This year, Netflix chose Madrid for its first European production hub. Spain drama series scene is on a roll. At San Sebastian on Saturday, at a mini conference on Serial Narration: An Episode on Creation and Industry, Spanish series creatives, producers and executives debated the new TV landscape’s opportunities and challenges. Following, four takeaways from the debate:
1.IS SHORT-FORM TV THAT DIFFERENT FROM CINEMA?
There was no common consensus. For Bruno Dumont, in Sebastian to present jocular sci-fi comedy series ‘CoinCoin and the Extra-Humans,’ moving from cinema to short-format TV, “I don’t think things have changed at all. Auteurs are important not just for films but also for TV. The main point is having a story that is pertinent.” In cinema, Dumont did recognize, “the screen is very big and the spectator small, and in TV, the screen is very small, and the spectator is very big. And that is very different.” So TV could not afford to be as “contemplative” as film.
Making Movistar + original series Killing the Father as a series, Mar Coll sought, compared to her films, something “fresher, lighter, sightly more striking, not so elaborate, and faster.” It was the first time, she said, that she had ever measured the length of scenes. For Aitor Gabilondo, the screenwriter of “The Prince and now” Mediaset España’s “Vivir sin permiso” and first-announced HBO España project “Patria”, there isn’t even one kind of TV. “Platforms have changed the paradigm. With freeto-air you have no expectations. You sit down and see what people are putting on. Platform series can be made for precise audience targets. That attracts film directors, writers”.
2.SERIES: A NEW COMPULSIVE FRENZY
Rodrigo Sorogoyen’s movie The Realm, which played in San Sebastian competition Saturday, is a kinetic, propulsive political thriller. The action hardly ever stops until a final scene. Similarly, series are winding up the action, offering ever more compulsive, event-packed entertainment. Enrique Urbizu’s Movistar+ original “Gigantes”, set to world premiere at San Sebastian, looks like a case in point, its pilot episode spanning three time periods over 20 years. “The first episode puts things into context for the future, tells us why things are going to happen. But that has to happen quickly,” said Movistar +’s Nuria Massa. “Acceleration, tempo and pace have to be quicker and give more figures and data in less time compared to traditional linear series,” TVE’s Fernando Lopez Puig agreed. “Our first series at Bambu, “Guante Blanco”, was a huge failure, Ramon Campos (“Velvet”, “Las chicas del cable”, “Fariña”) recalled. “We spoke about things too slowly”. Now one of his basic tenets is that Bambu series simply cannot bore. Bambu’s departure from the measured tempos of traditional free-to-air has indeed been one of the keys to its success.
New platforms –Netflix, Movistar + – not only welcome filmmakers. They’re embracing Hollywood blockbuster style marketing. “It’s not that things have changed. It’s because we didn’t have a TV market. We had Spanish TV, then Telecinco and Antena 3, and that was that. They didn’t need campaigns,” Campos recalled. He added: “Now Netflix, Apple, HBO, Movistar + have arrived and changed everything. They didn’t have that critical mass from the beginning so they have to buy ads.”
“If you’re not successful in Spain you won’t be abroad. Money Heist is the exception that confirms the rule,” Campos argued. Here, there was total accord. “In the Nordic region, we have a lot of series from around the world to watch, people are getting more and more into that,” said Agnes Johansen, at Baltasar Kormakur’s Iceland-based RVK Studios (“Trapped”). Movistar + “purchases multiple series from abroad but the idea with our original series is to show what we have here,” said Massa. “Movistar+ series are near all localized in Spain,” said Koldo Zazua, producer of La Zona, set in a verdant Asturias, northern Spain. But that can be a plus, he argued. A nuclear plant meltdown murder mystery sold to Starz in the U.S., France’s Canal Plus and German pubcaster ZDF La Zona has indeed proved one of Movistar +’s best-selling original series to date.
JOHN HOPEWELL, JAMIE LANG