Holding out for Hierro

Scripted-logo-460EL-HIERRO-ISLANDGalician thriller Hierro was named best project at the Berlinale’s first CoPro Series pitching competition in February. TBI reports on what the award means for its international prospects.

Galician-created drama Hierro competed at Berlinale’s CoPro Series 2015 and beat four other finalists, in the process winning an invitation to participate this month at Series Mania, the Paris-based festival that showcases international TV dramas.

The series is set on the volcanic island of El Hierro, the most southerly of Spain’s Canary Islands, where the corpse of a young islander is found floating in the sea following an earthquake. This marks the starting point for a tense drama that revolves around a false suspect and an inexperienced judge.

Pitched at Berlin in front of a massive audience of TV executives, producers and distributors, Hierro’s presentation received the widespread support of the attendees.

“We made it clear that we offered a great story in an awesome setting,” says Alfonso ‘Fosco’ Blanco, founder and CEO of producer Portocabo, which is part of the Boomerang TV Group. “We wanted to create a thriller in which the setting is very important; in line, for example, with Israel’s Prisoners of War, the drama that inspired Showtime’s Homeland.

“The CoPro Series changed our perspective,” he adds. “Nearly all the big European TV players made bids for Hierro, which allowed for a more ambitious and viable project,” he says.

DeAPlaneta-controlled Spanish media conglomerate Atresmedia is partially financing the series, which will air on its LaSexta channel. Portocabo has taken on the search for the rest of the international financing.

Hierro is now shaping up as a Spanish-German-French coproduction effort. Peter Nadermann’s German prodco Nadcon, producer of The Bridge, The Killing, and the Millennium Trilogy, has just joined the project, with Nadermann credited as executive producer, while talks with a French partner are at an advanced stage.

With production plans well under way, Atresmedia should have the show for LaSexta in the first quarter of 2016. The producers have designed the series as a Spanish-language project with a 100% Spanish cast. Portocabo’s regular production team, which includes director Jorge Coira, executive producers Blanco and Pepe Coira, and screenwriters Alberto Marini and Araceli Gonda, are all attached.

“Series Mania will be a fantastic showcase for Hierro,” Blanco says. “If the project arrives to Paris fully financed, our aim there will be to meet with our partners and even make a presentation, unveiling the key cast.”

HIERRO---AWARD-CEREMONY-AT-COPRO-SERIES-2015Hierro’s success at the CoPro Series represents another sign of the ground that Spanish dramas are gaining in the international television market, following on from recent sales successes including The Time in Between, Grand Hotel and Red Band Society.

“Without doubt, Spanish TV fiction has become internationally fashionable, as has happened recently with Scandinavian or Israeli series,” says Blanco.

“Spain has a very active TV market, which is overcoming the advertising crisis, and a stable local TV fiction sector with lower production costs than other key European territories. It also boasts highly audience-oriented primetime TV shows because of the huge competition for share between two private channels and a public TV operator. All this has made Spanish drama more competitive abroad.”

Since its launch in 2010, La Coruña-based Portocabo has looked for opportunities to produce TV series with international appeal such as the English-language teen comedy The Avatars, a coproduction with Italy’s Fly Distribuzione TV and Brave Film for Disney Channel in Italy.

Low-budget sitcom Luci, aired by Galicia’s regional pubcaster Televisión de Galicia, marks another international milestone for Portocabo. US TV adaptation rights went to New Media Vision’s Todd Lituchy, exec producer of another Boomerang original drama, The Mysteries of Laura, which was remade for NBC.