The Mediapro Studio Sells ‘The Head’ to HBO Max, Unveils John Turturro, Big Talk & Guillem Morales Shows (EXCLUSIVE)

John Turturro and Laura Fernandez Espeso
Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/Mediapro

Madrid-based international TV powerhouse The Mediapro Studio has sold banner series “The Head” to HBO Max for the U.S. as it powers into English-language production, partnering with John Turturro, “Casualty” writers Jeremy Brock and Paul Unwin, U.K. producer Big Talk and London-based director Guillem Morales.

The drive into U.S. and now most especially U.K. production marks the latest strategic growth in one of the fastest ramp-ups in drama series production in Europe, spearheaded by Laura Fernández Espeso, appointed The Mediapro corporate director in October 2019 and chief executive last month.

“We are making a large bet on fortifying our position in the U.S., U.K. and Latin America, and feature film production, and are proud to be working with a huge range of high-caliber partners,” Fernández-Espeso told Variety.

Underscoring her point, she noted four U.S. projects now in development; a production alliance with Erik Barmack, former Netflix VP; and, among a new 2021 generation of global platforms, the acquisition by HBO Max of “The Head” and “Las Bravas,” and production of “Cecilia” with ViacomCBS Intl. Studios (VIS); the production of four titles for Amazon Prime Video – like VIS, a frequent production partner; a non-fiction title “Magic for Humans” for Netflix; and a project in Colombia with Disney Plus.

A quick run down of slate highlights:

The Head – “The consolidation of The Mediapro Studio Distribution has worked on two levels: Retaining consolidated clients and opening up to first-time customers, much driven by ‘The Head,’” said Fernández Espeso, citing, as the latter, “The Head’s” sales to HBO Max, Starz (U.K., Germany), Amazon Prime Video in Italy, Watch It! for MENA, Belgium’s Telenet and Russia. Sixty territories have been sold to date, she added. “Buyers liked the setting – not many shows are set at the South Pole – the six-part episode count, its limited series nature,” she said of “The Head,” a murder mystery of substance, reflecting on gender issues, and plumbing the darkness of the human soul.

Is There No Place on Earth For Me? – The Mediapro Studio is now set to produce a five-part series English-language adaptation of Susan Sheehan’s 1982 Pulitzer Prize reportage on  a young woman’s struggle with schizophrenia, written by American playwright Will Eno (“The Realistic Joneses”), directed by John Turturro, and produced with the collaboration of Turturro partner and former Warner Bros. Spain exec Enrique Posner. Eno, Turturro, and TMS’ Ran Tellem and Daniel Burman form the creative team.

58 Seconds – “Our position in Spain and Latin America is very solid, we’re still growing in the U.S. In 2022, our challenge is to produce in the U.K.,” said Fernández Espeso. A first series, “58 Seconds,” with BlackBox Multimedia, re-teams Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-award-winning writers Jeremy Brock (“The Last King of Scotland”) and Paul Unwin (“Breathless”), the original creators of BBC’s “Casualty,” in a “epic, dramatic” medical drama, according to Fernández Espeso, about front-line humanitarian relief workers. Brock and Unwin are now writing.

The Rock – A series, written by Martin Stellman and Brian Ward (“The Interpreter”) and co-produced with Big Talk (“Baby Driver,” “Shaun of the Dead”).

True Miracles – Created by London-based Spanish director Guillem Morales, director of  BBC dramas “The Miniaturist” and “Inside Number 9.”

In the U.S., The Mediapro Studio has in development narco-terrorist thriller “El Médico” with “Fauda” director Assaf Bernstein, as well as “The Magnificent 6,” a portrait of six high-competition athletes, part of a multi-title co-production partnership with unscripted producer Back Roads Entertainment and, with Netflix unscripted series “Magic for Humans.”

Latin America: HBO Max Takes ‘Las Bravas,’ Paramount Plus Orders ‘Cecilia,’ Amazon ‘Victoria Small’ S2

“Latin America is a market with exponential growth, with the arrival of all the streaming platforms a key driver,” said Fernández Espeso. Running drama series production offices in Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Argentina, The Mediapro Studio’s operations in the region have “flowered,” she added, often with key partners ViacomCBS International Studios (VIS, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus and WarnerMedia).

In key news, HBO Max has acquired “Las Bravas,” a Mexico-set female soccer tale and first fruit of a production alliance with WarnerMedia.

Viacom CBS Intl. Studios (VIS) – “a key partner, said Fernández Espeso – is set to co-produce “Cecilia,” from Daniel Burman, an early Latin American original for Paramount Plus. VIS and TMS went into production on Dec. 9 on season two of Rose d’Or winning and International Emmy-nominated “Victoria Small,” a hit on Viacom-aired Telefe, which will now air on Amazon Prime Video. TMS will also shoot shortly “Iosi, El Espía Arrepentido,” Amazon’s first Argentine original.

During NATPE, VIS greenlit the second season of “Club 57,” the Nickelodeon kids time travel musical, a VIS-TMS co-production and the No. 1 property on Nick Play during its premieres.

Movies & Spain  

Over 2020, the Mediapro Studo returned with renewed force to feature film production. Drama comedy “Official Competition,” starring Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas, and labor-relations themed “The Good Boss,” headlined by Javier Bardem, have established The Mediapro Studio as one of Spain’s foremost feature film producers. “Cinema has been one of our biggest priorities over 2020,” said Fernández Espeso.

The Mediapro Studio has 38 shows or movies set up or airing on Spanish TV operators, split between Movistar Plus, Orange, Mediaset, RTVE and Atresmedia. The biggest of all may be teen sci-fi thriller “Paraíso,” from “Palm Trees in the Snow” director Fernando González Molina. “It’s one of our most ambitious productions and most important bows for 2021,” said Fernández Espeso, also citing “El Internado – Las Cumbres,” which bows on Amazon Prime Video on Feb. 19; “Los Hombres de Paco,” produced with Reboot and Atresmedia; RTVE flagship series “Estoy Vivo”; and a second season of “Fernando,” a doc portrait of the Formula 1 driver.

New Business, New Talent

The Mediapro Studio was hit hard by COVID-19 from March 2020, with 48 titles closing down. Fifty-two productions, between scripted and entertainment, have been completed since March. A further 31 are in production, Fernández Espeso said. TMS basic business premises have not changed at all in COVID-19. One key is “knowing how to mediate between a client and big talent and the artistic side of a show is the key, guaranteeing talent management, a really well shot show and technical and financial delivery,” said Fernández Espeso, adding that having offices throughout the world facilitated budgeting.

Another is bringing on new screenwriting talent. Five students from a first Master’s Degree in Creative Writing and Screenplays at Madrid’ Complutense U now have projects in development at TMS.