with a small dose of suspense, as this family should hide something, so there’s a genre beats. The family members are in very special circumstances that makes them feel forced to unveil their inner emotional life throughout a plot covering a whole season. The way we’re developing the show, we think it could run up to three seasons.

What kind of circumstances are they?

It’s a family going through economic difficulties. The mother –with two children and a third one adopted from Africa, and her brother-in-law living with her with no means of his own– feels forced to face her father who she hasn’t seen in twenty years to ask him for money.

What is the tone, and influences? 

The show has certain obvious echos of “Modern Family,” with larger dramatic tension. “Welcome” has a closer link with features such as Frank Oz’s “Death at a Funeral” and Jonathan Lynn’s “The Whole Nine Yards” which depart from a very realistic concept. Our tone is a bit naïve, light compared to –for instance– other wonderfully irreverent shows like “Shameless”. We are politically incorrect at a lower level,  although it’s true that we want to play with a certain black humor about death.

I think you’re billed as a director but executive producer…

The original idea is mine and I am acting as executive producer. My regular partner Iván Mercader –who’s also an executive producer, – is the showrunner.

It’s this because you’re working on so projects or to retain greater creative control?

I’ve been an executive producer before. And yes, it’s proving very difficult to cope with so many projects. I liked very much the idea of finding the appropriate directors with a specific comedic touch near to tone we were aiming for. So the directors are Nely Reguera, Paco Caballero, Alejandro Marzoa and Begoña Álvarez. Three come from cinema and Álvarez has large TV expertise.

Do you have the feeling that there’s a new creative breath in TV creation, thanks to new platforms adopting new formats and the existence of less politically correct domains untouched to date by the free TV in Spain ?

Absolutely, this seachange has brought many departures. Even for free to air TV that has learnt that targeting all audiences is a bit of an “old” strategy. They have evolved, perhaps pushed by the new platforms or by the very audiences that have also changed, demanding series with stronger concepts, more singular characters or riskier ideas. Society is more complex and series are a reflection of that. There’s change across the spectrum, with creators too.

How do you envisage “Welcome” for international sales?

Series about everyday life can run into difficulties when it comes to export. But a high concept helps a lot in this context. If you have this, you can position very well in the international market, selling the series or the format as well, adapting it to specific family models according to the country. I am very optimistic.

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