Driving ever more into Latin America, Wild Sheep Content, the L.A.-based label of former Netflix head of international original series Erik Barmack, has launched the Mexico City-based Wild Sheep Latin America as well as a dedicated film completion finance-distribution fund targeting five-to-eight investments a year in the region.
“Three Idiots” producer Jimena Rodríguez, who also created the distribution arm of Mexican exhibition giant Cinepolis, will head up Wild Sheep Latin America following on her production with Barmack of a burgeoning line in star-studded, character-driven crime thrillers begun by Netflix Mexico original “Invitation to Murder.”
In all, in movies and series, Wild Sheep Content, which has a production alliance with The Mediapro Studio, has 16 projects, – movies and series – greet globally, including seven projects greenlit with streamers – set up in Mexico, Brazil, Chile and the Latino U.S. – and two more in development in the region.
If it continues adding to its investments, its strategies will put it among the top three producers in Latin America by the end of the year, Barmack told Variety.
The first project backed by the new completion-distribution fund is “Entra en Mi Vida,” a Mexican rom-com starring Paulina Goto (“Veinteañera, divorciada y fantástica,” “Madre Solo Hay Dos”), one of the top young actors in Mexico, helmed by “Invitation To Murder” director José Manuel Cravioto and produced by Mariana Franco at Pirexia Films, Franco and Cravioto’s Mexico City-based production label, founded in 2016 and behind “Olimpia,” “Malvada” and “Corazonada,” all movies, and the series “El Colapso.”
Paula Rondón, who co-wrote the Intl. Emmy nominated “Promesas de Campaña,” co-writes with Cravioto.
“Entra en Mi Vida” stars Joto as Eugenia, who determines, after various romantic and work disappointments, to become an influencer, which generates much of the situation comedy in a belated coming of age narrative.Making for a differentiated rom-com, it is framed as a found-footage film, Cravioto told Variety.
“Usually, found-footage is associated with horror. It hasn’t been seen in Mexico and Latin America at least recently in comedy.”
Rather than a boy-girl love conflict, the romantic comedy turns on “conflict among friends,” Cravioto said.
He added: “Human relationships have evolved so much that, in order to feel complete, like in traditional romantic comedies, it’s not just boy-girl. The lead has to feel in harmony with family and friends.”
A film knit by its auteurist vision, “Entra en Mi Vida” suggests that people, instead of looking at their cell-phones should look at their innermost emotions, Cravioto observed.
“Entra en Mi Vida” also stars Grammy-nominated singer-thesp Ximena Sariñana (“Dos Abrazos”).
In another departure, “Entra en Mi Vida” will go into production “with big stars , which will help us connect to the market, but with a very different, independent film, and without a streamer or theatrical distribution deal,” said Franco.
“I see Latin America as a test case for what we could do in other regions in the world,” Barmack told Variety.
“Broadly speaking, there are big conglomerates, the ITVs and Banijays, which sate bigger production companies with different needs, and then the flip-side, 50 producers in each market that are qualified but under-capitalized, that tend to work on zero to two projects a year and are not connected regionally nor globally. We’ve discovered our path in the middle,” Barmack added.
This strategy cuts several ways. Wild Sheep has the capital to buy IP, as on two new Spanish crime novels – “El Susurro del Angel” and “Pequeñas Infamias” – now both in development with a big streamer. Or it can take minority equity in movies, closing the gap.
“There’s a number of film projects in Latin America that are 60%-80% financed. The last mile of that is a couple hundred thousand dollars, not millions. But if a big studio takes it on, that’s the end of ownership for the artists. And it can take years to close that gap,” Barmack said.
With very little overhead, Wild Sheep Content in contrast will “act like angel investors that are very sophisticated about our pocket, not venture capital nor private equity, giving a perspective that is a little more director and actor friendly,” he added.
Wild Sheep Latin America
At Netflix, Barmack produced “Club of Crows” and “3%,” the streamer’s first fully non-English series in its history.
“Erik’s vision has been an industry game changer – the idea that content created outside the U.S. and outside the most obvious overseas territories could be seen by the whole world,” said Rodríguez.
“Joining the Wild Sheep family and continuing this vision, by collaborating with other Latin American talents and connecting their stories to the world is amazing,” she enthused.
“What is special about Wild Sheep is that it’s so artist friendly. Creators can have really wild ideas because they know they’ll be protected by experienced producers and executives who will protect the integrity of their projects. That doesn’t happen in a lot of places that have the reach Wild Sheep does,” she added.
One major impact of Wild Sheep’s involvement in a project is for writers to give up a day job, writing just at night and “to be able to have the space to be writers the whole time. That’s very exciting.”
Rodríguez will also look to work “hand in hand” with writers on development, when required, and “help them navigate the executive world sometimes or speak the same language as executives,” which is “a challenge.”
The investment fund is being launched when filmmakers can no longer rely on government funding and films can no longer be judged or dependent on theatrical performance.
The business model has to change, she argued. Wild Sheep’s role is not just financing but to bring its expertise to the table to help films be “marketable to the world” and “play side by side with any content being produced all over the world.” “The financial investment is important but expertise in the playing field is important too,” said Rodríguez.
Wild Sheep’s First Steps in Latin America
Wild Sheep Latin America and the new film fund come after Barmack’s banner has made multiple moves on multiple fronts, making it one of the fastest-growing media companies. Just in Latin America:
*In Brazil, kids/tweens sci-fi TV show “Mila and the Multiverse,” produced by Nonstop and Filmes Boutique, has launched on Disney+Brazil.
*Kate del Castillo womanhunt thriller “Hunting Ava Bravo,” shot in Utah and co-produced by WSC, has sold to Roku for the U.S., and Prime Video for Latin America. It is fielding offers in Europe.
*Co-produced by WSC, Chilean crime mystery series “Cromosoma 21” has launched on Chile’s Canal 13 and Netflix in the Americas, Spain and Italy. It has also closed Australia with SBS as well as two territories in Europe.
*WCS has completed filming on Netflix Mexico original “Invitation to Murder,” starring Manolo Cardona, Regina Blandón and Maribel Verdú.
*Three other films have been sold to undisclosed streamers and/or a studio in Mexico.