ViacomCBS International Studios Ramps Up Development Slate, Drives into Nonfiction (EXCLUSIVE)

John Hopewell
·6-min read

ViacomCBS International Studios (VIS) has unveiled a new slate of projects tapping talents as diverse as “Guilt” writer-creator Neil Forsyth, “The Great” writer Vanessa Alexander, “Wild District” originator Cristian Conti and “High School Musical” writer Peter Barsocchini.

Underscoring VIS’ ambitions to play in the big league of international local content producer-distributors, both in production volume and breadth of content, VIS also confirmed its drive into documentary production, of both doc features and series, and unveiled its first four titles.

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This year will, moreover, see VIS bow development and production of its first made-for-streaming movies and first content for VIS Kids, created last year.

Launched in 2018, VIS has proved one of the fastest-growing production powers on the Latin American and Latinx scene, signing first-look deals with Argentina’s Juan José Campanella, writer-director of the Oscar winning “The Secret in Their Eyes,” and Ariel Winograd, director of remake phenomenon “Ten Days Without Mom.” It has also pacted with “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “Disobedience” producer Frida Torresblanco and U.S. singer, songwriter and actor Marc Anthony.

Rolling off further details of the launch in France of Pluto TV, ViacomCBS’ ad-supported streamed TV linear service, Thursday’s new slate announcement suggests that new phase expansion will take in even more key markets outside the U.S. such as the U.K. and Spain. In the mid-term, subscription service Paramount Plus, set to debut in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 and Scandinavia on March 25, should also further propel VIS global expansion.

“This slate represents the vast depth and breadth of global stories and voices that represent a compelling offering to our partners and audiences,” said J.C. Acosta, president of ViacomCBS International Studios and Networks Americas.

He added: ”We continue to partner with the most diverse content creators across the globe and cannot wait to bring these stories to life.”

Announced projects range from documentaries to short- and long-form comedy, thrillers, horror titles, dramas, soap operas, comedy-dramas, young adult, teen and kids entertainment, from preschool upwards. They also take in animation and live action, series and feature films:

SERIES

“The Gold” Scottish author and screenwriter Neil Forsyth, writer-creator of BBC2 drama “Guilt” and BBC4’s “Eric, Ernie and Me,” is teaming with VIS on “The Gold,” described as a true-crime drama series based on the decades-long story of one of Britain’s most notorious criminal investigations.

“Artemisia” Also a writer on “Tin Star,” made for Gaumont U.K., Kudos and Sky Atlantic, Vanessa Alexander is attached to write “Artemisia,” based on the life, inspired art, and rape trial of female Italian painter Artemisia Gentileschi. Torresblanco produces with former ViacomCBS International Studios U.K. managing director Jill Offman.

“Electric Years” Produced by “Narcos” production services company Dynamo, CBS Studios and VIS, the title sees sought-after Spanish screenwriter Fernando Navarro (“Verónica”) join Conti as series’ creator and exec producer. Writers take in “The Plague” scribe Rafael Cobos and Isabel Peña, lead writer on “Riot Police.” Series weighs in as a Europe-trotting action-adventure heist thriller set in 1968 between Paris, the Costa Brava, Palermo and Languedoc, as student revolution rages across the continent.

“The Gypsy Bride” VIS, Banijay’s Diagonal TV and “Penny Dreadful” director Paco Cabezas go into production in 2021 on the crime thriller, adapting Carmen Mola’s “La Novia Gitana,” a global bestseller, and set in the heart of Spain’s gypsy community. “A heartfelt and from-the-streets plot with a bit of horror,” Cabezas has said of the crime drama, which is getting excellent traction with buyers, VIS said Thursday.

“Se Rentan Cuartos” VIS announced Tuesday on the first day of NATPE Miami that production has begun on season two of breakout hit series “Se Rentan Cuartos” (Rooms for Rent), a Comedy Central Latin America original sitcom, which became the brand’s flagship launch in 2019.

TV MOVIES

“A Very Kally’s Birthday” (working title) Some relief for “Kally’s Mashup” fans. The hugely successful Nick Argentine-Mexican telenovela returns at last with a made-for-TV spinoff at least, with Peter Barsocchini (“High School Musical,” “High School Musical 3 – Senior Year”) will write with Adam Anders (“Glee,” Netflix musical “The Prom,” the upcoming “Road to Bethlehem”), the original series co-creator. Anders also serves as executive music producer for the movie, overseeing its musical score. The plot? “Days before her birthday, Kally goes on an unexpected trip where she accidentally meets a celebrity musician. While she is having the time of her life, she will have to decide what to do with her heart.”

DOCUMENTARIES

“A Woman in Black Boots” Mexico’s Everardo González, director of 2017’s devastating “Devil’s Freedom,” plumbs the workings of contemporary intelligence services depicting a true-life operation spearheaded by the Israeli military taking place in Mexico City after its 2017 earthquake.

“Dr. Ballí” The life and crime of Monterrey doctor Alfredo Ballí, who inspired the figure of Hannibal Lector.

“Adriano the Emperor” Another life portrait, of Brazilian soccer star Adriano Ribeiro.

“38 Stars” Taking place in 1971 in Uruguay, the doc turns on the biggest jailbreak from a women’s jail in the country’s history. Directed by Lorena Muñoz (“Gilda”), and based on Josefina Licitra’s bestseller, “Operación Star.”

VIS KIDS

“Marcelo, Marmelo, Martelo” Brazilian TV directorial duo Duda Vaisman and Calvito Leal (“Call Me Bruna,” “Valentins”), have boarded a series adaptation of Brazilian writer Ruth Rocha hugely popular children’s book franchise, first launched in 1976 and now a modern classic, taught at Brazilian schools.

“Gloria Wants To Know It All” As previously announced, VIS’ first own-originated animation project, partnering Anthony and Campanella, and turning on Gloria, an eight-year-old alpaca who gets to discover the richness of Latin American culture. VIS, Anthony’s Magnus Studios, Campanella’s Mundoloco Animation Studios and Lanugo Media produce.

“Deer Squad 1 & 2” Nickelodeon International’s first Chinese original, a pre-school, animated adventure rescue series teaming VIS Kids, Nickelodeon International and China’s iQIYI, which bows in the U.S. on Jan. 25.

ViacomCBS International Studios is launching a new, innovative brand look at NATPE Miami reflecting the strength of its global content identity, it said Thursday.

VIS is also unveiling its first global brand campaign, made up of short spots in which top talent talks about their passions – for their audiences, or telling stories on screen and behind the camera. The talent also talk viewers through their expertise – producing, directing, or acting – and how they have mastered their craft.

VIS 2021 logo
VIS 2021 logo

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