Advertisement

Amaya Muruzabal, ‘Red Queen’ Showrunner and ‘Hernán’ Creator, Launches M Content With ‘Love After Love’ Producer Mariano Chihade (EXCLUSIVE)

LILLE — Creating a major and ambitious new player on the Spanish-language film-TV scene, Amaya Muruzábal – showrunner, screenwriter, and executive producer on Amazon MGM Studios’ just-out big hit “Red Queen” and creator and executive producer on milestone production “Hernán” – is launching her own film-TV production house, M Content.

M Content is founded with Argentinean Mariano Chihade – the independent producer behind Juan Pablo Kolojdziej’s Netflix Fito Paez bioseries “Love After Music,” working out of Buenos Aires’ Mandarina Contenidos.

More from Variety

The new venture will produce series and films, some large-scale – “for better or for worse, I’ve specialized in big productions,” Muruzábal tells Variety – as well as what she describes as smaller “event” auteur titles.

A first slate will be unveiled in upcoming months. One “priority area” are several feature films: “I need to breathe and handle slightly briefer time periods,” Muruzábal said. Kolojdziej and Muruzábal are collaborating on a series and on a feature. Muruzábal is also recuperating rights to passion projects.

Muruzábal’s Biggest Hits

M Content will no doubt draw large heat. Released worldwide on Feb. 29 by Prime Video, “Red Queen” is one of Amazon MGM Studios biggest Spanish plays this year: Muruzábal calls it one of the biggest series in Spanish history. It will probably end up as one of Prime Video’s largest non-English successes. Adapting the first part of Juan Gómez Jurado’s bestselling novel trilogy and produced by Mexico-Spain-based Dopamine and Grup Focus, as of March 15, it was tracking at No. 4 on Prime Video worldwide, and at No. 1 of non-English language titles, according to FlixPatrol.

Produced by Mexico’s Dopamine, “Hernán” set “new standards of Hispanic TV ambition,” Variety announced in 2019. That can be taken various ways. What Muruzábal aims in creating M Content, she told Variety, is “to manage with creative freedom, being very conscious interns of management and the management of creativity. I have a global vision of the industry and of content, at one and the same time, a creative and entrepreneurial outlook.

She brought both to the fore on “Hernán,” bringing a creative solution to huge market challenge, shaping a production acceptable to backers and viewers on both sides of the Atlantic, Mexico and the U.S., telling the story of the hugely controversial Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortes, from highly divergent view points.

Produced by Dopamine in Mexico, “Hernán” also proved a pioneering multi-platform release attracting a streamer for specific territories. Dopamine attracting Mexican commercial broadcaster TV Azteca, then Amazon Prime Video in Spain, Onza as a co-producer, Amazon in Latin America and A&E’s History Channel.

“Latin Coolness”

“Hernán” was Muruzábal’s first Mexican production. “One thing I can offer to the market is that I’m Spanish but clearly have a Latin American as well as European heart,” said Muruzábal, who lived and worked three years in Mexico and three more in Uruguay.

“What I’m doing I call Latin Coolness, or Latin European. I like and I feel very European and I like very much the refined narrative, coolness and even size of European productions, which are a little bit bigger than Spain’s,” she said. “I would like Latino and Spanish storytelling to do what Latino music has achieved in the world, because I firmly believe in Latino heart.”

U.S. Beats… 

Her work also draws on powerful artistic energies driving Spanish TV’s global breakout. “Red Queen’s” opening scene displays many of them (see box). Why Spanish content travels so well is partly “because of the beats of Spanish content, the rhythm to it…You see that people are familiar with American content, so they’re used to those beats,” James Farrell, Prime Video VP of international originals, said just after the “Red Queen” premiere in Madrid.

Those beats are playfully ultra clear, a classic suspense thriller set-up even down to a Hitchcock quote, mixed with character introspection – a stunning sequence in which Antonia compares options for suicide – high melodrama, and a local touch in its setting in quaint red-roof narrow streets of older Madrid.

Modern Spain drama series emerged in the ‘90s, Muruzábal said, from “a personal desire to write American series-style productions with their universality, but still a Hispanic heart, which understands drama and melodrama, in the noble sense of the word.”

At the same time, I’m a social writer. My sources of inspiration have to be pertinent to what’s important for society here and now.”

… And Ambition 

The next step for Spain, she added, is to “make series like cinema – each episode of ‘Red Queen’ is like its own film –  and elevate TV storytelling and the management of projects, really understanding globally the industry from beginning to end.”

“The U.K. has had ‘Harry Potter.’ Why can’t we recognize the merit of an author like Juan Gómez Jurado, responsible for three million Spaniards getting to work late the following day because they’ve been reading ‘The Red Queen.’”

Muruzábal is likely to bring this ambition to her projects to come.    

“Red Queen’s” Opening Scene

A high-in-a-blue-sky drone shot zooms in on the red-brick roofs of a traditional part of Madrid and to an up-shot of a woman, Antonia (Vicky Luengo, “Riot Police”), standing on a window apparently just about to jump. A man, unruly cop Jon Gutiérrez (Hovik Kuechkerian, “Money Heist”), body of a heavyweight boxer, emerges from a taxi, and begins to climb the stairs to the woman’s flat.

Unconscious of the woman’s suicidal intention, he stops to talk with a little girl. A “Vertigo” reverse shot down the stairwell. Upstairs, the camera pans from one window to another of Antonia’s flat showing her trying out various kinds of suicide –  hanging herself, slitting her wrists in a tub, samurai seppuku – as the thoughts flash through her head. Gutiérrez arrives, but Antonia jumps.

Juan Pablo Kolodziej and Mariano Chihade
Juan Pablo Kolodziej and Mariano Chihade

Best of Variety

Sign up for Variety’s Newsletter. For the latest news, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.