×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Chile TV: A Fast Emerging International Force

PAMPLONA, Spain  —  In an early and memorable dramatic beat in “Invisible Heroes,” a Original Series of Finnish broadcaster YLE, in partnership with Chilean network Chilevision, the former head of international trade under Chile’s Salvador Allende clambers over the garden wall of the chalet of a Finnish diplomat to seek asylum after Augusto Pinochet’s bloody  1973 military coup.

Suitcase in hand, he looses his footing,, and falls straight into Tapani Brotherus’ swimming pool.

Much admired at MipTV by those who caught it, “Invisible Heroes” opened to warm applause on Monday night at Conecta Fiction, the world’s foremost Europe-Latin America TV co-production forum, which runs June.17-20 in Pamplona, Northern Spain.

Chile is one of Conecta Fiction’s two 2019 countries in focus. If the quality on paper of some of its projects is born out by their pitches, in public events or one-to-one meetings, it will also be one of its stars.

“Invisible Heroes” is now a flagship example of what Chile can bring to the TV table as the country, already boasting  a highly successful film industry, as it pushes into high-end drama production.

Nobody’s taking that challenge lightly. “The production of high-end international drama is now as important for Chile as what it has achieved in the last decade in cinema,” says Constanza Arena, at CinemaChile, which brings a near 40-strong delegation to Pamplona.

“Invisible Heroes” is a true-events based story of how Finnish diplomat Tapani Brotherus, ignoring his own safety and his government’s insistence on strict neutrality, helped secure asylum in Europe for more than 2,000 Chilean citizens after Augusto Pinochet’s 1973 coup.

In what seems a very happy collaboration, it was penned by playwrights Tarja Kylmä from Finland and Manuela Infante from Chile, and directed by Finland’s Mika Kurvinen and Chile’s Alicia Scherson. Finland’s Kaiho Republic and Chile’s Parox produce for Finnish pubcaster YLE and ChileVision, owned by Turner Latin America.

“Invisible Heroes” underscores that there’s talent in Chile, in writing and direction and most especially maybe actors, which are up to international standards,” said Leonora González at Parox.

Indeed, three Chilean actresses – Catalina Saavedra (“The Maid”), Paulina García (“Gloria” and  Daniela Vega (“A Fantastic Woman”) -were included in a 2017 Indie Wire selection of the the 25 best female movie performances of the 21st century. Another actress, Nathalie Portman,was selected for a performance directed by a Chilean.

But it also underscores Chilean TV challenges  On “Invisible Heroes,” Parox snagged all the TV funding a producer can raise in Chile – Corfo, CNTV – plus broadcaster backing from ChileVisión, but was still a very minority investor in “Heroes Invisibles,” Parox’s Sergio Gándara points out.

As they have battled in a bitterly competitive market for exiguous TV advertising, Chilean TV networks have turned to produce telenovelas, not international-standard series.

The good news is that from 2019, Chile’s Consejo Nacional de Television has opened up all its financing lines to international co-productions, rather than running one dedicated financing line. The number of international co-productions applying for CNTV funding has doubled this year, says the CNTV’s Ignacio Villalabeitía.

The bad news: There’s been a 27% decrease in CNTV funding for 2019, to a total $4.6 million. “We hope, however, that this drop will be reversed in 2020, given that we’re working with the Finance Ministry to boost and increase our Fund,” Villalabeitía adds.

Chile has stepped up hugely its TV ambitions, the first fruit of which is visible. results are being seen.

“The sector’s taking large steps towards the world, says producer Sebastián Freund, president of Chile’s APCT producers org., citing “Invisible Heroes,” “Mary & Mike,” from Invercine & Wood, produced with Turner Latin America, “La Jauría,” a Fabula-Fremantle co-production, and soccer corruption scandal thriller “El Presidente,” made by Fabula and Gaumont (“Narcos”) for Amazon.

Meanwhile, Mega, Chile’s top broadcast network, which has made its name of late producing or airing telenovelas, Turkish or Chilean, is moving into producing higher-end series, such as “La Cacería.” Mediapro Chile is launching at Conecta Fiction its first drama series, with another in the works. Fable has created offices in L.A. Others may follow.

“The question now is how do we channel the energy, the drive for quality of our cinema into the creation of scripted content for a whole range of platforms, free-to-air, traditional pay TV and the streamers,” says Matías Almocaín, at Fabula.

Though still nascent in terms of broadcast results, Chile’s high-end drama surge suggests some clear trends.

One is the use of history.”Invisible Heroes” begins a year or so before Pinochet’s bloody coup, as Brotherus is dispatched to Chile, though suspected of leftist sympathies by his hawkish boss, to seal a trade agreement. Based on Isabel Allende’s novel, “Inés del alma mía,” another Chilevision project portrays the courage and contradictions of a rare woman conquistador, as she befriends and then betrays Chile’s indigenous population to protect Spanish interests in Chile.

“Chilean TV often a strong historical base. It’s as if instead of writers creating a series from scratch, history can do some of the work for you, and in a marvelous fashion,” says Freund-

But the contradiction remains. In most of the world – Spain, Brazil, Germany, Mexico – financing, employment is now no problem. What is a problem is accessing the talent to make the shows the quality broadcasters or platforms demand.

Chile is the other way round. There is talent: Witness the huge success through late May of “Pacto de sangre” on Canal 13. But “Chile has scarce funding in terms of state funds,” Freund insists . That makes it ripe for international co-production. “We must, out of necessity, co-produce, exchange talent, stories with the world, so that they can be developed and produced,”  Freund adds. Conecta Fiction is ideal to further this international partner drive.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Emmys 2019: Biggest Winners and Losers

    Winners and Losers of the 71st Emmy Awards

    The 71st Emmy Awards was a spectacular affair for the Brits, while broadcast networks all but vanished. Watch Variety’s Elaine Low and Audrey Yap unpack TV’s biggest night of the year, which saw “Game of Thrones” and “Fleabag” take home the top prizes, winning best drama series and best comedy series, respectively. Popular on Variety

  • Atmosphere71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Show,

    Emmy Viewers Not 'Feelin' Good' About Bizarre Music Choices

    It was known ahead of time that the Emmy Awards planned to dispense with a traditional orchestra or pit band for the walk-up and bumper music. What wasn’t anticipated was that the music choices were being outsourced to a bar mitzvah DJ in Des Moines. Or, very possibly, it was a local who had found [...]

  • Atmosphere71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards, Show,

    Emmys: Big 4 Broadcasters Post Lowest Combined Wins Ever

    The Big 4 broadcast networks put a cap on their worst year in Emmy history on Sunday night. ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC brought home just 16 Emmy Awards — the lowest combined total in history for the four major broadcast networks. The previous low was 19 combined wins in 2016. Last year, the networks [...]

  • Karamo BrownLA LGBT Center 'Hearts of

    Karamo Brown Addresses Backlash Against Sean Spicer Comments

    Karamo Brown has doubled down on comments he made about his fellow “Dancing with the Stars” contestant Sean Spicer, in which he promoted the idea of meeting political adversaries “in the middle.” The amicable “Queer Eye” host received criticism when he said he was “most excited to meet” Spicer ahead of the show’s 28th season, [...]

  • Billy Porter Emmy Win 2019 Pose

    Billy Porter Dispels Rumors of RuPaul Rift Backstage at Emmys

    Billy Porter choked up backstage on Sunday at the Emmy Awards as he spoke about the larger cultural significance of his lead drama actor Emmy win for the FX drama “Pose.” Porter leads the large ensemble on the series set in 1980s New York City during the height of the AIDS crisis and the birth [...]

  • Michelle-Williams-Rupaul-Split

    Emmy Winners Urge Political Activism During Acceptance Speeches

    As the country inches closer to the 2020 election, Emmy winners on Sunday night used their time in the spotlight to advocate for political causes. Celebrities such as Patricia Arquette, Michelle Williams, and RuPaul Charles all urged activism from viewers while accepting their awards. While accepting her Emmy for her supporting role in Hulu’s “The [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content