Taking off from one of Spain’s most successful series during the century’s first decade, “The Boarding School: Black Lagoon,” the new second season of its reboot, “The Boarding School: Las Cumbres,” has dropped in its entirety on Prime Video, confirming the new series’ own identity and voice. It’s a reboot that has taken on a life of its own.
Born out of the collaboration between Prime Video, The Mediapro Studio and Buendía Estudios – whose co-founder, broadcast network group Atresmedia, owned the original IP – the second season answers many of the questions left by the first while opening new mysteries that could lead to a potential third.
It follows a group of students who start investigating their own school after a series of gruesome murders. Slowly, a densely layered lore starts to unfold to both students and audience, a mythology that is deepened in this season by creators Asier Andueza and Laura Belloso.
Variety talked with the series’ executive producers – The Mediapro Studio’s Javier Pons, Buendía Estudios’ Sonia Martínez and Prime Video’s Ricardo Cabornero – on what marks the studios’ first collaboration.
This collaboration between the three studios seems to be one of the key ways to make a series stand out, not only in terms of production values but also in access to talent and distribution. Is this going to be more common in the future?
Ricardo Cabornero: From our side, we at Prime Video have a very flexible and open approach to each project. That’s the way it has worked for us, as well as for Mediapro and Buendía and how we see it as a formula for the future. It’s a formula that is fully compatible with our collaboration with Buendía and Mediapro on their original projects. So, we see two options: co-financed projects or original productions and, depending on the type of project, we can choose one or the other. In this case, having the intellectual property closely linked to our partners makes a licensing deal the right approach.
Sonia Martínez: I think that it’s a formula that has worked perfectly in the case of ‘Las Cumbres,’ for The Mediapro Studio, Prime Video and Buendía Estudios. I think it is something that is being done pretty regularly in the rest of the world. The models are infinite between the platforms, the production partners, on determining where the projects are broadcast and how they travel; we are currently seeing an environment where anything can happen. From the making of originals to alliances to carrying out projects of any kind. It is possible that in Spain we have not assimilated this arrangement as much as in the U.S. or Latin America, but it is something that has obviously come to stay.
Would you say that a current keyword is flexibility?
Javier Pons: As Sonia said, each project calls for a different model. Another factor that has influenced the industry is that a more collaborative culture has been established and is altering the production landscape. In the past, everything was a little more contained. Now, there is a greater breadth of vision in the market thanks to the explosion of demand and the fact that we have managed to further enrich the IP that we share.
Cabornero: In this case, we saw that our involvement on the creative side was not as critical because the series’ creators also owned the property. So, we make decisions on the type of project with the aim of delivering the best content to our clients. In this case, we believe the formula has worked.
In this new market packed with spin offs, sequels, prequels and reboots, IP is king and it demands tact when upholding its legacy and yet creating something new. What were your guidelines when approaching this?
Pons: Franchises have certain hallmarks, like the type of genre, the casting, the scenarios, and I think those are the elements that are maintained over time and which must be measured, sustaining them as references for new iterations. We’ve been moving at the genre level, momentarily towards horror at times but I repeat the key is capturing the right degree of emotion, of nostalgia, and obviously being fully aware that ‘The Black Lagoon’ was made for a different television landscape, for a different way of consuming. Nowadays, the public and especially the youth market consume entertainment in a different way. The speed, the vertiginous rhythm with which entertainment is consumed must be considered when making adaptations. Otherwise, it’s easy to miss the mark.
Martínez: What has remained is the iconography that is essential in a series of this type, in a reboot, we have also maintained the concept of the group, that seems to me to be a hallmark, the idea that we are a group that must fight against external elements and in that struggle discover what things lie outside. Our goal has been to strengthen and modernize. to open up new models of relationships with the young of today. Kids of 2007 have nothing to do with the kids of today and we have to be aware of that and make room for things that have appeared in that time gap. That is why we also had to make a bet on a slight change of genre, betting on something that was effectively already in “The Black Lagoon.”
When combining genres in the series, what were your key elements? Where did you set the limits of the horror in the show?
Martínez: We don’t set many limits in relation to genre but always maintain as a guide what a story demands. You can’t be a prisoner of genre in a mannerist way and make horror for horror’s sake by abandoning drama. The limit is set by the story, the plot. In this boarding school, the living are scarier than the ghosts. That is the real terror, the people.
All the genres are filtered through melodrama….
Martínez: Yet when we talk about Spanish series in the world, what I really think we are exporting is the ability to convey emotions, we are able to explore different emotional arcs within genres. That blend of melodrama works globally because it’s what sets Spanish fiction apart.
Pons: If you analyze the scenes a bit more, psychology is more at play here than action, and gives you a better idea of the horror we are dealing with. We avoided being explicit, relying on what is not seen, what can only be imagined. The parts that scare me the most are when one of the protagonists hears something or has a vision other than simple murder that we have already seen a thousand times in different ways. That is not to say that this is a horror series, this is a series about characters, the emotional component is the key, the ties that are created and broken, revenge, love, hate. Without all that, the terror would be hollow.
Cabornero: For my part, that element of melodrama was essential to sustain and it was one of the attractions when making the reboot. It was a hallmark, having this group of young people, which in the end is what makes this a mystery. The genre incites extreme emotions but this is what is vital when making a reboot.
John Hopewell contributed to this article.