Juan José Campanella on Storytelling, VIS Relationship


Argentinean television and film director, writer and producer Juan José Campanella weighed in on his exclusive deal with VIS for scripted projects at the TV Drama Festival today, including his Paramount+ series The Envoys (Los Enviados).

You can watch the session with Campanella and TV Drama’s Kristin Brzoznowski in its entirety here. He began by discussing his seamless transition between film and TV. “When you tell a story, it doesn’t matter what kind of media it’s going to be transmitted with. There are subtle differences from the big screen to a smaller screen, but those are very minor. My career has been parallel on film and television, not much feeding each other; almost disconnected.”

“I find pleasure in both,” Campanella continued. “Of course, in film, you have a larger canvas. You have that feeling of permanence through time. But in television, I love the fact that in a series, you can go deeper into the characters. Television is more like a novel, and film, a short story. I like them both. I like the speed of television. I like the fact that you have to shoot from the cuff.”

Campanella has worked across both English- and Spanish-language content. “It used to be that in every country, you would have American television and local television and very little of any other country. Now, we find ourselves watching series from Israel, Palestine, Africa, and they are in the top ten. Even in America.”

He went on to discuss the work he’s doing at his own shingle, 100 Bares Productions, which has offices in Argentina and Mexico. It opened in 2005 with the series Vientos de agua. “We always try to do things a little bit out of the ordinary, a kind of a boutique production company in that sense. We don’t have four or five projects at the same time. We are four partners, and we do the stuff we can personally work on. Every project comes from the heart. [We] might not become a huge corporation because we are very anal about involvement in every project!”

An accomplished producer, director and writer, Campanella then discussed multitasking on his shows. “If I am the showrunner and the show is going to be presented as me being the creative force, if I make mistakes, they should be my own. I don’t like to put my name on somebody else’s mistakes! I come from editing and writing. Those are the bookends of a project. I became a director to protect my scripts. We do other projects in which other people are the creative force behind them, and I give my notes there. We make sure that every project has one voice behind it. It’s a matter of switching hats. It’s not that hard for me to work on several things when I wear different hats. But if I’m wearing the same hat in two or three projects, it’s more tiresome. It’s easier to change disciplines.”

On the first-look deal with VIS, a division of Paramount Global, Campanella observed: “The cliché is that the creators and the network are always butting heads. It was not the case here. It was very fruitful. It’s very hard for me to go around pitching projects. I hate that part of the process. Having people [at VIS] to talk about ideas with, it’s wonderful.”

Across the slate at 100 Bares, the focus is on “humor and humanity,” Campanella said. “There are always a lot of human stories. The genre is what gives you the motor, the sense of urgency that you want to keep watching and the conflict and the cliffhangers and all that. But it’s the container of a lot of human characters and emotions. We never really let the genre overtake the human drama in the series.”

Campanella went on to discuss The Envoys and how it landed at VIS and then Paramount+. “It used to be that I only thought in Argentine terms. Now, we think of a broader canvas. All the Spanish-speaking countries are separated by the same language! We have different accents and different words. It’s very difficult to find something that organically will have actors from different countries, and it doesn’t feel like one of those old movies from the ’70s. The first season was in Mexico. The second season will be in Spain.”

He went on to discuss the differences between working on serialized shows and procedurals, having directed episodes of Law & Order: SVU and Law & Order: Criminal Intent. Procedurals are “always limiting because they have certain rules. You try to bend those rules, you try to explore different things, and it always has to move forward. The plot, how you get from A to B to C, is very important in a procedural. It’s a game with your audience. You’re playing with them, not toying with them. I’m giving you a riddle. I’m showing you the clues so you can come along with us. I will try to surprise you anyway.”