‘Homeland’s’ Ran Tellem on the Art of Crafting Global Action Thrillers

“Homeland” creator Ran Tellem, whose hit thriller “The Head” was released across Asia this June, stressed the importance of nurturing local talent and placing faith in writers during his Conecta Fiction keynote.

During an online conversation with “Vendetta” executive producer Raffaella Bonivento, the head of The Mediapro Studio’s international content development arm said that finding talent outside Spain was an integral part of his role.

“That could be a great chef, or a writer or production company,” he said.

He added that shaping roles to fit stars in territories that are key production partners is sometimes essential – as was the case with “The Head”, a six-part limited series co pro with Hulu Japan and HBO Asia.

Tellem credits part of show’s success in Japan and Asia – where it has remained number one in its slot for the last six weeks – with the casting of one of Japan’s biggest music and TV stars -Tomoisha Yamashita.

He added that while the star was keen to discuss his own character, he was not concerned with the plot or any other aspect of the show.

“The response across Asia to having Tom in the show has been great. And there has been fan fiction, drawings, a huge sign by a crossing in Tokyo – it’s quite amazing the way people treat TV shows in Japan,” he said.

Tellem added that The Mediapro Studio is currently brain storming how season two might look – as it’s not much of a spoiler to add here that most of the cast do not finish the season alive.

“We’re trying to keep the core elements – a crime thriller; no police; an isolated place. And we are taking a look at the “True Detective” limited series model that returns with similar themes or subjects but different characters and settings,” he reveals.

Tellem described “The Head” as “peculiar” because it doesn’t ground to a specific nation: It was written by the Catalan-born writers Alex and David Pastor, in English, with a cast from Demark, Japan, Britain, Spain and Ireland.

“This is why it had to be a very human story: a story of survival and how far people will go to succeed. It’s a story that can screen anywhere and that international reach is a big step forward for Mediapro,” he added.

While Mediapro’s upcoming political crime thriller “Submarine” – which sees Brazil’s first nuclear submarine taken over by a criminal organization – appears more local in flavor, the production company still required English scripts to fulfill its international ambitions.

Key to getting the balance right, Tellem adds, was finding the right production company – in this case Globo Studios – and placing faith in lead writer Marcos Bernstein (“Central Station”).

“We met Marcos in Rio and he told me that he wanted to make this series his “Homeland” – layered and conspiratorial. We immediately clicked and I could see where we could take the story, ” Tellem said.

The TV exec added that the show is now firmly in Bernstein’s hands. “You have to put your trust in the writers. There’s always this moment where I tell them: ‘There’s only going to be one pair of hands on the keyboard – and that’s yours, not mine – I trust you to do the show in the way we agreed but it’s up to you to anchor it’.”

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