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Sheila Aguirre, EVP of Content Distribution and Format Sales, Latin America, International, Fremantle.

“Stay focused, be the very best at what we do, and deliver content that adds value and serves a purpose to the lives of viewers”

Broadcaster got in contact with Sheila Aguirre, EVP of Content Distribution and Format Sales, Latin America & International of Fremantle, to talk about how the company prepares for the next edition of Natpe, how was this year for the firm and what are the main goals for the future, among other things

Despite unprecedented challenges, Fremantle was able to deliver the majority of their top productions including American IdolAmerica’s Got Talent and many of their game shows. Also, several scripted series were initially put on pause, but “I’m happy to report that a great number have since commenced production under new COVID-19 guidelines”, expressed Aguirre.

In Latin America, Uruguay’s Channel 10 saw the very successful launch and seamless broadcast of Uruguay’s Got Talent, while the Dominican Republic’s East Coast Productions produced their second successful season of Dominicana’s Got Talent. Other formats like Hole in the Wall in Argentina saw a successful run on Telefe, and Globo TV’s Family Feud produced its first season.  “While things slowed down and were a bit foggy during the ongoing lockdowns, by year end, the pace had picked up and there was clear direction”.

Also, 2021 for the EVP is looking promising. This year, Fabula will begin production on Senorita Mexico, a joint venture with StarzPlay and Pantaya.  Moreover, X-Factor makes its comeback on RCN in Colombia, while Chile’s Got Talent will launch later this year on Megavision. “Tape sales are also seeing an uplift and we will be announcing several new deals for the new year soon”, she declared.

By the way, Latin America is absolutely key to Fremantle’s company-wide mission to “entertain the world” and to be “the place creatives call home.” As proof of this, “we now have a 25% stake in The Immigrant, the Latinx indie led by the very talented duo Camila Jimenez-Villa, former CEO of Story House Entertainment, and Silvana Aguirre, creator and showrunner of hit series El Chapo who also served as Creative Director at Story House”. The Immigrant has a phenomenal slate of 2021 productions to be announced with many exciting projects in the pipeline. Fremantle has experienced significant growth in Latin America over the past two years not only in distribution of globally renowned series such as Wildside’s The Young Pope and My Brilliant Friend as well as Samuel L. Jackson-fronted documentary series Enslaved, but also series in production working alongside Oscar award-winning Fabula Productions who we are proud to be partnered with through our first look deal. “2020 saw the successful launch of La Jauria, our first drama production ever in the region which to date has sold to 73 territories globally. Fremantle’s expansion into the region will grow in 2021 with the announcement of more Latin American originals to be produced”, she said.

By the way, the industry has changed. There has been an obvious seismic shift in audience’s viewing habits globally. Regardless of COVID-19, change was inevitable. COVID-19 simply accelerated the transformation of moving into a digital world. Aguirre said that “many important lessons had to be learned quickly, such as everything is adaptable, this became obvious as we were forced to move to a virtual environment under stressful conditions. Likewise, constant communication and maintaining relationships has been key to making the transformation successful. Another important lesson is the need to innovate during difficult and dark moments. All in all, I would say that regardless of new habits and trends, which will always be changing, the need for communication and innovation would always remain front and center”.

About new habits of video consume, the EVP of Fremantle express that nothing is permanent, habits are constantly changing, more so in our industry. “With that said, when we think about content, the focal point must always be the human connection, connecting creativity, entertaining. So long as we remain focused on creating content that connects with audiences, we can’t go wrong”.

For this 2021, the company’s objectives will be based on “stay focused, be the very best at what we do, and deliver content that adds value and serves a purpose to the lives of viewers”.

NATPE buyers will get a preview of Fremantle’s top-line content for 2021. Additionally, they  will be presenting formats that can be safely, economically and easily produced in a COVID-19 environment.

ANNA (6 x 60’)

The series follows a stubborn, extremely brave child as she sets off in search of her kidnapped brother. In her long trip through burnt fields and mysterious woods, among the ruins of shopping centers and abandoned cities, through the large desolated spaces of an island that nature and wild communities of survivors have managed to win back, Anna can rely on a notebook her mother left her with the instructions to survive. And day after day she discovers that the rules of the past no longer apply; she will have to invent new ones.

The very young debutants featured in the series are Clara Tramontano (Angelica) and Giovanni Mavilla (Pietro). The broader cast also includes Roberta Mattei (Don’t Be Bad, Italian Race, Il primo Natale) and Elena Lietti (Like Crazy, Tre piani) as Anna and Astor’s missing mother. This is the second time Elena Lietti is directed by Ammaniti after The Miracle, in which she played Sole Pietromarchi, the troubled wife of the Prime Minister played by Guido Caprino.

REYKA (8 x 60’)

Reyka follows a flawed but brilliant criminal profiler, Reyka Gama (Kim Engelbrecht). Haunted by her past, she investigates a string of brutal murders committed by a serial killer in the sugarcane fields of KwaZulu-Natal. Having been abducted as a child by a farmer named Speelman (Iain Glen), Reyka is traumatised by the experience but this also helps her enter the minds of Africa’s most notorious criminals and turn them inside out. Manipulative and charming, his hold on Reyka, 20 years later, forms part of the backbone of the story, as does Reyka’s relationship with her mother Elsa, played by Anna-Mart van der Merwe (Binnelanders, Kanarie and Poppie Nongena). Reyka exposes the secrets and lies, truth and trust, damage, healing and forgiveness. With a dramatic backdrop of sugar cane fields, tropical beaches, stifling heat, dangerous wildlife, a criminal underworld, and shadowy politics – each place is connected by sugar but divided in so many other ways.

HOW IT FEELS TO BE FREE (1 x 120’)

How It Feels to Be Free takes an unprecedented look at the intersection of African American women artists, politics, and entertainment and tells the story of how six trailblazing performers, Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Diahann Carroll, Nina Simone, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier changed American culture through their films, fashion, their music and their politics. Directed by award-winning filmmaker Yoruba Richen and based on of the book How It Feels to Be Free: Black Women Entertainers and the Civil Rights Movementby Ruth Feldstein, the film examines the lives of these women and how they used their ground-breaking careers as platforms to advocate for change and reshape representation of Black women on stage and screen. The film includes archival footage of the six women, as well as original interviews from contemporary scholars and entertainers, including Diahann Carroll, Pam Grier, Alicia Keys, Lena Waithe, Halle Berry, Yolonda Ross, Samuel and Latanya Jackson, and Lena Horne’s daughter, Gail Lumet Buckley. The first documentary to focus on the crucial role Black female entertainers played in the ongoing struggle over inclusion and representation in American mass media, How it Feels to Be Freeprovides important context for the highly-charged contemporary debate over race and gender in Hollywood and shows how these women laid the path for the renaissance in Black entertainment that we see today.

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