As a Netflix VP and head of international original series, Erik Barmack shaped today’s fiction TV business. He brought “Money Heist” (“La Casa de Papel”) to Netflix and spearheaded the U.S. streaming giant’s drive into local production the world over. “Dark,” “Elite” “Rain” and “Sacred Games” are some results.
Now working out of his own label, L.A.-based Wild Sheep Content, which holds down a strategic label with The Mediapro Studio, Barmack has placed some 12 series with streaming platforms. Given that, why is the doyen of international series now driving into movie production?
Wild Sheep Content is shooting “Cold, Dead Hands” – a provisional title – starring Kate del Castillo, producing with Del Castillo’s Cholawood and Park City-based Top Dead Center Films, headed by Gary and Julie Auerbach, creators of the film.
A full-on propulsive survival thriller with Del Castillo chased by a psychopath across snowy Utah mountain forest, “Cold, Dead Hands,” shooting from Jan. 4, represents Wild Sheep Content’s first movie.
Barmack explained to Variety why he’s moved into movies:
At Netflix, you proved there’s an international market for non-English language series. Do you see a similar opening for movies?
Yes. The international market has Hollywood blockbusters and arthouse movies intended for small but global audiences. There’s a space, however, in the market for some poppy, genre films intended for both local and international. I just haven’t seen a lot of them. You don’t get titles with, say, a Mexican star that is a global presence, spoken half in Spanish, half in English that is a really fun thriller. It’s an interesting place to play.
How has the production been affected by COVID-19?
We’ve designed a film with high dramatic impact that was producible given the present constraints: Mostly outdoors, with two actors, and focused on a shoot that can be accomplished safely.
Does “Cold, Dead Hands” also play off some of the attractions of movies as a business model?
Yes, on films, you can get the equity finance at the right price and then take them out to the market, especially streamers. It’s very difficult to do series on spec. Also, there’s the turnaround. This film will be shot entirely in January. We’ll have a rough cut in February or March and be able to say to the world: “There’s a production that’s been shot. We’ll have a completed film in March or April with a global presence as our lead actor.”
The U.S. Latinx market is contributing more growth than any other population segment in the U.S. and has a median age of 29 compared to 44 for white non-Hispanics, according to a Nielsen presentation at Conecta Fiction. Do you feel the market’s really reacting?
Not as yet. People have been talking for 10 years about Latinx representation in film and series. Netflix has done “Selena.” “Vida” bowed on Starz, but there’s not much else. Kate is a huge, huge star throughout Latin America, in the U.S. There is a huge, demographic that want mixed Spanish and English-spoken films that are not just Mexican productions but made in the U.S.
“As we continue to become an increasingly significant part of the American population our voices, stories, and the way we are portrayed will only continue to evolve,” Kate del Castillo commented to Variety about the movie. Producing the movie, I believe that she’s been able to mold her character, buck stereotype, bring it authenticity…
100%. Her new position as a producer breaks her out in a way where she has control over how the film is put together, the script, what audience it’s intended for. I’m at a point in my career – and I think Kate is at the same point – where we want to have control over the product we do, we want to work with people we love, and we want to break genres as in this film which delivers a fresh take on the thriller.