How Amazon Studios’ Is Getting Bigger and Other Takeaways from Javiera Balmaceda’s Masterclass at Conecta Fiction

TOLEDO, Spain —  Delivering a masterclass on the first full day of Conecta Fiction in Spain’s Toledo, Javiera Balmaceda –  Amazon Studios’ head of international originals, Latin America – underscored one of the perils of frequent air travel, in her case around South America: a voice reduced at times to a near gasp.

All credit to her; she soldiered on, and her ideas came over loud and clear. Takeaways from her masterclass, one of the highlights of early Conecta Fiction.

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How Amazon Studios Aims to Get ‘Bigger’

In the U.S., Amazon has gone from being an HBO-style cable channel with shows like “Transparent” to more network-level mainstream fare like “Reacher,” ventured The Hollywood Reporter’s Lili Ford, who moderated the session. What about Latin America? “I don’t know if we started out like HBO and we become more of a network, but I do think finally we’re becoming bigger,” Balmaceda said in riposte, noting that the just released El Estudio-produced Mexican crime drama “¿Quién lo Mató?” starring “Luis Miguel’s” Diego Boneta and pop star Belinda, is Amazon Studios most viewed series to date.

So, What’s Working for Amazon Studios in Latin America?

True crime functions best, one theory goes, where audiences fear and are fascinated by real violence. Welcome to Latin America. “¿Quién lo Mató? is based on a real case, the murder of Mexican TV host Paco Stanley, still unsolved. Not for nothing, Balmaceda showcased a trailer for the upcoming Brazilian true crime thriller “The Park Maniac,” based on one of Brazil’s most notorious serial killer cases. “True crime continues to be a home run” in Latin America, Balmaceda said.

And the Future?

National accents still grate across Latin America. “I’m from Chile. Everyone hates the way we speak in Spanish. We’re always constantly being dubbed,” said Balmaceda. But times are changing. One of Prime Video’s biggest early hits and international breakouts in Latin America has been “Sayen,” a Mapuche revenge actioner. “Audiences have changed, and their acceptance of different storytelling with different accents [has grown],” Balmaseda said.  The future is bright for that. We’re going to continue to grow in that space, probably sticking to more of these kinds of action thrillers and true crime that that will get the most play across the region.” But the essence of success, she insisted several times during her masterclass, is not a type of show, but “great storytelling.”

Is Amazon Studios Slowing Down?

Maybe not. In an overview session Wednesday morning at Conecta Fiction, Omdia’s Maria Rua Aguete suggested that the end of peak TV was significantly “exaggerated.” An Ampere Analysis study presented at Sweden’s Göteborg Festival in February suggested that Amazon was still increasing original commissioning for first-run TV. “It might feel like a slowdown because “we’re making all the shows we greenlit over the last three years,” Balmaceda said. But greenlights continue. “We’re full speed ahead.”

Javiera Balmaceda: Rock Star?

Balmaceda’s masterclass left standing room only at the Toledo Auditorium at Conecta Fiction, one of its biggest conference spaces. It might not harm being the older sister of actor Pedro Pascal. Nor that, in Spain, as Aguete predicted, Amazon will spend more again in 2024 and 2025. But Balmaseda has also touched the industry’s Holy Grail. She was first introduced to many, appearing with Axel Kuschevatzky at the Platino Awards last year, accepting the statue for best film in Spain and Latin America, “Argentina, 1985.” When Santiago [Mitre] first presented it, he felt it was really going to resonate with what was happening with the presidency of Trump and how people distort history and truth. And it did, winning a Golden Globe and attracting large audiences in Argentine cinemas and on Prime Video. “Success is like lightning in a bottle. You get that chance every once in a while.” But Balmaceda has tamed lightning several times now.

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