Federico Cuervo, SVP and director of Viacom International Studios Americas, spoke to TTV Digital Preview about the process of resuming production for its many projects, including Backdoor and the adaptation of the Ay Yapim Turkish drama, Persona, both in Mexico.
Almost six months after audiovisual production was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic, Viacom International Studios (VIS) Americas, is gradually resuming filming for some of its projects in Mexico (Backdoor and El asesino del olvido) and Spain (Parot), while it hopes to do the same soon with others in Colombia, Brazil and Argentina.
In dialogue with TTV Digital Preview, Federico Cuervo, SVP and director of VIS Americas; shared details about these productions, as well as a total of more than 50 other projects, among which are Los enviados and Outlaw, both from their first-look deal with Juan José Campanella and 100 Bares.
How did VIS adapt its original production scheme?
In mid-March we decided as a studio and company to put some of the productions that we had started on hold and not to start others that were about to start, mainly to take care of all the people who work in the studio and the talents. For us, people are the most important thing. And throughout these months the machine continued to work at full capacity anyway, with the plan to resume these productions, with the development of new ones and with agreements with third parties to face new projects.
Now in recent weeks we have restarted production for some of our projects, obviously all under a very strict security protocol that we are complying with, both from ViacomCBS as well as complying with all the regulations of each of the countries.
Can you list the productions that are now in the works?
In Mexico, for example, we have already started filming for Backdoor, the sketches based on the original content of Porta dos Fundos that we released last year. Also something that we have not mentioned yet: we have already filming El asesino del olvido, which is the adaptation of the Ay Yapim series from Turkey, Persona. Its leading actor won an International Emmy last year for his role in the series.
And then there’s also the announcement that was made at Conecta [Fiction] about the beginning of filming in Spain for Parot, a series of 10 one-hour episodes with Onza and RTVE. This is just the beginning of a year-end that at the production and filming level will find us extremely active, but which is a continuity of everything we have been working on these past few months.
When do you think El asesino del olvido will be complete?
If everything goes as we plan, in about a month and a half we should have finished filming. We had already completed almost half of the filming at the beginning of the year, so we were missing the other half. From there the post-production begins, which will take us about four months. It is all within the plans that we set for ourselves during quarantine. We are excited about how filming is going, what we are seeing is super good. The Mexican team is carrying out a high quality production and the actors are super involved. We are very happy with the result that is being achieved thus far.
Where is filming taking place?
El asesino del olvido is filmed entirely on location. There were some scenes shot in the countryside and now it’s all mainly in Mexico City.
Did you have to modify the story because of Covid?
No. The way of producing it was redesigned, but the story remains the same as it was developed in Turkey. No major adaptations were made. Some minor things were rewritten simply to adapt it to the new methods of production, mainly what was rethought was production and all the necessary security methods that were put in place to carry it out.
What other projects are about to start filming?
Our idea is to start the second season of Club 57 as soon as possible in Colombia, together with The Mediapro Studio. Progress is being made with the construction of studio sets, but it will also depend on the dynamics of the country. We are also about to start filming in Brazil some projects that we had pending.
There are several projects to resume in the four and a half months of the year that remain and that will be extended to 2021. There are many projects scheduled for next year and we will continue to develop others at a fast pace, and that is what we were focused on during this time.
How many projects would it be in total?
If I have to give you a number, more or less we have more than 50 projects in the works. Obviously from there to when they are going to be produced there is another step. That is more or less the volume of development that we are handling, in different models and different stages.
Some of the bigger projects announced by VIS in May were Los enviados and Outlaw, both from the first-look deal with Juan José Campanella. What can you tell us about them?
Those two projects continue to move forward. For Los enviados, the idea is to be able to go into production in 2021. We are working with Juan and his team at 100 Bares, in a very oiled -so to speak- way, making a lot of progress. Regarding Outlaw, we are also making progress in developing the writing together with Juan and an author from the US.
They are two projects that we are very excited about, with Juan’s imprint and quality in development and, eventually, as director. We are very excited. It is part of the first-look deal that we announced in May of last year in Los Angeles. These are the first two projects that appeared, which we hope will be the first of many more with Juan and 100 Bares.
What can you tell us about other first look deals with creators like Santiago Segura, Frida Torresblanco and Ariel Winograd?
All three are moving forward. Each one on different stages, but there are already projects and ideas on the table. What we are doing is developing them to announce them shortly and, once we announce them, have the content ready to launch on the market. Both with Ariel, as with Frida and Santiago; we already have the first projects identified and are now working on them.
In May of this year VIS also announced the development of new series based on the Paramount Pictures bookstore, already started with To Catch a Thief. What can you share in this regard?
The situation is the same. We have 4 titles selected. We are working on development and adaptation and to see with what talents we associate them. Just as with To Catch a Thief we teamed up with Javier Olivares as showrunner and writer, here we are also at this stage. They are all part of the announcements that we hope to be able to make between now and the end of the year in terms of development.
What about the series Mentiras pasajeras, to be developed with Spain’s El deseo by Pedro Almodóvar?
We are moving forward with the development of the first season of the series together with El Deseo and the writers. It is progressing very well. I think we have a long way to go and hope to finish it soon.
During the 2019 LA Screenings, VIS announced the acquisition of the rights to the books 38 estrellas and Entre mi hijo y yo, la Luna. Have these projects gotten the green light?
They are projects based on great, important period books. They take time, but they are moving forward. There is interest in both titles. The might take longer than others, but we hope to announce something soon.
How do you think the 2021 schedule will be in terms of original production?
I think the schedule is quite rearranged. We already know how we have to produce now, what things we have to take into account that did not exist before. Now we are entering this “new normal” to produce and we will follow those paths.
These first productions that are being resumed will help us know more about those details that we need to make productions more efficient and to be able to carry them out, but from ViacomCBS and, from the studio in particular, this is the situation that we have to live through and we will carry on moving forward to continue producing quality content.
The audience, clients, partners; they demand more higher quality productions. We look forward to 2021 with many projects underway to meet this demand.