MIP Cancun: Producers Call for Greater Investment in Original Productions


During a MIP Cancun panel titled Ficción histórica: Hernán un caso de estudio, which explored the epic series Hernán and was moderated by TV Latina‘s Elizabeth Bowen-Tombari, Dopamine CEO Fidela Navarro called on the industry to invest more in original productions, in a conversation that also featured showrunners Julián de Tavira and Curro Royo and HISTORY’s Miguel Brailovsky.

“Although as an independent production studio we have broken that glass ceiling [in terms of investment], we are still very far [in the industry] from what is paid for series in other territories,” said Navarro. “I think platforms need to have more confidence in local productions. They need to go from $300,000, $400,000, $600,000 or $800,000 per episode and start investing $1 million, $1.5 million, as is happening in other territories .”

She added: “In other territories, we’re accustomed to revealing what a production costs upfront, but in our market, it seems to be politically incorrect. We’d like more commissions so everyone in the industry can benefit, as well as open opportunities in all of Latin America.”

Bowen-Tombari then asked what attracted A+E Networks Latin America to the production, which debuts today on Amazon, tomorrow on HISTORY and Sunday on TV Azteca. “We were interested in the historical relevance,” said Brailovsky, the senior VP of content at HISTORY Latin America and HISTORY 2 Latin America. “Premium drama is an important strategy for HISTORY. There’s probably not a more relevant topic in LatAm than local content versus pan-regional content. There’s nothing more pan-regional than the conquest of America as a story we can present on HISTORY. We were interested in the proposal and asked who was producing. We found out it was Dopamine, which was a new company with a real track record. After about four or five meetings, we had no doubt that Hernán would be what it is today.”

Royo came on board for the production by an invitation from Amaya Muruzábal, content director at Dopamine, whom he already had worked with in Spain. “She showed me a trailer that portrayed perspectivism,” the showrunner commented. “They wanted to tell the story of Hernán Cortés from the people who surrounded him. She showed me her idea and vision for the production and then I decided it was something I wanted to be a part of.”

The conversation then touched on the production synergies between Spain and Mexico, and the sensibilities considered to present an impartial story of Cortés. “The integration between Mexico and Spain was very quick; we didn’t have any trouble from the conceptual or work standpoint,” said de Tavira. “The story led us to focus on the objective to work hand in hand without any inconveniences. Respecting each other’s point of view was critical. The idea was not to have a Spanish perspective or only a Mexican view because the series would have been too plain and simple.”

“It’s a big story,” added Royo. “We had to plan carefully. We first had to establish perspective and find our voice within such a complex story.”

Asked about the challenges of producing Hernán as Dopamine’s first series, Navarro said: “It was undoubtedly our greatest challenge because it’s a story of Mexico and Spain from 500 years ago. The other challenge is that we filmed in different languages.”

“Our first main challenge is that we had to read a lot to begin the project because there were plenty of [things] we didn’t know,” said de Tavira. “We had a historian on hand all the time but we also managed to get a hold on the themes. Another difficulty was that Mexico doesn’t have many places to film. The majority of the story takes place in cities that no longer exist. We had to be very careful selecting the scenery and find ways to best leverage it.”

“From the script standpoint it was very complicated because there were scenes where people were speaking different languages, with one character translating everything,” explained Royo. “In terms of editing, this also meant that we could simply have one style of doing it. As storytellers, we also want to avoid boring the audiences.”

Bowen-Tombari asked Brailovsky about the benefits of having an epic series like Hernán in the lineup. “HISTORY is known in the region for its factual programming that includes documentaries and reality [shows],” he said. “However, we believe that what sets us apart from our competitors in the region is that we own a very specific topic, which is history. So complementing this offering with two or three event dramas gives us a more powerful proposal for the brand, which is, presenting historical content in an attractive, entertaining and accessible way. The time has come for premium drama.”

Navarro added: “The advantage we have is that we own the IP. Being able to finance it gives us total creative liberty and to do things in a shorter period of time. It also allows us to have more people on board. For a studio and producers, this is important. We’ve taken our time in producing a quality series in Hernán.”

A+E Networks International has taken on the distribution rights to Hernán.