EXCLUSIVE: Spanish indie production powerhouse Mediapro is at San Sebastian Film Festival this year screening two of the buzziest local features in the program: the Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz and Oscar Martinez-starring Official Competition, which arrives from Venice, and the Javier Bardem-fronted The Good Boss, which premieres here.
The pair of films, which are both forms of comedies but could hardly be more different in their approach to the medium, are the talk of the town after being well received at the fest (the official The Good Boss premiere is this eve but it has screened twice already).
Speaking to Deadline in San Sebastian, Laura Fernández Espeso, CEO of Mediapro’s production wing The Mediapro Studio, says the festival feels like a “celebration” for the company after a tumultuous 18 months. At the beginning of the pandemic, the prolific outfit had to pause a total of 52 productions, but everything is now back on track, she adds.
Espeso has been with Mediapro since 2009 and was appointed CEO of the Studio in 2020, giving her a sizable remit of overseeing a significant production stable across the company’s various offices, of which there are 14 dotted throughout South America, Europe, the U.S. (Miami and New York) and most recently the UK, where Stephen Johnson heads up operations.
The company has a distribution arm through which it often handles its own sales, allowing it to retain IP while putting together finance through individual territory rights deals. For example, the company’s debut English-language series The Head was sold to partners including HBO U.S., Hulu Japan, Starzplay and Canal Plus, racking up deals in 60 territories in total.
“Our distribution arm makes a big difference for us in terms of retaining IP while taking risk,” explains Espeso, “We can run the numbers based on international sales. Some clients want worldwide rights but we try to keep those rights.”
Those kinds of financing frameworks allow producers such as The Mediapro Studio to match the deep-pocketed American giants, which continue to make great strides into European production space, in terms of the scope and quantity of their shows. Also here in San Sebastian, Deadline sat down with Netflix Spain’s TV and film chiefs to discuss their rapid expansion in the territory, which is seeing them double their dedicated studio space this year.
Crucially for Meidapro, because it does not directly release its productions, the streamers are often clients rather than competitors. Productions being made by The Mediapro Studio for streamers include Magic For Humans Spain for Netflix and The Boarding School Las Cumbres and Fernando for Amazon Prime Video.
“They [the streamers] are good clients for scripted and non-scripted. I have big respect for them and we want to keep working with them forever,” comments Espeso.
That positive relationship doesn’t change the fact that the likes of Netflix are wrapping up local talent in countries such as Spain, not just with lengthy time commitments on big shows but also sometimes with exclusive deals. Money Heist creator Alex Pina has an exclusive deal with Netflix, for example.
Espeso affirms that The Mediapro Studio’s embedded relationships with top local talent often give the company an edge. She also notes that working with Mediapro allows creators to find various avenues for their content, not solely tying them into one distribution stream.
“If you sign with Netflix you are going to do shows just for Netflix. There are all of these interesting things happening in the market and you won’t be allowed to do them,” she says. “The key thing is we work across the whole market, and people trust us, we have been creating these relationships for 20 years.”
Mediapro does also occasionally strike exclusive deals, she notes, and had one now with Fernando González Molina, the creator and showrunner of recent series Paraíso for Mediapro’s Globomedia and Movistar+. “It’s good for him [Molina] to make shows for Amazon, Apple, HBO… he can do that from one place with us],” Espeso adds.
Further exclusive deals with creators include Ran Tellem and Mariano Baselga (The Head), Argentinian filmmaker Daniel Burman (Victoria Small) and Ivan Escobar (Express).
The Mediapro Studio has a total of 68 shows at various stages of production, including 20 fiction series. Some of the newer projects on the slate are English-language, a new endeavor for the company. They include Is There No Place on Earth For Me, the U.S. show for which John Turturro is penning three of the planned six episodes and will also direct. Also in the works is A Dry Sun, a series with The Wire creator David Simon, and UK show 58 Seconds, which is being made with Jeremy Brock (The Last King of Scotland) and Paul Unwin (Breathless).
Espeso says entering the English market isn’t easy for a Spanish company, but that it is “100% convinced” by the strategy. Latin America, the U.S. and the UK are now The Mediapro Studio’s biggest focuses for growth outside of Spain, she adds.
One project that is TBD is the next Woody Allen movie, reportedly set to be titled Match Point. Mediapro president Jaume Roures previously confirmed that the company is looking to be involved in the director’s next project, which will be his 50th movie, after working with Allen on titles including Rifkin’s Festival, but Espeso says this is still up in the air.
“We don’t know yet [if we will produce the film]. There is no calendar with Woody. There is a very good relationship and we are open to it, but he needs to write. When the script arrives we start the conversation, not before,” she explains.