HBO Max is tapping into a rich seam of talent to create series with strong international appeal, the streamer’s commissioning editor in Spain Miguel Salvat tells Screen.

Miguel Salvat_HBO Europe

Source: HBO Europe

Miguel Salvat

”Each new production is a Lego piece that helps to create a brand,” says Miguel Salvat, vice president and commissioning editor of original production in Spain for Warner Bros Discovery International’s HBO Max. 

HBO Max produces three to four fiction series a year in the territory. “Our goal has been to produce local stories with local talent and in Spanish — especially in Spain, where audiences want to watch content in their native language,” says Salvat of the strategy.

HBO Max’s biggest project this year is ¡García!, a live-action adaptation of the Spanish comic-book series of the same name, released on the platform on October 28. Directed by Eugenio Mira, whose credits include Grand Piano, the action series tells the story of a super-agent engineered under Franco’s dictatorship. Cryogenically frozen, he is woken accidentally more than half a century later by a reporter played by Veki Velilla, one of Screen International’s Spain Stars of Tomorrow. The pair team up to take on a major conspiracy.

Further upcoming HBO Max titles include comedy animation Poor Devil (Pobre Diablo), about the life of an ordinary boy who turns out to be the Anti-Christ, and comedy series Playing Dirty (Monos Con Pistola), about a former football player turned sports agent. The series is based on an idea by actress/producer Carolina Bang and director Alex de la Iglesia.

García 2 0112 Photo Credit Emilio Pereda

Source: Emilio Pereda


Talent pool

HBO Max works regularly with rising names in the Spanish film industry. “There is a lot of talent in Spain,” says Salvat, pointing to At Home (En Casa), five stories by five Spanish directors based on an idea by Rodrigo Sorogoyen (Riot Police), which was made during the pandemic lockdown.

The streamer has also attracted some of Spain’s leading film directors to the small screen, producing de la Iglesia’s horror series 30 Coins, which premiered at Venice Film Festival in 2020, and 2019 romantic drama Foodie Love by Isabel Coixet.

Non-fiction is also a focus for HBO Max. Its first docu-series The Pioneer (El Pionero) was about Jesus Gil, the Spanish politician, football mogul and property tycoon; while Saving The King (Salvar Al Rey) — now streaming — centres on the former king Juan Carlos I.

HBO Max launched in Spain in 2016, when it was known as HBO España. Parent company Warner Bros has since merged with Discovery to create Warner Bros Discovery, and has plans to combine HBO Max and Discovery Plus into a single streaming service to maximise its global competitiveness.

“We believe we have a very solid slate for the Spanish market with content that works internationally too,” says Salvat. “A key aspect is the diversity of our slate, in terms of format, genres and size of projects. The aim is to broaden our audience and make sure [they] want to stay.”

One of the streamer’s biggest series to date is Patria, an adaptation of the 2016 bestselling novel by Fernando Aramburu about terrorism in the Basque Country, told through the lens of two families on opposite sides of the conflict. The series has streamed in more than 60 countries including the US and across Latin America.

“The first goal is that our original content works in Spain and, afterwards, internationally,” says Salvat. “The first season of 30 Coins worked really well in Latin America and in the US. The bigger the budget, the bigger the need for it to work.”

Hopes are high for the second season of de la Iglesia’s show. “It is our biggest production for next year,” says Salvat. Paul Giamatti and Spanish actress Najwa Nimri join the cast, starring alongside Miguel Angel Silvestre, Megan Montaner and Eduard Fernandez. The first episodes are in now in post and the aim is to air at the end of 2023.

“Our strategy, in the tradition of the HBO culture in the US, has never been about quantity,” Salvat continues. “We don’t aspire to produce the same amount of content as Netflix, Amazon or Movistar Plus+ in Spain. The key is to have a strong impact with fewer productions, and our success rate is good in this sense.

“We have also always managed to stay within budget in what we have produced,” the executive adds. “Efficiency in this respect is rarely discussed, but it’s very important.”