Prime Video had big plans for its original programming in 2020, with several major scripted projects leaving development and going into production. As was the case in most of the world, however, COVID-19 threw a wrench in the streamer’s plans and forced the company to focus its efforts in other areas for a time, notably in sports documentaries and unscripted series.
Now, with best practices established for safe shooting and work back in full swing, the streamer has big plans for its 2022 scripted content lineup and beyond, outlined at an in-person presentation in Madrid last week.
After the presentation, Maria José Rodríguez, Amazon Studios’ head of Spanish Originals, and Koro Castellano, director of Prime Video España, met with Variety to discuss what sets Prime Video apart from other streamers, creating diversity on both sides of the camera and the various initiatives that will direct the company’s activities over the coming years.
It’s far more than can be covered in the time we have here, but I wonder if you could outline a bit what it is your Prime Video Originals team hopes to do here in the Spanish market.
Rodríguez: Our ambition is to produce the highest quality content we can make. We believe that what sets us apart is our focus on how we select content. We don’t want to produce for volume, but instead focus on quality and working with the very best talent. But as important as finding that talent is giving it the time it needs and the tools to make their creations shine.
Does that mean that Amazon will also look at producing more “arthouse,” auteur content that might not draw huge viewing numbers, but could be in line to play at festivals and have awards ambitions?
Rodríguez: Yes, absolutely. In original production we have options to do everything. We want to tell good stories, stories that deserve to be told, and if that means that huge audiences watch them, that’s great. If they are smaller stories but with a strong emotional component and from a singular point of view, a different voice, we’re here for those stories too. I can’t share any titles right now, but we are developing several projects that fit that description.
The productions teased at your Madrid presentation were all Spanish, but in the past Prime Video has delivered several international original productions that required input from several countries. Is that something you’d like to continue doing?
Rodríguez: Yes, that’s one of the great advantages we benefit from at Amazon, that the original production teams from around the world are very interconnected. With strong communication and support we can present ourselves as producers wherever we see potential around the world and present what we find to our international teams. There is a direct line of communication.
I imagine those synergies exist within the different offices at Prime Video in Spain as well.
Castellano: Within our organization here we have the originals team and the acquisitions team, with the latter focusing on getting rights to existing IP and on co-productions. “The Boarding School” is a good example of a show from the latter. The connection between those two departments is also key when discussing reboots or remakes. This year we have “Sin Limites” with Álvaro Morte, and an upcoming documentary with Atlético de Madrid coach Diego Simeone which are great examples of how our teams have worked together on original productions.
One major buzzword during your presentation was “diversity.” How do you practically apply the desire to be more diverse, and where do you think Amazon can continue to improve in that regard?
Rodríguez: That’s one of our main production focuses that we are working on with all our originals. We’re looking for that diversity in the stories we’re telling. We want to find new voices, stories and perspectives.
Castellano: And not just in front of, but behind the cameras as well. That’s equally important.
Are there mandates or programs within the company to seek out or develop a more diverse talent pool?
Castellano: It’s something we’re working on right now actually, but we can’t announce anything yet. We hope to be able to tell you soon.
Can you talk a bit about Amazon’s relationship with theatrical releases in Spain?
Castellano: The only films that are guaranteed to go directly to streaming are our Amazon Originals. But for our Amazon Exclusive co-productions and acquisitions we fully support theatrical releases. Then after the theatrical window, we work closely with the producers and distributors to get those films on our service as soon as possible. There is a huge portion of our catalog that is designed to encourage people to go see films in theaters.
Everyone seems to have an opinion on the best way for series to be released. Netflix, by and large, drops their shows all on the same day allowing viewers to binge everything in one sitting, while other services prefer a more traditional weekly model. Is there one rule at Prime Video Spain for how series will be released?
Castellano: No, and it’s an open and ongoing debate. What we try to do is understand what each piece of content is asking for. There are series or shows that we think work better if we can get the audience hooked, while others are more episodic. For now, though, we don’t believe there is one rule that should apply to everything. We are trying to understand and learn what works best in each case.