Spanish Female Showrunners Insights: Laura Sarmiento (Netflix’s ‘El Cuerpo En llamas’)

Laura Sarmiento

Spanish scripted shows are finding new audiences around the world. In this new series of articles, TBI speaks to some of the showrunners behind the country’s most acclaimed series, today fetauring Laura Sarmiento, whose latest show was El Cuerpo En llamas (Burning Body) for Netflix.

We’ve seen streamers and broadcasters cutting spending around the world over the last year, how has this affected Spain’s scripted sector from your perspective?

In Spain many projects are still being launched, but fewer and fewer are moving into a serious development phase. Screenwriting is required, but for shorter periods: to start a story that will probably die a few weeks later, in the first meeting with the platform.

Tell us about your latest show and what makes it unique.

My latest show is El Cuerpo En llamas (Burning Body) for Netflix. It’s a true crime fiction and also a thriller, but it’s mainly a psychological portrait of the killers, a couple of unsatisfied people with inability to face life as it is, which in my opinion, is a very common trait.

I focused on the domesticity of the killing and on the self-delusion that is required to make the decision of killing someone. And, even when it’s more psychological than focused on the investigation, surprisingly a lot of people have binge-watched it, which reaffirms my theory that characters lie at the core of fiction. Or maybe it was all because Úrsula Corberó (Money Heist) plays the lead character, which is also a very understandable reason to watch a show.

If you could wish for one thing to change within the Spanish scripted industry, what would it be?

I still think there should be much more recognition for the writers, which means two main things: more respect for their artistic will/vision; and higher salaries. It’s getting better when it comes to the first demand (and sometimes much better, I’ve felt particularly respected by Netflix during the creation of Intimacy and Burning Body). But I can’t see the improvement when it comes to the second one and I’m in a privileged position.
Apart from that – and it’s not just a Spanish problem but a global one – but the proportion of female showrunners is still amazingly low.

How have budgets changed over the past year and what are you expecting in 2024?

When it comes to the script department, salaries seem to have frozen. Or, in some cases, they’re even lower than in the first years after the arrival of the streaming platforms. I’m not sure what to expect about 2024. Even when Burning Body was a hit, I’ve been offered contracts with low fees. But I am not really sure if the reason is some sort of financial crisis or the lack of respect for the writers I mentioned before.

What do you expect the key trend to be in 2024 in terms of the types of shows being commissioned?

There seems to be an obsession with thriller and true crime in the development departments. But at least everybody seems to be aware of it, so I hope that other paths of fiction and non-fiction will be followed.

What has been your favourite Spanish-language show of the past 12 months?

I really enjoyed Poquita Fe from Movistar Plus+. It is a minimalistic comedy about the domestic life of the most common couple you could imagine. The concept is so boring that of course it’s already funny. I loved its level of thoroughness and I laughed out loud watching it.

Tell us about one of your passion projects that you would love or make but which is yet to be greenlit

A comedy. Please. It’s not easy to be commissioned a comedy when you’re 1. a woman, and 2. a screenwriter with too much experience in dramas. But I’ve always watched comedies and I do feel like writing them.

For those looking to learn more about the latest trends in Spanish scripted, check out the articles below:

Spanish Female Showrunners Insights: Tatiana Rodriguez (TVE’s ‘La Ley Del Mar’)
Spanish Female Showrunners Insights: Gema R. Neira (Netflix’s ‘El Caso Asunta’)
Spanish Female Showrunners Insights: Amaya Muruzabal (Prime Video’s ‘Reina Roja’)

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