Spain’s Basque Country has a storied tradition this century of producing feature films which find international success at festivals and awards shows. Now, with a new generation of Spanish series making waves abroad, the region is shifting towards premium TV fiction production, backed by a top class talent pool and local broadcasters looking to get skin in the game.
While regional broadcasters have shown early signs of interest in fiction production, much of the growth in the sector is driven by talent, often coming from cinema.
“For directors who really like working with characters and diving deep into their stories, having six episodes opens new creative possibilities,” says Xabier Berzosa, an award-winning producer at Irusoin, co-producers on true crime series “The Miramar Murders: The State Vs. Pablo Ibar,” screening at this year’s San Sebastian Festival.
A true crime docu-series, “The Miramar Murders” examines a triple murder case in Miami for which Pablo Ibar was convicted and sentenced to death. Maintaining his innocence from the beginning, Ibar and his family try to raise more than a million dollars needed to mount a defense for a court-ordered retrial.
“By any global standard this series is clearly premium TV, and I don’t think there is anything better being made for primetime in Spain,” explains Ivan Diaz of Filmax, sales agents for the series. “It’s an American series, a European series and a Latin American series. It’s peak TV.”
“It’s a very Basque story,” he goes on. “[Basque Broadcaster] ETB is involved here, but also Canal Sur in Andalusia, making it a very important production for that region as well.”
“Our show’s being produced at ETB represents a changing trend,” points out David Pérez Sañudo, director of “Boast,” another series entry at this year’s festival and a feature filmmaker himself whose debut “Ane” plays in the New Directors sidebar.
Produced by K 2000, and starring “Money Heist’s” Itziar Ituño, “Boast” following Amaia, a primary school teacher with skeletons in her past she’d rather forget. When the women’s association of Uriola commits to join the Alarde parade, she must face her broken family, torn apart by the same parade 25 years earlier.
“It’s early days to make too strong a statement about the growth here, but it would be great if there were sustainable production like this every year. At the moment, the first steps are being taken,” he added.
That’s a far cry from the days when Spanish talent on both sides of the camera would have to either move to Madrid, Barcelona or leave the country to pursue a career.
“Now, when local talent leaves to work somewhere else, instead of buying a one-way plane ticket, they buy round trip,” “Miramar Murders'” creator and director Olmo Figueredo González-Quevedo points out.
Having survived and eventually thrived after Spain’s 2008 financial crisis with his Andalusian company La Claqueta, Figueredo argues that diversifying into series has become necessary, even more so in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen with funding in the next few years, nobody knows, so we’re at a point where we need to do series. It’s essential to take that step, and we’re lucky that we started it a while ago,” he says.
“Until recently we hadn’t considered series because they were foreign to us, and making movies is what we knew. But the border between one type of production and the other has been blurring,” Berzosa concurs.