Sony Pictures Intl. Prods. and El Estudio, a major new independent production player in the Spanish-speaking world, are teaming to produce a Mexican version of breakout Cuban feature “Juan of the Dead,” with Emilio Portés directing.
Chronicling a U.S. zombie invasion of Mexico, the remake marks one in a strong first slate of titles from El Estudio, launched at the Berlin Festival by three of the most connected producers in the Spanish-speaking world: Ex-Canana producer-partner Pablo Cruz, “The Impossible” producer Enrique López Lavigne and former Sony Pictures Intl. Prods. head Diego Suárez Chialvo.
Based out of Mexico, Los Angeles and Madrid, El Estudio has 63 projects in development or production. El Estudio is represented by CAA. Partners on early titles include Sony Pictures Intl. Prods., Netflix, HBO, Lionsgate, Viacom Intl. Pictures, Movistar Plus and Beta Film, El Estudio told Variety, announcing some of its 2020-21 projects:
- “Verguenza” stars Mexico’s Adrián Uribe in a Mexican version of López Lavigne’s Movistar Plus Original Series “Shame” for Lionsgate’s Latinx streamer Pantaya.
- “El Baile de los 41,” a production with Netflix and Cinepolis starring Alfonso Herrera, and set in a repressed 1901 Mexico City. Project is from Mexico’s David Pablos, whose “The Chosen Ones” played Cannes’ 2015 Un Certain Regard.
- Directed by Kike Maillo, “Barcelona Trilogy” is a terrorist thriller series written by Xabi Puerta, co-produced by Karen and Howard Baldwin, Todd Slater and Jeff Berg.
- Taco Chronicles” Season 2, now in post, as El Estudio develops further seasons and chronicles on other national delicacies, said Cruz.
- From Albert Espinosa, creator of “The Red Band Society,” one of Spain’s biggest format exports, comes feature film “Patio,” an action feature about school bullying.
- An adaptation of Argentine Juan Sasturain’s novel “The Losers’ Playbook,” set in times of the Argentina’s dictatorship.
Multiple more productions will be announced from Berlin through Cannes including titles with Chile’s Pablo Larraín (“Jackie”), Argentina’s Pablo Trapero (“The Clan”), Spain’s Paco Plaza (“Veronica”), Mexico’s Karla Souza (“How to Get Away With Murder”), Omar Chaparro (“No Manches, Frida”) and Catalina Aguilar Mastretta (“The Hours With You”), said Suárez.
El Estudio is backed by Inicia, the parent company of Lantica Media, which owns/operates Pinewood Dominican Republic Studios. Lopez Lavigne, Cruz and Suárez have produced a total 45 movies and 10 series over the last 10 years, their movies accumulating to date $620 million in global box office.
With talent connections the key to competitive advantage on the new content scene, El Estudio is “actively negotiating” participations in “big” Mexican and Spanish management companies, said López Lavigne. It is creating a development fund to pay screenwriters. It is also looking to nurture new talent, “which is in the company’s DNA, particularly Pablo and Enrique’s,” said Suárez.
“El Estudio will also work genre, horror, fantasy, both movies and series, which has enormous market potential in Latin America,” said Lopez Lavigne.
Based out of Los Angeles and Mexico – the “current epicenter of operations, with capacity for four simultaneous productions,” he said – Cruz will oversee Mexican and U.S. Hispanic production, plus relationships with main agencies, talent, networks and platforms in the U.S. Suárez and López Lavigne are based in Madrid, Suarez overseeing development, López Lavigne relationships with the main platforms there and talent, and productions in Spain and the rest of Europe.
Joining forces in a multi-territory alliance, El Estudio is making a virtue out of a new market necessity. “To be a reference in the Spanish-speaking premium content world, gain bargaining power and deliver on what we promise, we need to unite, which gives access to bigger finance, allowing for bigger budgets,” said Suarez.
Alliances also offer the pleasures of rapport. “We’ve been in the industry for over 20 years. We know what’s important in this partnership: Experience, market knowledge and talent,” Cruz said.
El Estudio’s primary asset is its vast network of complicity with key auteurs built up over the past 30 years, an ability to be in at the first on production trends, higher-echelon corporate experience, and a mix of artistic ambition and international market success.
Setting up Canana in 2005 with Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, Cruz worked the Mexico-U.S. axis. producing
Luna’s “Abel” and “Chávez,” produced with John Malkovich’s L.A.-based Mr. Mudd, Cary Joji Fukunaga’s “Sin Nombre,” with Focus Features, and turning Gerardo Naranjo’s “Miss Bala” into a 2019 Sony U.S. remake.
Súarez Chialvo worked in the Hollywood studio system at a senior level for over a decade, at Fox Television Studios, and at Sony in international where he sought to reach out to key creators, Plaza’s “Veronica” and Trapero’s “La Quietud.”
Lopéz Lavigne took top Spanish genre auteurs into English-language production, producing Juan Carlos Fresnadillo’s “28 Days Later,” J.A. Bayona’s “The Impossible” and “A Monster Calls,” before producing some of the very earliest series in Spain for Netflix (“Paquita Salas”) and Movistar Plus (“Verguenza”).
Compared to just three years ago, however, the Spanish-language market has now built far larger momentum. Successful storytelling an an international level nom longer belongs exclusively to English-language productions. By 2018, over 30% of the songs on YouTube’s global chart involved Latin acts, Rolling Stone notes. Two Spanish series “La casa de papel” (“Money Heist”) and “Elite” featured in Top 10 of most-watched Netflix series in 2019, announced by Netflix last October.
“The global television market is experiencing an increased appetite for local language content, and we are proud to work on behalf of many of the world’s top producers, who are creating premium content for the streaming services and local broadcasters,” said Nick Lafferty, television agent, CAA.
He added: “Pablo, Diego, and Enrique are immense talents with proven track records of creating innovative and impactful Spanish-language television series and films. We are thrilled to be representing El Estudio and working to bring their unique vision to audiences worldwide.”
El Estudio’s core team includes COO Marta Pastor and directors of creative affairs Giulia Cardamone and Jorge Alfaro who will handle the TV and film departments in Los Angeles. Marta Crespo serves as senior manager. creative affairs in Spain, Juana García Blaya as a creative executive in Buenos Aires.