Spanish showrunners Javier Calvo and Javier Ambrossi, popularly known as Los Javis, are launching Suma Content, a new, Madrid-based but internationally operating independent production company which will replace their current, smaller label, Suma Latina.
The pair are already superstars in Spain and their star is rising abroad. They’re responsible for several recent hit productions including the Atresplayer Premium original series “Veneno,” sold to HBO Max in the U.S., and Netflix pickup “Paquita Salas,” and are regular contributors on the unscripted scene having appeared on Spain’s legendary singing competition “Operación Triunfo” and the recently launched “Drag Race España,” among others.
As the partners’ public profile flourished, it became clear that their operations had outgrown their existing production arrangements which often limited their output. One high-end drama series per year was no longer enough to satiate their ambitions, so a new arrangement was needed.
“At Suma Latina we were only able to do one production a year and we always had exclusive arrangements that limited what we could do. Suma Content was born for us to be free, no more exclusives,” Ambrossi explained to Variety in a conversation at their current offices in Madrid’s popular Malasaña neighborhood. Although well located, well decorated and much loved, that space is similarly no longer capable of meeting the partners’ needs, and the entire Suma Content team will be moving to a larger facility, still in Madrid’s city center, in January.
“Part of leaving behind Suma Latina and working with more people, more equipment and launching this bigger company is so that we can do international productions. That’s the plan,” Ambrossi explained when asked about their ambitions outside the Iberian Peninsula. “Since ‘Veneno’ we have received many offers, but we have always had to say no, it was not the time, because it was just the two of us and we already had so many commitments.”
One of the partners’ primary objectives will be to find and foster new talent. It’s a goal shared by nearly every production company, platform and broadcaster in Spain, but Los Javis believe they are unique in their willingness to look everywhere for that talent.
“We want to take young creators out from their ‘niche.’ For several years we’ve been impressed with low-budget series on small platforms, self-produced web series… and we think it’s time for those innovators to take the lead as a new generation of creators,” explained Calvo, recalling that much of their own early work was similarly produced for modest platforms or free streaming video sights.
“We seek to defend authorship and imperfection. It’s why our careers were launched in small venues or on fledgling platforms like Atresplayer when it was just launched. Often when we went to big broadcasters or platforms, they would ask us to change, and my answer was always no, this is the story I want to tell right now,” he added.
For Los Javis, new talent doesn’t necessarily only mean young talent. The couple plans to continue to use their own profile to create opportunities for those who have, historically, been shut out of mainstream production.
“We’re not only looking for young stories, but diverse stories,” said Calvo. “We want women creators to tell women’s stories, mainstream LGBT stories told by people from that community. There is often a sense of change in the industry in Spain, but the wheel isn’t moving fast enough.”
Opportunities won’t be limited to the Suma offices, as Los Javis plan to fill screens at home and abroad with characters and stories that, until recently, have been missing from the Spanish oeuvre.
“Suma Content will open a window of opportunity behind and in front of the camera,” Ambrossi explained. “‘Veneno’ was a revelation on screen, using a full cast of trans actors to play the trans roles, but it was the same behind the camera. During production, every team had trans people on it. That’s real change, and that’s what we want to do.”
Working with new talent can be risky, but it has proven to be one of the great strengths of the Javis’ professional partnership.
“I’m not afraid to work with new talent because I trust myself as a producer, director and an artist, and I know I can teach them,” said Ambrossi. “The problem isn’t that there aren’t 20-year-old women writing, it’s that they haven’t been given a first job. Our responsibility is to give them their first jobs.”
Calvo is equally confident working with unproven actors, and believes there are distinct benefits of doing so. “On ‘Veneno,’ working with new actors we would maybe need to do a shot 10 times instead of two, but in those 10 shots something new and special always came out, and it was thrilling to experience a process that wasn’t so industrialized.”
Although specific details of the new label’s early productions are still being kept under wraps, Calvo and Ambrossi were barely able to sit still for the excitement they share about the company’s early development pipeline, letting slip that several upcoming productions have international partners, and that genre, format and platform are not limiting factors.
“Everything!” Ambrossi practically shouted when asked what kinds of projects they’re currently working on. “We are preparing movies, series, documentaries, plays and entertainment formats. We have a huge team that is slowly growing, and we are going to do everything!”
In the immediate future, the partners’ latest production “Cardo,” produced again with partners Atresmedia TV and Buendía Estudios, is set to launch Nov. 7 on Atresplayer. Co-created by Claudia Costafreda – a script writer on “Veneno” and director of “Cardo” – and actress Ana Rujas (“Toc Toc”), the project will reflect on the feminine beauty canons existing in society and the emptiness often shared by those from the generation born between the mid-80s and the 90s -those who are now just over 30 years old.