On Jan. 28 Netflix will drop its next big Spanish drama series, “Feria: The Darkest Light,” a new ‘90s-set fantastic thriller from “Elíte” co-creator Carlos Montero and thriller expert Agustín Martínez (“La caza: Monteperdido”).
Produced by Filmax, one of Spain’s leading production, distribution and sales outfits, the show is a clear demonstration of Netflix’s ever-increasing ingratiation into the local industry and the company’s desire to work with the best local talent. Award-winning Spanish directors Jorge Dorado (“Anna”) and Carles Torrens (“Sequence”) were recruited to head production, and the series stars an impressive cast of cinema talent and TV superstars including Marta Nieto, the lead in Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s Oscar-nominated short “Madre,” Patricia López, last year’s Spanish Academy Goya Award-winner for best actress (“Ane is Missing”), and Isak Férriz (“Below Zero”), among others.
Set in the Andalusian mountains in the mid ‘90s, the show is billed as a fantastic thriller and painted in clear shades of Lynch and Carpenter as it blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. There, young sisters Eva, played by Ana Tomeno (“La isla mínima”), and Sofía, by Carla Campra (“Señoras del (h)AMPA”), learn that their parents have committed an unthinkable mass murder before disappearing from the town, leaving 23 victims in their wake. However, not all is as it seems, and the girls embark on a journey of discovery, learning that the people of Feria are not as naïve as they appear.
Variety spoke with Montero and Martínez about working together on the genre-crossing series, their major visual and narrative influences and writing for a global platform.
Spanish TV has a bit of a history with horror, but very little science fiction or fantasy production has been attempted in the past. Do you see the recent wave of genre productions as a result of audience and platform demand, or is it more a push phenomenon from creators who didn’t have as many opportunities in the past?
Montero: That’s just it. The ambition was always there, but we didn’t have the resources with open-air TV that was focused on making broader series that everyone would watch. There was almost never an opportunity to make something that was pure genre. And now we’re at a point where pure genre projects don’t really exist , so we are working to adapt and blend genres which is something that Agustín and I love to do. It’s also key that we had the support of Netflix and the access to a budget and technology that let us make this series look as good as anything coming from Hollywood.
Martínez: I think there is a generational issue in Spain too. There is a reluctance in older generations to these kinds of stories that came from the U.S. Our parents weren’t raised on science fiction and fantasy, so they have no connection to the genre and in fact, to them it’s often very strange. I remember when Alejandro Amenábar’s “Tesis” came out, everyone here was saying you could never make a thriller like that in Spain. Well, that’s only true until someone does it!
This series has a very obvious broad appeal when compared to other global series that have done well on streaming platforms, but you’ve leaned heavily on more arthouse, independent talent as well, especially in the castings of Marta Nieto and Patricia López. Is there a desire on your part to blur the lines between auteur film and TV and more general, audience pleasing fare?
Montero: I love that point of view, but the honest answer is that for us it’s even simpler: We want to work with the best. We were really lucky to work with actors like Marta and Patricia and were thrilled when they joined our production. It’s not always an easy transition for actors, especially on a series like this with so many VFX scenes and so much blue screen work, but they were both wonderful and believed in the project from the very beginning.
Martínez: Casting was such an important part of making this series work. We really believed that if we got the casting right, we’d be 80% of the way to having a great production on our hands. So really, it was about finding the right people, regardless of their background.
Watching the series, I think it’s easy to see some of the aesthetic influences that impacted “Feria,” but I wonder if you could talk about where you looked for inspiration when working on the show?
Martínez: Lynch’s influence is very big. Very big. But also, Cronenberg, John Carpenter and the writings of Lovecraft. Narratively and visually, there were a lot of influences we relied on for the series. We were lucky that we got to work with Jorge and Carlos as directors for the series. We worked hard with them to find the right tone for the show, narratively, technically and in the sound design as well. It was a long post-production process, but we’re extremely happy with the end result.
You’ve both worked on series that have sold well abroad and Carlos’ “Elíte” is one of Netflix’s most-watched series ever. When working on a new show, do you think about the wider audience that might eventually watch, or are you focused on viewers here in Spain?
Montero: We write for Spain, but of course there is a desire to reach the rest of the world. I can’t even think beyond Spain when I’m writing because I become paralyzed. When I’m working on a series I want to employ all the tools and weapons I have, but those are all Spanish. Of course, we cross our fingers and hope that what we do is understood beyond our borders, but you never know.
And one final question: without giving away any spoilers, is there a possibility for more “Feria” in the future?
Montero: Absolutely. We want to do two more seasons, if the public likes what we’ve done with the first.