“Hernan” co-creator and lead writer Francisco “Curro” Royo, one of the premier show runners in Spain and the Spanish-speaking world, has signed with The Gersh Agency and set up his own production company, Dystopia Media.
Royo will be represented at Gersh Agency by partner Roy Ashton.
Already readying its first slate of projects in development, Dystopia Media, which will be based out of Madrid, underscores the growing market muscle and ambition of Spain’s foremost screenwriters.
“The next step is for writers and show runners to become producers,” said Royo, pointing to the example of Spain’s Alex Pina and Ramón Campos.
“Money Heist” co-creator Pina set up his own label Vancouver Media in 2016, going on to co-produce “Money Heist” and sign an overall deal with Netflix in 2018.
Established by “Velvet” and “Cable Girls” creator Ramón Campos and producer Teresa Fernández-Valdés in 2007, Bambu Producciones has grown into one of the biggest TV producers in Spain.
Dystopia Media, which has already attracted private-sector investment, will focus on project development, addressing one of the biggest challenges currently facing international production, Royo told Variety.
The company launches as fast-growing OTT platforms are driving a huge demand for new series.
“Now is the time for content, and development is key,” said Royo, arguing that a lot of development is being stopped because producers don’t have enough money to pay for pilots or need to raise more financing.
Dystopia Media can count on “connections to produce,” Royo added.
Signing with Hollywood and New York-based The Gersh Agency, the sixth largest in the U.S., is “a way to open up new opportunities, to work abroad on bigger projects and bigger budgets. I’m ready to explore new things and new markets,” Royo told Variety.
Royo has yet to announce projects he has in development but one of his largest assets is ambition.
“One of the best experiences of my life as a writer,” said Royo, was also his biggest production to date, co-showrunning “Hernán” with Mexico’s Julian de Tavira. Produced and financed by Mexico’s Dopamine, a Salinas Group unit, in collaboration with Spain’s Onza Entertainment, the historical epic was talked up when made as the most expensive independent Hispanic series ever.
World premiering in November 2019 as an Amazon Prime Video exclusive, it was aired days later on Azteca 7 in Mexico and The History Channel Latin America.
“It was a wonderful ensemble,” said Royo of the multi-platform distribution, talent mix and structure of “Hernán,” who comes in at the polemical conquistador Cortés from eight different POVs, including his own.
“After the success of ‘Money Heist,’ we are ready to show to the world that we can produce shows with state of the art ambitions we could handle any budget, any production we want to here in Spain. Now we are producing for the whole world and we could go much bigger,” Royo told Variety.
As Latin America builds as one of the fastest growing streaming markets in the world and Mexico its center, Royo seems to know everyone in its industry. He’s also highly enthusiastic about working there. “As a friend of mine says, ‘Mexico is not a country, it’s a continent.’ And it’s wonderful. I love the food. I love the people.”
Royo was part of a first TV revolution as private-sector broadcasters launched in Spain in the 1990s, cutting his teeth in part on genre movies such as 2000’s “The Art of Dying,” produced by then Madrid-based Francisco Ramos, now Netflix vice president of Latin American content, who was attempting to bring a market-attuned edge to Spanish cinema.
A scriptwriter on iconic series which helped blow U.S. scripted out of Spanish primetime – 1995’s “Family Doctor,” 1998’s “Periodistas” – before taking on the longest writing gig of his career, 11 years from 2006-17 on “Remember When” (“Cuentame Cómo Pasó”), a warm, retro “Wonder Years”-style portrait of a Spanish from the first hints of modernisation in 1968 – in the first episode the Alcantaras buy a television – through to democracy in 1977 and through into the 199os.
Here, Royo’s love of history shines through. One of his favorite writing experiences in a 25 year career was the eighth season of “Remember When,” set over 1974-75 in Spain where mother Mercedes suffers breast cancer and has a mastectomy.
“We got in touch with doctors, now retired, who related the massive operations they’d had to perform on women in the ’70s. It was like carnage, and we talked to the women who survived those processes and listened to stories they told.
Royo’s favorite episodes in “Hernán” are the first and fifth. The series hits the ground running with Cortés, already installed in the Aztec capital rushing back to the coast to confront troops sent by his arch enemy, the Governor of Cuba, to arrest him. In a few brush strokes, Royo nails the essence of Cortés – his legalistic mind, his loyalty to friends, his strategy of seducing part of the Aztec Empire to battle against its overlords – without ever breaking the momentum of action.
In Episode Five, Moctezuma is dying and feels feels abandoned by his gods. Cortés wants to save him from hell. “They are enemies but they are like two friends who really care one for each other. I love that story. I love those characters,” Royo says.
It is this gift for sophisticated mainstream entertainment which should stand him good stead in an exciting future.
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