MADRID — Continuing its burgeoning line in action thrillers of substance – following South Pole crime thriller “The Head”- The Mediapro Studio (“The New Pope”) is teaming with Globo Studios to produce “Submarine,” described by the partners as a “complex political criminal thriller.”
Budgeted at a provisional €1.5 million ($1.7 million) per episode – high-end for Spain and Brazil but attractively manageable for many international buyers – “Submarine” is created by The Mediapro Studio’s Ran Tellem (“Homeland”) and Mariano Baselga (“The Boarding School”) and Brazil’s Marcos Bernstein (“Central Station”).
One of the 16 drama series projects being presented at Series Mania’s virtual Digital Forum, available online through April 7, “Submarine” will picture Brazil’s first nuclear submarine’s being taken over by a criminal organization which pretends to use it as the most efficient, fast and undetectable way to transport drugs across the Atlantic.
The mastermind behind the operation is none other than the Commander of the Navy, Admiral Enrique Almeida. Only a rebellion of some sailors, headed by his very own son, the second-highest ranked officer on the submarine, can thwart the criminals
“Submarine” marks Globo’s only-second drive into English-language production, after it signed last year a two-title production pact with Sony Pictures TV.
The face-off between a young generation and a corrupt establishment that exploits its power for self-gain has, of course a large resonance in Brazil and many other countries. As a presentation began to play on Series Mania’s online platform, Variety talked to Tellem, head of international content development at The Mediapro Studio, and Mariano Baselga, its senior development executive.
The series is described as a political crime thriller. Could you drill down on that?
Tellem: When we started researching we discovered several cases of small submarines that had been operated by narcos in real life, but we wanted to raise the stakes. The profit that could be made with a nuclear submarine would be much, much greater. But then again, we didn’t want to do just another narco show. It’s not about the drugs, it’s about corruption, power and politics.
Baselga: And a nuclear submarine being a lethal, top-secret, military asset, when it goes rogue it’s a great source for conspiracy theories and fake news, which are major weapons in today’s political battlefields.
What attracted you to “Submarine”?
Tellem: First of all, there is a thrilling, high-pressure, extremely dangerous power-struggle underwater, inside the submarine. But unlike many of the great submarine films we all know and love we didn’t settle for the military storyline but also introduced a much more layered scheme above the water, involving criminal organizations, politicians, big money and the Brazilian Navy.
Our starting point is inspired in real life, as we can all remember at least a couple of cases in which a submarine went missing together with its entire crew. In our story, the fatal accident never took place, and both the bunch of people investigating the incident above the water and some of the sailors and officers inside the ship, are completely in the dark regarding the ultimate sinister plans of the hijackers. The drugs are only the tip of the iceberg.
Never have these genres mixed on television – not that we know of. We feel this is a beginning of a tale that can last for at least three seasons, if not more.
Could you talk about how the development?
Tellem: For us, this is the vision, this is the modus operandi of The Mediapro Studio. To come up with an idea and to find the perfect partner for the story. When Globo jumped in and proposed Marcos Bernstein for the project, we were more than thrilled to work alongside such a talented and accomplished writer.
Baselga: After some intense days of development in Rio de Janeiro, we feel we make a great, balanced team, and Marcos’ method, his thoroughness, his depth and his grounding of the story in Brazilian reality is taking us to another level. This is how we would always like to make international television.
Was the decision to shoot in English also to attract more co-producers in Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market especially?
Baselga: Our ambition is to reach global audiences and our recent experience with “The Head” (in last stages of postproduction) encourages us to insist on ambitious, high-concept, English-speaking content.
Tellem: “Submarine” is anchored in Brazil, but it speaks to every person in the world. It talks about what powerful people are willing to do to get even more power, and how, as always, the courage and bravery of single, brave, anonymous people can and should try to stop them. And in the center of a huge political conspiracy stand a father, a son, a wife, an ex-lover, it is very human. It will be up to regular people to decide the destiny of the submarine, of its crew and of a whole nation. We feel this is a story we want to tell the whole world, and English is the quickest way to get there.
The series is described as a Brazil-U.S. production. Is that because it is being produced by The Mediapro Studio out of one of its U.S. offices?
Tellem: We create many stories and ideas at the same time, luckily for us our international offices (like the one in the U.S., led by Daniel Burman and Juan Pablo Santos) help us in identifying, meeting and in the “happy-end” cases, teaming up with exciting partners from around the world. Daniel was one of the first to hear this pitch and right away it was clear for him that ideal partner for such a show was Globo. He was right, and after just a five minute pitch to the heads of Globo, they jumped on board. We are so happy to have them as our partners.