Streamers have helped to “free up” Latin American producers to expand their scripted product, resulting in an evolution of the types of shows emerging from the region.
Netflix has moved from just one Lat Am title in 2015 to 72 last year, according to analyst firm Omdia, with the streamer investing heavily in countries such as Mexico with shows including Dale Gas and El Comediante.
However, others have since followed suit, with Amazon and HBO Max – both of which only five Lat Am-produced shows between them in 2019 – now producing almost 50 shows across Lat Am last year.
Leonardo Padrón, who was behind Colombian thriller Pálpito (aka The Marked Heart) for Netflix and La Mujer Del Diablo for Vix+, said more recent buyers had expanded the repertoire of Lat Am creatives and provided opportunities that are now being explored.
“The platforms have freed us up. We had a classic fear of the TV exec, now we have the greenlight to explore different types of storytelling structures and you’ve seen how this has changed the languages of shows. It makes you feel there is that air of innovation,” he added.
“Patterns have evolved,” added El Chapo creator Silvana Aguirre, co-founder & head of development at Fremantle-backed The Immigrant. She is currently working on Yellow for Lionsgate+ and said more traditional melodramas were changing.
“Melodramas are tried and truer and they work well in Latin America, it’s what we’re known for, but Latin melodrama is adapting. We are using the tools of melodrama to tell stories in a different way and that is good. It is a strength but there are risks – it is difficult to be limited to one genre.”
Aguirre added that producers had to ensure they were not “told the types of shows they should be telling” but rather reflect the “diversity” of the region and its storytellers.
Mauricio Leiva-Cock, who was showrunner of Amazon Prime Video’s La Cabeza de Joaquín Murrieta, added that the freedom was allowing creatives to explore the “grey” areas of characters.
Fellow showrunner Chascas Valenzuela, who was behind Netflix’s hit Spanish-language series Who Killed Sara?, added that having shows with shorter seasons also provided opportunity for more nuanced characters.
“If we have 140 or 180 episodes… we have the cliches and stereotypes there so the audience can immediately decode the show wherever they join.
“But if we can explore these characters more deeply thing can get blurry and that’s where we can insert ourselves – where the good guy can be good for a certain number of episodes, but then he might be come the villain.”