Carolina Bang and Álex de la Iglesia

Source: Banijay

Carolina Bang and Álex de la Iglesia

Launched in 2009, Alex De La Iglesia and Carolina Bang’s Pokeepsie Films has earned a reputation as one of Spain’s most unique – and busy - fiction producers.

So busy is the company that it has just hired Adrián De Belva as general manager to strengthen its management team. De Belva joins from Netflix, where he was legal coordinator, business & legal affairs for Spain and Portugal.

Focused on youth-skewing films and TV series, Pokeepsie spans the fantasy, thriller, and horror space. Pokeepsie is now working on the second series of De La Iglesia and Jorge Guerricaechevarría’s mystery horror hit 30 Coins for HBO Max, which releases this year. Other projects for streamers are also in the works, including Pollos Sin Cabeza (Headless Chickens) which will be featured in the Berlinale Series Market, Domingo González’s upcoming film Culpa Mía for Amazon Prime and the De La Iglesia-directed Mandrake, a fantasy action adventure set in seventeenth century Spain.

Together with Sony Pictures International Productions, Pokeepsie is behind Jaume Balagueró’s supernatural urban horror Venus, starring Ester Expósito, which launched theatrically in Spain on December 2 and on Amazon Prime Video last week.

The Fourth Passenger

Source: Banijay

‘The Fourth Passenger’

Last year, the Madrid-based company also released De la Iglesia’s road movie comedy Four’s a Crowd (El Cuarto Pasajero), a co-pro with Telecinco Cinema, Movistar Plus+ and Te Has Venido Arriba. Ignacio Tatay’s suspense thriller The Chalk Line (Jaula) premiered in theatres in September and dropped on Netflix in October reaching number two in the global non-English rankings, while Eduardo Casanova’s La Pietà world premiered in July in Karlovy Vary’s Proxima section.

Banijay partnership

Last April, Pokeepsie partnered with global production and distribution giant Banijay’s Spanish division, Banijay Iberia. De La Iglesia and Bang both see the partnership as a crucial next stage for the company. He envisages joining forces with Banijay companies in London or Latin America to make projects. “We are really ambitious, we want to grow and to make feature films and TV series that are bigger than the regular ones we can get in Spain. This is a marvellous chance to grow.”

It’s a point echoed by Bang: “Now we’re part of Banijay, we have this support to get bigger and to have more projects.”

In a competitive scripted market where many production companies struggle to stand out, genre specialist Pokeepsie certainly does so.

“I love to make horror movies. And I love to make comedies,” says De La Igelesia. “I love to mix those things in some of the projects I make.” He says he tries not to focus on what audiences want, but what he wants to make: “If you try to accommodate your idea to the market, you are totally lost.”

De La Iglesia won a Venice Festival best director Silver Lion in 2010 for Balada Triste De Trompeta (The Last Circus) and a Goya as best director for 1995’s The Day Of The Beast, and has reached a wider audience through the success of 30 Coins. Bang’s acting credits include Balada Triste, for which she was nominated for a Goya Award, as well as De La Iglesia’s as Brujas de Zugarramurdi (Witching & Bitching). She began her career as a producer in 2014.

Bang says that the fact that she was an actress and is now a producer and that de la Iglesia is both a director and producer informs the way Pokeepsie is run. “We are a particular kind of production company – we value very much talent, whether new talent or well-known talent.”

Spanish market heats up

The company’s deal with superindie group Banijay comes as international interest in the Spanish content market hots up. Major US streaming platforms have been attracted to the country for its competitive tax incentives which vary between 30% and 50% and wide range of locations – and as a content provider for the vast Spanish-speaking market. Streaming giant Netflix chose Spain as the base for its first European production hub. When Warner Bros Discovery announced last July it would no longer produce originals in many European territories, Spain was one of the few countries it chose to remain active in.

Meanwhile, the Spanish government has earmarked €1.6bn to boost film and TV production by 30% by 2025. De La Iglesia says the international industry is “now discovering the things we are doing” in Spain: “We have always had a big problem with distribution. We didn’t know how to distribute our material, because we had no network to do so. Now, with Netflix, HBO or Amazon, suddenly your programme is everywhere.”

De La Iglesia also enjoys what he describes as the freedom of working on series like 30 Coins, compared to the challenges of working on film. “It is a shame but it is true: there is so much pressure from distributors when you are making a film. I prefer series, because there is more freedom.”