Signaling one of the biggest deals ever struck by a U.S. company on a single Spanish drama series, AMC Studios and Spanish pay TV/SVOD operator Movistar Plus are partnering on the production and distribution of a sunken treasure adventure series from Academy Award winner Alejandro Amenábar (“The Others,” “The Sea Inside”).
Inspired by the Spanish graphic novel “The Treasure of the Black Swan,” the as-yet-untitled series will premiere in 2021 on AMC in the U.S., Canada, U.K., Latin America and the Caribbean as well as on Movistar Plus in Spain.
The six-part thriller is produced in collaboration with independent production house Mod Producciones, whose head, Fernando Bovaira, has produced all of Amenábar’s movies from his second feature, 1997’s “Open Your Eyes.”
Featuring an international cast, set on both sides of the Atlantic, and in the near-present day but with flashbacks to 1804, the series also weighs in as one of the most ambitious and expensive shows ever made out of Spain.
It also marks the first TV project for Amenábar, who wrote the screenplay with his regular writing partner Alejandro Hernández. The duo paired up on Amenabar’s “While at War,” Movistar Plus’ first original series. Amenábar will direct all six episodes of the series, which is scheduled to go into production this summer.
The graphic novel was inspired by a five-year legal battle, ending in 2012, between the Spanish government and Odyssey Marine Exploration, a Florida-based treasure hunting company, which discovered a 17-ton trove of silver coins in a sunken wreck, which it nicknamed the Black Swan, at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.
Valued at up to $500 million, which would make it the biggest shipwreck haul in history, the treasure, the Spanish government argued, was from Nuestra Señora de las Mercedes, a 36-gun Spanish frigate that sank off the coast of Portugal in 1804, following an engagement with four British navy ships, and so belonged to Spain.
In Amenábar’s series, Alex Ventura, a young and inexperienced Spanish diplomat, comes by chance to head up a mission to recuperate a fabulous sunken treasure trove discovered by adventurer Frank Wild whom, the plot synopsis runs, “travels the world plundering items of common heritage from the depths of the sea.”
Teaming with Lucía, a combative public official, and Jonas Pierce, described as a brilliant American lawyer, Alex “sets out on the adventure of a lifetime, discovering the importance of love, friendship and commitment to one’s beliefs,” the official synopsis concludes.
“This project is uniquely a Spanish/American story inspired by real life events that at times seem more unbelievable than fiction — replete with courtroom drama, international intrigue and even the largest recovered sunken treasure in history,” said Ed Carroll, COO at AMC Networks, who called the series a “global high-stakes adventure.”
“This agreement is a highly relevant landmark not only for Movistar Plus but also for the Spanish audiovisual industry,” added Sergio Oslé, president of Movistar Plus.
Oslé added: “We are aligning ourselves with one of the greatest producers of quality fiction on a global scale with whom we share the desire to enhance our stories and distribute them to the highest possible number of territories.”
For AMC Studios, the partnership, its first with Movistar Plus, gives it access to and ownership of a banner project from Spain which is proving — if Netflix Top 10s from territories around the world are anything to go by — to be the national drama production force, along with the U.K., whose series are most in demand among audiences around the world.
With the AMC Studios partnership, Movistar Plus gains the possibility — that, in some ways, only U.S. companies can bring to the table — of making a series at a scale desired by Movistar’s top talent, such as Amenábar, with whom Movistar is looking to form long-term relationships.
AMC also offers Movistar Plus the opportunity to leverage a partner’s global distribution power at a time when the pay TV company is reaping acclaim and audiences for its series in Spain and now courting more stable distribution outlets for them abroad.
That forms one of the rationales behind Buendía Estudios, Telefonica’s soon-to-launch joint venture with Spanish broadcast network group Atresmedia, which is looking to produce high-end series for third parties, principally global streaming platforms.