Spanish Producers Deal With the ‘Devil’ as They Seek to Conquer the World

Spanish producers taking part in a Spanish content showcase at the Berlinale Series Market on Monday debated what was jokingly referred to as the “devil’s bargain” offered by major streaming platforms that are propelling Spanish shows around the globe often at the cost of IP ownership.

Álex de la Iglesia of Madrid-based production powerhouse Pokeepsie Films said the company for years retained the IP of films that played in local cinemas. “We assumed there was no other model. Now, maybe we lose our IP, but suddenly our movies are in the houses of the whole planet. Maybe you have to sell your soul to these ‘diabolical’ platforms,” he joked. “But I can only say that working with the devil is worth it.,” he added.

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De la Iglesia added that Spain’s production sector was running hot. “We are working a lot.” Spain, he added, had never seen so much production taking place.

Pokeepsie is working on Season 3 of its hit HBO Max horror series “30 Coins” and is presenting in Berlin its newest show for the service, the soccer agent dramedy “Headless Chickens.” It is likewise developing projects for Netflix and Amazon.

“We don’t have the time to do all the things we have in mind,” De la Iglesia noted.

He added that there was great interest among the major streaming platforms for Spanish content in particular and Pokeepsie was eager to help Spanish movies and series grow.

“We have to take advantage of this,” De la Iglesia said.

Taking a slightly different stance, Gustavo Ferrada of Spanish TV production house Mediacrest, said retaining content IP was important, particularly for projects that have an international appeal.

The global market can be approached in various ways, he added. “Of course you can go to a platform and have a product that can be seen everywhere, and that’s a very good way to go. But then there is this other way, a way in which you can try to preserve some IP, which is why we are producers. That’s the difference between being a producer and a service company.”

That is the approach Mediacrest is taking with its latest series, the international co-production “17kHz,” a climate change thriller created with Helsinki-based ReelMedia and Finnish public broadcaster YLE.

“This show — from the very beginning when we started working on it, we felt that a topic like the climate crisis and how the planet is being destroyed is something that relates to everyone in the global market. It’s something that affects everyone.”

The ambitious science fiction show will shoot in different locations around the globe.

Ferrada said it was the kind of topic that was ideal for an international co-production that could bring together not only talent, scenery and locations from different territories, but also, importantly, financing.

“The planet is something we have to preserve, but the planet is also a market — a big one,” he pointed out. “Why should we not take advantage of what different territories can bring to this global market?”

Now part of entertainment giant Banijay and a regular producer for the major streaming platforms, Pokeepsie also still seeks to retain some of its IP, said CEO Carolina Bang.

“Of course I agree with Gustavo. We are producers and we have to keep as much IP as we can.” It depends on the project and the ultimate agreement, however, she added.

“Sometimes the platform makes it really clear that they want to have a series [exclusively] for around the world.” Other times the platforms will release a series or movie in Spain and the company can retain international rights.

“That’s our every-day fight — to keep those rights.”

Responding to De la Iglesia’s earlier comments, Ferrada said with platforms, ideally, you get paid for the service you provide and also some extra backend once the primary exploitation is finished, he added.

“Of course I want to work with the platforms. They are very good partners and good clients.”

Ferrada noted that he was very happy to have served as producer for Amazon’s first original feature film in Spain.

“We need to open all possible doors where we can work,” he continued. “Can we get something else? Can we get back some extra money when it’s successful? That’s the point. It’s not selling the soul – it’s selling the profit. Do we want to get some profit out of what we do? Of course we do. As you said, it’s a struggle, a battle you fight every day. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose, sometimes you lose, sometimes you lose, sometimes you lose,” he joked in a panel which was high on humor and also confidence.

The panel took place as “The Snow Girl,” from Spain’s Atípica Films, has been watched for 101.7 million hours in its first three weeks on Netflix. In all four Spanish series and three movies figure in Netflix’s non-English Top 10s of most-watched shows and films on record.

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