The biggest product in Spain of the M&A boom which looks set to power much future entertainment growth in Europe, Buendía Estudios, a joint venture of Telefonica’s Movistar Plus and Atresmedia, is fast driving into second-phase expansion in Latin America.
In one move last November, Buendía tapped former Telemundo Global Studios exec Ana Paula Valdovinos as director of production and development for Latin America and U.S. Hispanic.
Valdovinos will be based out of Mexico, Latin America’s “nerve and talent center,” she said, as the country also accounts for approximately 70% of the 70 million Latinx population in the U.S.
In another development, Buendía has confirmed to Variety further details on its first Latin America project, “Swift as Desire,”
Billed as a fantasy romantic drama, the series “Swift as Desire” is structured as a six-part, 50-minute adaptation of a hallmark novel by Mexico’s Laura Esquivel, published in 2001.
Head writers are Esquivel herself and Marcela Fuentes Beraín (“El diario de Daniela”).
Buendía Estudios’ editorial director of series Sonia Martínez – an executive producer on “Money Heist,” “Veneno” and now “Cardo” – also serves as executive producer on “Swift as Desire.”
Narrated in two timelines, the series tells the life of Júbilo, born with a special gift of communication. As he now lies on his deathbed, daughter Lluvia attempts to find out what happened in his past – lived in a magical post-Revolution Mexico of large social change – and why the passionate relationship between Júbilo and her mother Lucha suddenly ended in rift. Only by discovering this will Lluvia know her place in the world, the synopsis suggests.
The series has a screenplay for a pilot episode and a Bible and is ready to be taken out to market, Martínez said.
In all, Buendía is moving six-or seven projects with platforms or broadcasters, she added.
Discussions with companies are on a pan-regional level taking in the U.S. Hispanic market. The company is looking to produce “very soon and very quickly,” added Valdovinos.
“Buendía is not looking to take projects from Spain to Latin America but rather develop projects in the region for the world,” said Laura Miñarro, Buendía Estudios VP, international co-productions. “We are highly interested in international co-productions which allow projects to grow not just in financial terms but also in collaboration with local creative communities,” she added.
In the short-to-medium term, Buendía would like its Latin American operations to mirror its successful evolution in Spain, Miñarro said.
Here, Buendía Estudios, based out of Madrid and launched only in August 2020, has come already come a long way.
Getting off to a running start by incorporating Atresmedia Studios, Buendía scored one of Spain’s biggest post-“Money Heist”/“Elite” hits, producing “Veneno,” securing key IPs working with key talents – such as Rodrigo Sorogoyen, Alberto Rodríguez, Raúl Arévalo, Isa Campo and Isaki Lacuesta, all signed up for upcoming anthology series “Apagon” – and snagging key platform deals.
HBO Max, for example, acquired “Veneno” for the U.S., and “Pobre Diablo,” Spain first adult animation series, for the world. Produced by Atresmedia Studios and The Mediapro Studio’s Globomedia, Amazon Prime Video released “El Internado: Las Cumbres” worldwide.
Series such as “Cardo” have moved the dial with regard to on-screen emotional and sexual candor. “It has been a step forward for series, bringing a new truth and realism to Young Adult shows,” said Martínez,
Powering into Latin America, Buendía Estudios can draw momentum from strong tailwinds.
The Spanish-language market is no longer niche. There are 600 million Spanish speakers in the world. And Spanish-language hits are not confined to success in the Spanish-language world.
Buendía can bring to the table huge experience in creating hit shows. Martínez, for example, has served as director of fiction at Antena 3 TV from 2005 as it made original production a company hallmark making groundbreaking Spanish series such as “Grand Hotel” (2011) “The Time in Between” (2013) “Velvet” (2014) and “Locked Up” (2015).
“Every company in the U.S. is beginning to look at creating a Spanish-language Latino streaming division,” said Valdovinos.
Hybrid writing teams drawn from Latin America and Spain “have given stories an added value, two takes on a story. Both approaches can complement each other,” said Enrique “Flipy” Pérez Vergara, creative executive producer for Latin America and U.S. Hispanic, whose career takes in the co-creation of Nickelodeon show “Noobees” by VIS-The Mediapro Studio as well as being creator of concept for HBO Max Latin America’s “Las Bravas,” also a TMS co-production.
“Spain has a lot of experience not only writing series formats but in production design, bringing those series to the screen,” he added.
In Spanish series, “audiences have discovered a distinctive way of telling stories that impact them through a different emotional structure of the characters, an affective composition, a way of expressing feelings that you don’t find so much in the U.S. or U.K.,” said Martínez.
That distinctiveness ranges from the treatment of family relations, a liberated approach to sex and a ludic sense of life, she added.
It is also shareD to larger or lesser extent by Latin American show creators. “Connections with Latin America go far beyond language,” Martínez argued.
Buendía Estudios Greatest Hits
“Veneno,” (Javier Ambrossi and Javier Calvo)
Buendía’s greatest hit to date, a raw bio of the bruising life – prostitution, imprisonment – and search for love and her mother’s approval of exuberant 90s’ transgender icon Cristina Ortiz. A milestone in LGBT production in Spain, featuring a full cast of trans actors to play the trans roles. Released by HBO Max in the U.S. Nov. 2020, more sales will follow. A Variety 2020 Best International TV Show.
“The Cook of Castamar,” (Tatiana Rodríguez)
Like Veneno, an Atresplayer Premium original, a period across-the tracks love story set in 1720 Madrid as the widowed Duke of Castamar falls for the looks and dishes of his cook, against a background of court conspiracy and licentiousness. A sensual –carnal, gastronomic – feast proving a subscriber driver on Atresplayer Premium before hitting robust ratings on free-to-air Antena 3 and Netflix Top 10s in Spain and abroad.
“Cardo,” (Ana Rujas, Claudia Costafreda)
Another production from Ambrossi and Calvo’s Suma Latina, made by Atresmedia Television and Buendía Estudios for SVOD service Atresplayer Premium and hitting Variety’s list of Best International TV Shows for 2021. A portrait of a disenchanted generation of Spaniards now knocking 30 via María whose life is a litany of quick fix pleasures, whether snorting cocaine, sex or late night dives. Co-created by lead Rujas and Costafreda, a writer on “Veneno,” a series which sets a new bar for Spanish scripted in terms of emotional candor.
“Boarding School: Las Cumbres,” (El Internado: Las Cumbres,” Laura Belloso)
Rebooting and souping up with impressive VFX the legendary genre-blending Globomedia original, aired on Antena 3 over 2007-10, a gothic mystery thriller set at a school for problem teens with horror beats, first love romantic angst and a spectacular cliff-edge setting, next to an ancient monastery, in benighted mountains. Released on Amazon Prime Video in Nov. 2021 and renewed for a second season.
“G.E.O.” Más Allá del Límite,” (David Fernández Miralles, Jorge Pérez Vega)
Another Amazon Prime Video title and early Buendía doc series released Oct. 2021, chronicling the physical and mental pressure, as well as camaraderie, of a Spanish National Police’s training and selection course to join its elite corps.
“The Pier,” (Alex Pina, Esther Martínez Lobato)
An early title at Atresmedia Studios and Pina and Martínez Lobato’s follow-up to first seasons of “Money Heist,” which marks a near complete change of direction: A sensual romantic thriller and envelope-pushing take on modern sexual relations in which an accomplished architect, after her husband’s apparent suicide, discovers he led a secret double-life with another woman. A Movistar Plus original sold muscularly around the world by Beta Film.