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Conecta Fiction: Roberto Rios, Miguel Salvat Talk HBO’s Latin American, Spanish Production

PAMPLONA, Spain   —  Few events were more anticipated at Conecta Fiction than the joint keynote delivered by HBO Latin America’s Roberto Ríos and HBO España’s Miguel Salvat. The room was packed,some attendees caught it from a screen outside.

That’s a sign of the draw of HBO’s brand in Spanish-language programming and of Ríos and Salvat. When it comes to Spanish-language premium TV series both executives are pioneers and now institutions. Ríos’ credits at HBO date back at least to the 2008-released “Alice” and Season 2 of “Epitafios,” produced with Pol-ka, the first ever premium limited TV series in Spanish bowing way back in 2003.

Salvat was the driving force behind two of Spain’s very first scripted premium series: “Whatever Happened to Jorge Sanz?” and “Crematorium,” released at Canal Plus España over 2010-11.

One of the keys to understanding a SVOD platform is its slate of projects in productions, said Salvat, VP, commissioning editor, original programming HBO España. part of HBO Europe. So Salvat and Ríos, corporate VP, original productions, HBO Latin America, spent much of their time talking about the singularity of individual productions. They also reflected, however, on cornerstone production philosophy. Following, 5 Takeaways on these tenets, and brief profiles of titles on HBO España and Latin America’s production slate:

1.THE BIG PICTURE

“I like to put ‘whys’ first, then ‘whats’ and ‘hows,’ said Salvat. Original production at HBO España, part of HBO Europa, pursues two goals, he argued: In the short-term, to “get and retain clients”; in the long term, to add attributes which increase brand value. Ríos agreed: “We have to enhance the viewing experience, not just sustain it, always be pressing the accelerator.

2.RANGE

HBO Latin America’s current slate runs the gamut of “Action, Thrillers, Romance,Comedy, Drama, Adventure: “Together We Have It All,” proclaimed a sizzle reel screened by Ríos at Conecta Fiction. HBO España’s five-production slate has series from two renowned movie auteurs, Alex de la Iglesia and Isabel Coixet. “But they could hardly be more different,” Salvat pointed out. Given the objectives of HBO España’s original production, variety is “a point of departure,” “an obsession,” he added.

3.HBO LATIN AMERICA: SCALING UP

Two years in the making, “Mil Colmillos” is “a big production,” Ríos said at Conecta Fiction. “An American Guest” offers Amazon-set period adventure. “Santos Dumont” chronicles the exploits of fated aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont including his 1901 attempt to win the Deutsche de la Meurthe Prize which, when his dirigible lost power, had him crashing into a wall of the Trocadero Hotel and left hanging from his basket. Such scenes, caught in the sizzle reel, could not have made “Santos-Dumont” cheap. Scale does not guarantee quality, but it may comply with another HBO touchstone: Offering something different.

4.THE VOLUME BUSINESS

When it comes to original production, HBO is not into the volume business, Salvat reminded the Conecta Fiction audience. That said, HBO España has five series in production at one and the same time, “an important figure” he observed, “above all because production is simultaneous.” In fact the figure is almost as large as the production levels for HBO in the whole of Europe just two years ago. Since launching original scripted production via HBO Eastern Europe (at the turn of the decade), then HBO Nordic (in 2017 with Lukas Moodysson’s “Gosta”) and HBO España (“Patria” greenlit in 2018), HBO Europe’s production levels are growing notably and logically.

5.WORKING WITH THE INDEPENDENT SECTOR

One reason for the build in production levels in Latin America is the consolidation of an independent TV production in the region, Ríos said. “We’re building production in Latin America. At the beginning, it was difficult to find partners to work with us. Now it’s the other way round. There’s a community of courted production companies in every Latin America country,” HBO works with the best. In Brazil alone, “Pico de Neblina,” one of its soon-to-bow titles, is produced by O2 Filmes, co-headed by “City of Gods’” Fernando Meirelles; “Hard’s” producer is Gullane (“The Second Mother,” “Jailers”), “An American Guest” has been made with Patrick Siaretta. The normal production model is out-house production with independent companies,” Salvat said of Spain.

SO WHAT’S IN THE PIPELINE?

HBO ESPAÑA PRODUCTIONS, 2019

‘PATRIA’

Now wrapping its shoot in Madrid, an original drama adaptation of Fernando Aramaburu’s bestselling novel “Patria,” a huge 646-page novel about the impact of the Basque conflict on ordinary people on both its sides. Aitor Gabilondo (“The Prince”), one of Spain’s best-known show runners, both writes and produces. Felix Viscarret (“Under the Stars”) and Oscar Pedraza (“Viradeira”) direct. “I think it will travel hugely, despite being a Basque story. The script adaptation is pretty faithful to the book and its spirit, and it talks about things that go far beyond ETA terrorism,” said Salvat. Underscoring HBO’s own take on “Patria’s” global potential, the series will be aired by all HBO Europe operations, and released on HBO Latin America and HBO in the U.S., as HBO leverages it direct distribution reach on multiple overseas original series.

’30 COINS’

Yoking U.S. genre, dark Spanish esperpento comedy and local settings, Alex de la Iglesia has forged an instantly identifiable world, of appeal beyond Spanish borders. In “30 Coins,” which looks like hallmark De la Iglesia, harking back to his milestone “The Day of the Beast,” a exiled priest Father Vergara, an exorcist, boxer and ex-con living in a remote Spanish village, is embroiled in a global conspiracy to control Judas Iscariot’s pay of 30 pieces of silver. “A creator’s own voice, an auteur’s vision, is highly important to HBO in all its series, however varied they may be,” said Salvat.

‘FOODIE LOVE’

Currently wrapping its shoot, the first TV series from Isabel Coixet (“The Secret Life of Words,” “The Bookshop”), eight half-hours about two thirty-somethings brought together by their common love of gastronomy. “It’s the two things Isabel likes most: Stories about couples’ relations, and talking about food, and personally I don’t know anybody who talks or writes about food better than Isabel Coixet,” Salvat said in Pamplona.

CREDIT: HBO

‘WHATEVER’

A 10 half-hour culture-clash comedy from a “fresh new voice on the Spanish scene, Manuela Burló, though she’s made two features and above all a large batch of shorts which interest me even more,” said Salvat. “It’s a fish-out-of-water comedy, about two girls, two ‘chonis’ from the outskirts of Madrid, who end up living in Malasaña,” a hub for hipsters which Salvat called “the epicenter of fakeness which we don’t dare to criticize for seeming ridiculous.”

‘THE PIONEER’

Far right, sexist, racist, convicted of building a complex which collapsed killing 58 people, eventually banned from holding public office, Jesus Gil was also elected four times mayor of Marbella and served for 16 years as president of Spanish soccer club Atlético de Madrid where he went through 44 coaches. Set to air from July , four-hour docu-series “The Pioneer,” produced by JWP (“Muerte en León”), directed by Enric Bach and scripted by Bach and Justin Webster (“Muerte en León,” Emmy Award winning “Six Dreams”), asks why so many people allowed themselves to fall under Gil’s spell. “Like all our productions, one ambition is that that they travel. Spectators of HBO Europe will recognize many of the characteristics which are shown in this story,” Salvat said in Pamplona. Airing from July 7.

HBO LATIN AMERICA’S PRODUCTIONS

‘THE BRONZE GARDEN,’ SEASON 2, ARGENTINA

“You know what it’s like to go through this,” Andrea Rodríguez, whose son Martín has gone missing, appeals to Fabián Danubio (Joaquín Furrel) to take on the case. “I’m still going through it,” Fabián retorts.  Yes, he’s got Moira back. But he’s discovered she’s not his biological daughter. And she’s so distant, traumatized. Directors Pablo Fendrik and Hernán Goldfrid return. Ep. 1 bowed June 9. “Season 2 was very interesting because we had the same writers, Gustavo Malajovich and Marcos Osorio Vidal, but no novel from Malajovich. So we had to invent one, and a new format which wasn’t clear in the first,” Ríos said at Conecta Fiction. Here the series drives more into Argentina’s heart of darkness: A corrupt bureaucracy, a simmering violence.

CREDIT: HBO LATIN AMERICA

‘PSI,’ BRAZIL

Airing on HBO Latin America from March 24, created by Contardo Calligaris and once more staring Emílio de Mello as psychoanalyst Carlo Antonini. The 10-episode Season 4 centers on paranoia, “now present the world over in politics and social media,” via five different stories,  said Rios. First aired in 2014, now one of HBO’s longest-running titles.

‘PICO DE NEBLINA,’ BRAZIL

Marketed by a sometimes near-hallucinogenic trailer offering an “alternative reality,” “Pico de Neblina” is set in a fictional Sao Paulo which has legalized marijuana. Socio-political allegory, it details the trials and tribulations of a petty drug trafficker who tries to take his business legal. But illegality for many is the preferred status quo. A 10 one-hour series scheduled for an Aug. 4 bow. “It’s developed by two highly talented very young creatives, writer Chico Mattos and Quico Meirelles, the series’ general director. The style’s very fresh, with a fluid camera, multiple characters, a lot of color, naturalist dialog,” Ríos antucipated. Fernando Meirelles (“City of God,” “The Faithful Gardener”), Quico’s father, has directed some episodes.

CREDIT: HBO LATIN AMERICA

‘THE SECRET LIFE OF COUPLES,’ SEASON 2, BRAZIL

Shooting from last September and now near to concluding production, the noir-ish drama-thriller “The Secret Life of Couples” sees a sex therapist, played by series creator Bruna Lombardi, embroiled ever more in big business corruption of her clients, and under investigation  for one patient’s death. “This is a highly interesting series mixing sex, power, money, politics, the war on the press, small and large betrayals,” Rios commented.

‘THE AMERICAN GUEST,’ BRAZIL

Written by Matthew Chapman (“The Ledge”) and directed by Bruno Barreto (“Doña Flor and Her Two Husbands”), this four-part miniseries follows the journey of former U.S. president Teddy Roosevelt, played by Aidan Quinn, alongside Brazilian army officer Cândido Rondon, into the Amazon rainforest in 1913 to discover the headwaters of the Rio da Duvida. It was a trip which was to test Roosevelt’s appetite for physical adventure, and increasing frail physique. “The journey was meant to take a few weeks, it lasted six months,” Ríos commented. It saw Roosevelt succumb to tropical fever, and contemplate suicide, or so he claimed.

‘SANTOS DUMONT,” BRAZIL

A chronicle of the derring-do firsts of Brazilian-French aviation pioneer Alfredo Santos Dumont, his near-scrapes and records – including the 1906 first flight of a heavier-than-air plane in Europe. But even more a portrait of the person, his joy at flight and France’s progressive Belle Epoque but ever greater sense of the weight of fame, then desperation when the aircraft he helped develop soon became machines of war. A shot in the sizzle-reel shown at Conecta Fiction shows him burning his once-cherished aircraft models. Filmed in Portuguese and French, HBO Latin America’s first historical series, another departure for the company.

‘MIL COLMILLOS,’ COLOMBIA

One of HBO Latin America’s biggest productions of the year, an action horror-thriller re-teaming director Jamie Osorio and production house Rhayuela (“El paramo,” “Alías María”). An elite military squad is dispatched to the jungles of Colombia supposedly to take out an aging guerrilla leader. What they discover – a bloodied monster at least, if the sizzle reel is anything to go by – “a terrible civilization,” said Ríos –  is beyond their expectations or ken. “Osorio filmed with the camera hugging close to his characters. We shot in the heart of the Amazon jungle, at spectacular locations, rivers, grottos, caverns. We’re now in a fairly complex large post-production, adding VFX, for delivery probably next year,” according to Ríos.

‘HARD,’ BRAZIL

Another first, and also in post-production: HBO Latin America’s first remake – of Cathy Verney’s Canal Plus original “Hard” -which saw three successful seasons in France. “Hard” runs on a woman who discovers at her husband’s funeral that he ran a now floundering adult entertainment business. “One of the challenges is to adapt to Brazilian reality the French approach to sex,” producer Fabiano Gullane said when the series was first announced.

‘TODXS’

Shooting from June 17, created by Vera Egito and Heitor Dhalia, writers of “Adrift” and “Bald Mountain,” and Berlin Teddy winner Daniel Ribeiro (“The Way He Looks”) – which promises well – HBO Latin America’s first LGBTQIA series. A comedic drama starring Clara Gallo as 18-year-old non-binary Rafa, who decides to abandon his parents and move to Sao Paulo. Eight half-hour episodes, which will also turn on racism and abuse.

‘ENTRE HOMBRES’

Announced last month, re-teaming HBO Latin America and “The Bronze Garden’s” production house Pol-ka and co-director Pablo Fendrik, a dramatic four-part miniseries adapting Argentine author Germán Maggiori’s cult novel set in the underground world of Argentina in 1996, “presenting a disturbing urban landscape marked by intense violence and a lack of moral, political and social values,” HBO Latin America wrote announcing the production.

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