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‘The Yellow Bird’ Takes Off from Pamplona’s Conecta Fiction

El Pájaro Amarillo

PAMPLONA, Spain — Actor-turned-producer Antonio Resines attended this year’s Conecta Fiction TV co-production and networking event with his proposed series “The Yellow Bird,” based on a true story.

In the 1920s aviation was in its infancy, and scores of pilots dedicated their lives to crashing through seemingly unbreakable barriers. Among them, Armand Lotti, a young French aviator who’s love for the activity cost him and eye, forced him to mortgage everything he owned and alienate his family in an attempt a completing a trans-Atlantic flight.

Standing in the ambitious pilot’s way were a French government who had prohibited such flights from taking off from French soil, logistical problems of weight and fuel consumption, and an influential businesswoman willing to do anything to sabotage the journey as she had backed another crew to make the voyage first.

Also, the odds were hardly in his favor. Between 1927 and 1929, 48 attempts to fly non-stop from Paris to New York resulted in 50 deaths.

For his ragtag crew Lotti picked up two military airmen, and after the three finally managed to get airborne, they were shocked to learn that the plane they had packed meticulously to the ounce was 155lbs overweight, thanks to  a stowaway Past the point of no return, the Yellow Bird continued on its flight towards history, but not as anticipated, being forced to make an emergency landing in Spain, on a beach.

The series is written by Germán Aparicio and Valentina Ferreira. It’s being produced by Producciones Clandestinas, who have already produced a documentary feature of the Yellow Bird story. The Spanish company was in Pamplona looking for distribution and French and U.S. co-producers, natural fits with the story’s narrative.

Producer María Cereceda talked to Variety about the production’s origins, where it’s at today and ways in which she would like to be involved.

Lotte was the son of hotel owners in Paris, his pilot Jean Assailant the son of a WWI hero. We have the impression that “The Yellow Bird” is about people who have not yet shown their value in an age obsessed with valor.

That’s right. It’s a story of self-improvement, despite all the vicissitudes the characters go through; all for honor and glory. In the current era, it is difficult to understand such characters, risking their lives for something so ethereal. But as you say, it’s a flight that gives direction to their lives.

The series is an “adventure series.” Are there series or movies that you admire that could serve as a model?

We have so much documentary material about the story that we haven’t looked for many other references. There is one movie though, “Only Angels Have Wings” from Howard Hawks. The story has nothing to do with ours, except that it is also about aviators, but the spirit and the tone in which it is told seems perfect for “The Yellow Bird.”

The series is a continuation of your interest in the flight after Antonio Resines made a documentary, “The Adventure of the Yellow Bird,” co-produced by Spain’s Historia channel. Why the interest? 

Fundamentally, I feel that the story is not told enough. It’s asking for more re-creation. Every time we talk about this project people get hooked after hearing the first details. It has everything: Adventure, values, risk and humor. A series is the ideal format to recreate this adventure and get all its juice.

It seems that there is still some confusion, 90 years later, in the destination of the flight.

The destination was always Paris. Due to engine problems they landed accidentally in Comillas where they prepared and loaded fuel, but not enough. That’s why they had an unexpected new stop in Mimizan, where they refueled before getting to Paris. When doing the adaptation for the series we didn’t include Mimizan because the story seemed to happen twice.

In what state is the project?

We have written the development for the four episodes which the series is budgeted for, and we are looking for co-producers since it is a very ambitious project

I imagine that, given the history, what interests you would be a co-production between Spain and France…

Spain and France, but also the U.S.  Although it seems shorter, the stop there is fundamental for the story and is full of anecdotes and relevant characters from that time.

If it were done, would you limit yourself to producing or you would play a small role in the series?

Of course I want a role! And more in this story than in any other: it has been with me for more than seven years in one way or another, to become part of its characters seems to me the perfect culmination of this adventure.