With projects underway in several countries around the world, the Spanish company Mediapro aims to become an international production company, with the first productions developed by Ran Telem to come out soon.
Best known as the producer of the acclaimed Homeland, the Israeli exec joined the Spanish company two years ago with the intention of boosting international content development.
His vision is now beginning to crystalize with the production of The Paradise and at least 10 projects underway in countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Italy and England.
What do you make of your time at Mediapro so far?
It has been almost two and a half years and we are very close to our first fiction, The Paradise, which we are about to start filming in Finland. It is a Finnish-Spanish coproduction and our first show. The next in line is called The Head, a series set in the South Pole that was pitched at Series Mania two years ago.
But we have about like 10 projects in different stages of development, in several countries including Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, Italy, England, Spain, Finland and many more. If someone asked me two years if I thought this would be the crop, I’d say no way.
It’s remarkable that things are happening so quickly, and there's the feeling that the company itself is undergoing a very big change, in Madrid, Miami, Argentina and other places that are booming. There's lots of content coming out from Mediapro. Spanish has become the sexiest language for fiction, so I think it’s a good time for Mediapro to do fiction.
And what are the plans for Latin America?
Mediapro stands at a very unique position in the market, having two legs: one very strong in Spain, where it’s the biggest production company, and the other one in Latin America. What we are trying to do is to have a flow of creative people working on both sides, so we can have Spanish creators involved in Mexican shows and Mexican creators in Spanish shows. What we do is we put the best people at the best places.
I can say that we have more than ten projects in development in the region. We have writers room all over Latin America. The volume of what we do has increased a lot in the last few months, since the appointment of Daniel Burman for our Miami headquarters.
The region is going through a boom of premium, short series. What do you think of that?
There is a change in Latin America. If you work globally you can feel the trends moving from one place to another, and what people are looking for in Latin America is what they call high-end drama, with powerful stories and shorter seasons. The fusion of Latin storytelling and modern storytelling will bring a new kind of thing. Not everything has to be done the same way around the world. A different place demands a different type of storytelling and I think it will take a year or two to start seeing what that fusion creates.
How does Latin America benefit from writers rooms and showrunners in the production of series?
Writer rooms give you two things; one is of course the multiple points of view and opinions around the table and the ability to write very complex shows. With one writer there is a limit of how much he can play with his thoughts. The second thing is time. When you have a writer room you are able to complete seasons in less time. And in Latin America we feel the urge to get things on screen quickly. Competition is very hard, people want to have new shows on the air and there is no other way to do it unless you open a writers room and do in three months what usually takes six, and do it with better quality. Of course, it depends on the creator and the kind of story, so we will still have the two models.
Regarding showrunners, it’s a very American phrase, but I think that what it really mean is the owner of the show. And that changes from country to country. In the USA it’s the executive producer, in England the writer, in other places the director. It changes, but I think what people really want is a voice, someone with authority, someone who has a story to tell and an angle. In Latin America we are still trying to figure out who that person is, but when we work with writers and creators we are telling them to take charge of the show and make decisions.
Apart from Spain and Latin America, Mediapro is also expanding into unexpected territories…
Many people consider Mediapro a Spanish company but that is not true. It’s a Spanish-based company, but completely international. We are involved in productions all over the world, mainly in Spanish and English, but the stories may come from anywhere: France, Italy, Spain or Israel. Then we decide where to produce it. We are able to identify good stories and take them to the most suitable setting.
Our idea is to have shows anywhere in the world. In two or three years from now you will see shows set in England, with English writers and directors, but produced by Mediapro. This will happen in England, France, Miami, Mexico, Argentina… And my hope is that you know it’s a Mediapro story even before seeing the credits. I think that will open the doors for many creators to want to work with Mediapro because we have the guts to bet on unconventional ideas. I think we can offer creators not only financial or business support, but also creative encouragement. When we work on a story it enables us to create a very strong DNA.