MADRID — Accidents happen. But it is certainly no coincidence that both Netflix and Movistar +, the dominant forces in Spanish SVOD entertainment, turned to Bambú Producciones, the near-legendary Madrid-based TV production house created by Ramón Campos and partner Teresa Fernández-Valdés, to commission their first original series out of the gate in Spain. Or that Studiocanal has taken a 25% stake in Bambú. Or that Mexico’s Televisa tapped screenplays from Bambú for one of its big summer bets – and top-rating show – under Isaac Lee, “En tierras salvajes.”
In “Grand Hotel” and “Velvet,” Bambú has created a woman’s melodrama which offer a modern alternative to audiences once fixated on telenovelas. As work of art, the results can also be noteworthy. Directed by Gustavo Ron, there are shots in “Velvet Collection” – of a textile workshop floor superintendent on the phone, backed by textiles, pots, and glass panes in various tones of green, earth-brown, pink and teal blue; or two black-dressed funeral mourners sitting in a field, backed by a wall of stones and delicate trees beyond – which in composition, palette or the “Mr. Robot” use of negative space, are an aesthete’s and cinema-goers’ delight.
Bowing Sept. 22 in Spain, “Velvet Collection’s” first two episodes ran up higher average viewership on Movistar+, 62% on VOD catch-up, than “Game of Thrones.” A new Bambú series, produced with Atresmedia Group and sold by Beta, the period romantic drama “Morocco – Love in Times of War” now screens at Mipcom as an international screening. Variety chatted to Fernández-Valdés in the run-up to the trade fair:
For Spain, how are Movistar + Series original series different?
The most radical change is that Movistar + original series are made at international-standard lengths of 50 minutes, not the 70 minutes of Spanish [free-to-air] series. They respect auteurs’ visions. The series target distinct audience segments, don’t have to be mainstream. That’s marvelous, opening up the possibility of offering content not only to traditional audiences but maybe younger viewers who no longer watch free-to-air or linear TV. We can now recuperate young audiences who see series in two days.
So did that impact in changes on “Velvet Collection”?
“Velvet Collection” introduces new characters and stories. But Movistar + wanted a “Velvet” series with the “Velvet” stamp, for the “Velvet” public, a more female audience, to transfer to Movistar + . Movistar + isn’t setting out to be a minority service but for everybody. We could take more risks in form and content but didn’t want to change something which already worked.
From “Disappeared,” Ramón and you have created TV series also channeling U.S. influences, in “Velvet Collection” the technicolor palette of women’s melodrama, and which also have a cable edge, seen in other free-to-air series in Spain which have had to compare to and compete with U.S. cable output
Yes, of course. We couldn’t think that Spanish audiences only saw national series. Today, Spanish audiences watch series from all over the world. We have to be at their level.
“Velvet Collection,” “Morocco – Love in Times of War,” and “Farinia – Snow Over the Atlantic” are all sold by Beta Film. How did this come to happen?
Beta distributed “Grand Hotel” and “Velvet.” When Atresmedia wanted to take on two series as ambitious as “Morocco – Love in Times of War,” and “Farinia – Snow Over the Atlantic” – the first given it’s a war series, the second shot on location over Galicia with no studio work – we needed a bit more budget. Atresmedia looked for an ally and Beta, which knew our productions, said ‘yes’ immediately.
“Velvet Collection” and “Las chicas del cable” feel like modern romantic melodramas made for an audience who would have once consumed telenovelas.
The big sentiments, emotions – love, pain, betrayal – will always connect with everyone. But young audiences won’t watch classic telenovelas, they need another kind of content. The key is respect. Just because an audience likes romantic melodramas doesn’t mean it hasn’t an interesting level of culture, and production values have to be at the height of thrillers or other series types. The plot can be simple but its context not. Or sometimes it’s the complexity of characters which makes a series more compelling. But you can’t treat audiences as if they don’t have the level of culture to understand anything other than romantic sitcoms.