At September’s San Sebastian Festival, Movistar+, Spain’s biggest content investor, hosted a press conference for the world premiere of its newest original, “Offworld” (“Apagón”), featuring five stories, all set in a Spain without electricity, the result of a massive solar storm. 

On-stage, fielding questions, were not “Offworld’s” actors, however, though they included Goya actress winner Patricia López Arnaiz, but the series’ screenwriters and directors. These took in Oscar nominee Rodrigo Sorogoyen (“Madre”), Isaki Lacuesta and Isa Campo, whose  “The Double Steps” and “Between Two Waters” both won San Sebastian Golden Shells, and Alberto Rodríguez, director of Goya best picture winner “Marshland.” 

In a new global TV scene, the stars are its signature creators; the battle for success is a battle for this top talent. How did Movistar+ back the biggest array of creative talent in Spanish TV history?

“Modestly speaking, we’ve tried to create a culture at Movistar+ that attracts talent. We have a lot of respect for what creators want to tell and believe in them,” says Corral. 

“We will challenge creators, and sometimes convince them to make changes and sometime not. When we don’t convince them, we don’t try to impose anything, you have to assume their arguments, right or wrong.”  

Talent wants to be sure that their works will be made with the necessary resources. Backed by giant telco Telefonica, Movistar+ can stump up the budget for highly ambitious projects, such as “Offworld,” whose stories range across genres — a political thriller, hospital melodrama, a Western and coming of age and second chance dramas — and highly disparate settings.  

Professional and personal relations between writer-directors and broadcast execs weigh hugely when creators’ decide whom they work with. 

“There are strong personal affinities,” says Lacuesta, noting that when at TCM, Corral commissioned him to direct “La noche que no acaba,” about Ava Gardner’s years in Spain. 

Also, the project was highly attractive in itself, its creators say.

The key to “Offworld” for Fran Araújo, the series creative co-ordinator who wrote “Between Two Waters” with Lacuesta and Campo,  is that it’s not an anthology but a “collective series,” with “content, concepts and a realistic tone that bonds its episodes,” developed over months at a writers’ room that encompasses all the episodes’ writers — the first time some of Spain’s most successful film-TV scribes in Spain have worked together. 

“Being able to listen to friends and colleagues helped to open my mind. The sense of being on the same wavelength was a beautiful moment,” Campo said at San Sebastián. 

Knitting together the series, each human drama turns on how individuals confronts mass catastrophe: “In a crisis, either you understand that things have changed and you see that as an opportunity for transformation, or you are doomed,” says Araújo.

Episode 4, the Western “Survival,” for example, has a goatherd fleeing ever higher into snowbound mountains, hunted by city types who want to kill him for his goats. It becomes the “story of a man on his own pitted against those who come to take away his key to survival.” Neither party backs down. “Lamentably, there’s no solution to the conflict,” says director Rodríguez.

Episode 4 contrasts dramatically with Episode 5, the upbeat second chance drama helmed
by Lacuesta. 

“One aim of the series was to have a positive side, that it had propositions, such as if we work together, things will turn out better,” Lacuesta notes.

“That Movistar+ begins to make series and chooses ones with Alberto, Paco León, now Isa, Isaki and Raul…. That’s what makes me fall in love with Movistar+ and applaud them, and it makes me happy, satisfied and delighted to work with them,” says Sorogoyen. 

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