‘Drought’ and other series that link Spain with Portugal | TV

The Serie Bron/Bron (2011) is a drama made by Danes and Swedes, in which a dead body located exactly on the border of both countries forces their two police departments to work together. Its success was such that there were versions between neighboring countries. Those from the United Kingdom-France, Mexico-United States, Estonia-Russia and Austria-Germany arrived, but a version between Spain and Portugal was never created. It would seem that things are about to change.

Portugal has not only managed to make its television fiction international, but has also made Spain its main partner. Although it is only in the field of the series, the prophecy of the Nobel Prize winner José Saramago, which united both countries into one called Iberia, seems somewhat more real. Drought is a Spanish-Portuguese series that is broadcast on Tuesdays on La 1 and on Fridays on the national public channel Rádio e Televisão de Portugal (RTP) under the title of Submerged Crimes (Underground Crimes). This fiction is set in a small town located on the border between the two countries and follows the discovery of two skeletons that reveal evidence of a bloody crime. It stars Rodolfo Sancho and Miryam Gallego, among others, along with Marco D’Almeida and Margarida Marinho.

Susana Gato is the executive president of the Association of Independent Producers of Portugal (APIT), the only one that represents television producers in the neighboring country, bringing together 80% of the companies and with a turnover of more than 90 million euros in 2020. Since last November, Gato will also be at the head of the European Audiovisual Production Association (CEPI) for two years. “Co-productions improve the budget and with it the quality of the product and ensure that your series is seen in other parts of the world,” defends Gato. “In addition to geographical proximity, cultural proximity to Spain makes it easier to produce than with a country with which we share a language like Brazil,” explains the president of APIT.

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Drought It is the first collaboration between both state public channels, but it was the Galician regional TVG that paved the way. Vidago Palace (2017) is a period miniseries focused on the love story between two young people from different social classes that takes place in a luxurious hotel during the year 1936. It is part of the HBO Max catalog. On that platform you can also see the two seasons of dry water, a police series shot between Vigo and Lisbon that combines a family drama with the setting of arms trafficking. It is co-produced by Portocabo (Spain) and SPi (Portugal) for TVG and RTP. To tell this story of two families, that of the wealthy Galdón and the humbler Duarte, fiction resorts to Galician actors such as Sergio Pazos and Portuguese such as Vitória Guerra.

Trailer for ‘Auga Seca’.

Alfonso Blanco, general director of the Galician production company Portocabo, also behind Vidago Palace, considers that “Portugal’s transformation has been even more radical than Spain’s. There until very recently there were no weekly series, only daily. Public television decided to bet on the change even knowing that it was going to give it very bad audience returns, in exchange for favoring its audiovisual industry, ”he comments by telephone. Blanco confirms that there is already a Portuguese subsidiary of his company, called Portocabo Atlántico, to join the fashion of the series that the platforms of streaming have promoted in the country, as they have done in the rest of Europe. “The black genre is the one that travels best, so it will continue to be the most common in these co-productions,” predicts Blanco.

The most ambitious of the collaborations between the two countries is about to arrive through Amazon Prime Video. Operation Black Tide recreates a real event: the odyssey across the Atlantic of the narco-submarine captured in Galicia in 2019. Daniel Calparsoro, Oskar Santos and Joao Maia direct this thriller drama produced by the Portuguese RTP together with several Spanish regional networks, Ficción Producciones from A Coruña and Ukbar Filmes from Lisbon.

asleep until 2014

The reason why Portugal has been somewhat asleep until now in the series market has been the small number of channels that existed in the country before the arrival of digital platforms. The public RTP and the private SIC and TVI were the only clients of the content creation companies. One of the avenues of expansion that they have found has been internationalization, through co-productions. hits like The Money Heist Y the squid game “They have shown that language and culture are no longer barriers,” says the APIT president.

The other way to reinforce their content is by forcing new platforms by law to invest 4% of their budgets in local content. This measure has not yet produced results, because it began to be applied in January 2020, but it is very similar to that of the Spanish General Audiovisual Law. It does not seem that there will be a conflict in this regard, because the foreign on-demand services have understood that creating local fiction is part of their success. Glory is the first original series of Netflix Portugal. In the small town of Glória do Ribatejo, spies, lies, and secrets surface in the mid-1960s, when a wealthy engineer becomes immersed in the intrigues of the Cold War. Fiction hit the screens at the end of 2021, before it was an obligation to create Portuguese content.

A second title designed for an à la carte service, OPTO SIC, is already being prepared. Its titled Vandais centered on a woman who must rebuild her life after her husband’s personal and economic betrayal and is another collaboration with Spain.

'Vidago Palace'
‘Vidago Palace’

Public support from the Instituto do Cine e do Audiovisual (ICA) is limited, so the arrival of the Fundo de Apoio ao Turismo e ao Cinema, which provides the Portuguese industry with aid of 12 million euros per year between 2018 and 2023, often in advance payments to production companies, it has been crucial to generate increasingly solid and relevant content. If this public fund promoted by the socialist government of António Costa also refers to tourism, it is because another of Portugal’s objectives is to turn the country into a regular shooting destination for international productions. For this reason, since 2019 there is the Portugal Film Commission. Its manager, Manuel Claro, passed through Madrid in January to participate in the FITUR tourism fair. “the house of the dragon —prequel to Game of Thrones– Y The Money Heist they have already shot in some Portuguese landscapes”, says Claro, who sets the year 2014, when the ICA began to open calls for aid for television, as “the moment everything changed”.

With the union of all these public and private agents, the professional event OnSeries Lisboa has been born, which since last year has brought together professionals from all over the world to strengthen their relationships with production companies from the neighboring country. “Before the pandemic, the co-production meetings between Portugal and the Xunta de Galicia were a first step that led us to OnSeries,” Claro recalls.

Both the leader of the Portugal Film Commission and that of APIT point out that the country has the advantage of observing how other countries have adapted before to this new audiovisual map, “noting down their successes and trying to avoid their mistakes,” says Claro. The director of the production company Portocabo agrees with them. “If there is something that Portugal has done better than other countries, it is that transversal collaboration between private companies and public institutions. Spain has more economic muscle, but it has been worse legislated in this aspect than Portugal has been”, he concludes.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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