The first three editions of Conecta Fiction were a delight: an intimate, boutique Latin America-Europe co-production and networking event for drama series in which top executives from either side of the Atlantic spent quality time together, as they put through a revolution in content creation.
Last year’s 4th Conecta Fiction on-site event was decimated by COVID-19. This year, as attendance builds once more, the meet is making a virtue out of necessity, taking a new direction. This and six other takes on Conecta Fiction as it turns five.
Over its first three editions, Conecta Fiction carved out a reputation for its influx of top Latin American TV execs, producers and showrunners, suddenly accessible in person in exquisite locations, latterly Pamplona in Navarre. For its fifth outing, the event has turned to Europe. This is partly for logistical reasons, says Conecta Fiction director Géraldine Gonard. Most Latin Americans majorly cannot travel to Pamplona. The event, like Series Mania before it, also catches Europe as it defines much of its future, moving to introduce crucial E.U. regulation obliging global platforms to invest in local film and TV. Spain’s own implementation, unveiled this summer in a draft Audiovisual Communication Law, sets streamers’ investment quota at 3.5% of annual revenues. Its debate Tuesday morning at Conecta Fiction is perhaps the single most important conference session of the whole forum, though a big question is whether the law is already set in stone.
This year, most of Conecta Fiction’s biggest new titles come from Europe. Some are major propositions. Aidan Gillen, Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish in “Game of Thrones,” and “Barbarians” and “Vikings” director Stephen Saint Leger have boarded “The O’Neill,” billed as a “Braveheart” for TV. France’s Perpetual Soup, a showrunner on “In Therapy” for Arte and “Gone for Good” for Netflix, brings “Black Times,” an ambitious Black Plague-set drama thriller unspooling in 1347 France and Italy. There’s a good word on “Costa,” a Spain-set genre blender from Gaby Chiappe (“The Beast Must Die,” “Their Finest,”) and Alex Perrin (“The Level,” “Shetland” “
Europe’s Pubcasters Show the Color of Their Money
One highlight at early September’s Series Mania in Lille was a France Televisions showreel, shown before a screening of “Germinal,” a France Televisions-RAI production. The sheer scale of scenes from French Télévisions projects – a huge balloon lifting off in “Around the World in 80 Days,” the mine building rearing into the sky like a dark satanic mill in “Germinal,” dazzled the French audience at Lille. Europe’s public broadcasters have talked the talk, announcing The Alliance, yoking France Televisions, ZDF and RAI. They are now beginning to walk the walk. At Conecta Fiction, they will also move on their conversation with Manuel Alduy likely to reprise France Televisions’ first-look offer on select productions.
Introducing Euroregion NAEN
Europe’s classic riposte to the threatened hegemony of U.S. global platforms has split two ways: Collaboration, most broadcasters and big producers have now producers with studios streamers; and pan-European co-production, with series often sold on the open market. The latter’s axes can vary however. Conecta Fiction will see a high-profile industry bow by Euroregion NAEN, grouping France’s Nouvelle Aquitaine and Spain’s Basque Country and Navarre. The Euroregion, which hosts a project competition, already invests in film and TV, especially very upstream development. Its networking may also accelerate co-productions, leveraging local, regional, Euroregional and national incentives in both Spain and France – a mouthwatering prospect.
A New Generation of Spanish Screenwriters
Even as recently as the first Conecta Fiction, many of the scribes pitching projects matured at Spain’s Sociedad General de Autores (SGAE) were just starting out. Fast-forward four years and, such is the need writing talent, that many are now highly in-demand scriptwriters. “Raval’s” Victor Alonso-Berbel and Jan Matheu have projects set up together at “The Head” producer The Mediapro Studio and “Elite’s” Zeta Studios. “Caregivers” co-creator Paula Fabra is a writer on Amazon’s upcoming “Un Asunto Privado” and, with “Caregivers” co-creator Sara Cano, currently penning a feature for Paco Plaza and a series for Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s Caballo Films. There’s nothing like the prospect of full-employment to raise writers’ confidence, and also allow them to experiment more on more personal series.
An Air of Excitement Still Remains
The influx of hot movies talent into series and liberation of established TV writers – think Alex Pina – from the ardors of four quadrant entertainment brought a sense of revolution to Spanish series. Something of that excitement still remains. At the Euroregion NAEN competition, series creators are still experimenting. “Our vision at Aura is to fill the gap we have in Spain with dystopic series and movies: We don’t see much, a recent example being ‘La Valla,’” says Gaia co-creator Carol Butron. Similarly, Basque film and TV has rarely attempted an song spangled drama like Lara Izagirre’s “Last Song.” Many Spanish show runners are most certainly not creating by numbers.
Dominating past pitching sessions with Spain, Latin American project presence at 2021’s Conecta Fiction has plunged. One Latin American country has stayed the course. Chile. Two Chilean projects play the main Copro Series competition: “Stolen Kids,” from Maria Elena Wood (“Ramona,” “Dignity”), and Zumbastico Estudios’ “Antonio.” On Sept. 13, five producers will talk at a Conecta Fiction panel on Chile, What’s Next in Fiction!
In “La Jauria,” “Invisible Heroes” and “Dignity,” Chile has already co-produced high-end TV series with Europe. Many more seem likely to come.
Jamie Lang contributed to this article.