Spanish broadcaster and streaming platform Movistar Plus has made major headway in the world of high-end original production by teaming with big-name creative talent to produce some of the most polished series to ever come from the Iberian Peninsula.
One such example can be seen in the upcoming drama thriller “They All Lie,” produced by Filmax. It recently premiered at Vitoria FesTVal and will feature in this year’s Beta Film Mipcom lineup as a market screening before airing in Spain in December.
“They All Lie” (“Todos Mienten”) marks the latest offering from creator Pau Freixas, one of Spanish TV’s most prolific creators now working as a showrunner.
The series is set in Belmonte, a posh town on the Catalan coast, the series unspools within a tight-knit community of friends and colleagues, where everyone knows too much of everyone else’s business. Things gets especially heated when a video goes viral of popular local high school teacher Macarena (Irene Arcos) having sex with her 18-year-old student Iván (Lucas Nabor), who is also the son of her best friend and co-worker.
A co-writer and director on Albert Espinosa’s Filmax hit “Polseres vermelles,” the most remade Spanish drama format ever — including U.S. adaptation “The Red Band Society” at ABC — Freixas’ recent credits include Netflix’s “Welcome to the Family” and “Three Days of Christmas,” also re-formatted, as well as “I Know Who You Are,” a critical and ratings hit produced by Filmax and Mediaset España.
Freixas’ impressive resume and aptitude for striking an often difficult to find balance between auteur storytelling and broad marketability makes him one of Spain’s most sought-after creatives, and an ideal candidate to feature among the big hitters making original content at Movistar Plus.
However, while some of the company’s shows have conformed to an increasingly standardized international model both thematically (forgoing traditional Spanish melodrama for a more subdued realism) and in format (dropping decades-long traditions of 75-minute episodes), Freixas’ work often finds its charm and its commercial appeal in sticking to long-held Spanish TV customs. They still feel like TV series.
In format, however, Freixas has conformed in many ways to the new status quo, opting for a tight, six-episode run to tell the story of “They All Lie” and employing state-of-the-art production techniques. The series looks and sounds as good as anything being produced in Europe, and demonstrates the ambitious nature of Movistar Plus’ originals lineup.
For Barcelona-born Freixas, a series that unspools almost in his own backyard needed to maintain a distinctly Spanish authenticity in its narrative, while also adhering to constantly evolving standards of high-end international drama. The characters’ behavior and language have a colloquialism to them that is supplemented by popular Spanish music, celebrations and, importantly, a sense of melodrama that has always been a distinctive part of local storytelling. It also features a bleak Spanish sense of humor that, unlike more traditional comedy produced for domestic TV, tends to travel well, and gives “They All Lie” an added level of attraction to interested foreign broadcasters and platforms.
“The moments of tension in the show, the emotionality of the characters, the engines that drive the story and the codes of the genre must all be universal,” Freixas explains. “But what is true is that the world in which those things occur, the culture which surrounds the characters, must come from a sincere starting point.”
Commissioned by Movistar Plus, the pay TV and streaming arm of European telco giant Telefonica, for the show to be a success it needs to do so in Spain first and attract a large, diverse audience. For Movistar, working with Freixas is hardly a gamble in that respect. Few resumes among Spanish TV writers feature quite as many ratings hits as Freixas’, and few creatives seem to relate so well with domestic audiences.
“I’ve got a fairly broad perspective on things as a storyteller, and I don’t make series that are so complex as to turn off viewers or leave anyone out,” he says. “I don’t intentionally write for broad audiences, but the kind of series I make tend to do well with traditional TV audiences.”
That is not to say that Freixas’ series, particularly “They All Lie,” are simple. In fact, his latest is loaded with twists and turns and jumps back and forth through time to keep the audience on its toes. However, Freixas doesn’t mislead or lie to his audience, instead letting the characters do that for him, while his story answers most of the questions it asks along the way.
Freixas’ strong relationship with home audiences is enhanced by the recent introduction of the role of showrunner to the Spanish industry. In Spain there are very few creatives who enjoy a level of autonomy afforded to Freixas, who was given complete creative control with “They All Lie” and is credited as creator, writer, director and producer.
The last time Freixas was given that length of rope by a broadcaster he made “I Know Who You Are,” and Movistar will be hoping for similar results when “They All Lie” airs in December.