With a diverse lineup of series coming out this year, HBO España is making its mark in Europe with top tier productions that differentiate themselves from the current crop of shows currently on the market, according to the service’s head of original programming.
Discussing the pay TV outlet’s strategy and upcoming productions at this year’s Conecta Fiction Reboot confab, Miguel Salvat, HBO España’s commissioning editor of original programming, said the channel receives and reviews around 1,000 projects a year, and that figure is growing.
“We don’t close the door to anyone, to any person or company, because you never know where the next project that you want to make will come from,” Salvat stressed.
“We’re keeping with that strategy of making few projects,” he added. “What we are looking for in projects are basically three things: an original voice; we are also looking for differentiation, which is more important today than ever before — the more available product becomes the more important it is to differentiate.
“And we look for excellence in everything, in the scripts, which are the pillars, the foundations of any building — it’s the first thing you lay under the ground before you construct anything,” he explained. “We look for excellence in the interpretation, direction, production values. We look for people who have a good grasp of spectacle, a feeling for entertainment, and we look for new points of view on material that doesn’t have to be new. We are trying to innovate and create discussion with everything that we produce.”
HBO España’s first original production last year was “El Pionero,” the documentary series about Spanish politician, football mogul and property tycoon Jesús Gil, and it closed out the year with the premiere of Isabel Coixet’s romantic drama series “Foodie Love,” which Salvat described as “fantastic.”
“This year in the midst of the crazy state of alarm over the pandemic, we premiered ‘En Casa,’ five stories by five different Spanish directors from an idea by Rodrigo Sorogoyen and produced with Warner Television in Spain.”
In mid-July, the channel debuted its first comedy series, “Por H o por B,” written and directed by Manuela Burló Moreno. The show follows the characters from her short film “Pipas,” with actresses Marta Martín and Saida Benzal reprising their roles as friends living in the hipster Madrid neighborhood of Malasaña.
In an ambitious project that has greatly benefited the country’s stage talent, HBO España produced “Escenario 0,” six stage plays produced for television. “It’s not cameras in a theater but adapted stage productions shot in six different locations with top directors and a marvelous cast.”
The series, which premieres Dec. 13, is very special and important in view of the COVID-19 crisis, Salvat said.
“It’s been a support for a sector that is having great difficulties at the moment, but it’s not simply about giving them money but rather asking them to do what they do best, which is the type of support people appreciate.”
One major HBO España production affected by the spring lockdown was the highly anticipated “Patria,” which depicts the impact of the Basque Country’s armed conflict on normal people from both sides as well as many who fell somewhere in between.
“Patria” was originally scheduled to premiere May 17 with four episodes already completed and the remaining four in post, but after the lockdown HBO decided not to air it until the entire series was completed, Salvat explained. It is now set to world premiere its first episodes at the San Sebastian Festival and then air on Sept. 27.
“Many people are waiting for it, but no one more than me,” he added.
Coming at the end of the year is the supernatural thriller “30 Coins,” which makes its premiere at the Venice Film Festival. Salvat describes it as a “a brutal horror series that came out of the head and heart of Alex de la Iglesia. I don’t have words for it … it’s going to be marvelous.”
“30 Coins” will attract not only HBO viewers in Spain but across Europe, Salvat predicted, noting that there was no other series like it.
“We don’t like to do things that have been done before. We like to take risks and we like to know why we’re making what we’re making. That’s why we produce so few projects. I know that it’s statistically impossible not to fail, because the majority of series fail, but we work as if that were possible.”