Ventana Sur: Producer Rocio Scenna on International Emmy-Nominated ‘La Casa del Mar’

Emiliano Granada
Variety

Although Argentina is one of Latin America’s production powers which has most openly embraced genres of late in both film and television, Juan Pablo Laplace’s Intl. Emmy-nominated TV series “La Casa del Mar” stands apart. A missing girl thriller set at a village resort on the Argentine coast, on one hand, it taps into recent currents in contemporary European thrillers. On the other, set in modern-day Argentina, it finds a tone all of its own. That gives rise to a series that stands as a business and artistic model of one way that far more Latin American series are likely to go in the near future. Co-produced by Buenos Aires-based Cisne, founded by Laplace and Rocío Scenna, the series was not only nominated for an Emmy in Best Drama but currently vies for five Tato Awards including best fiction program, actress and cinematography.  Bidding fair for quality TV production in Argentina, “La Casa del Mar” was financed by a combination of private sector producers and state coin from Argentina’s Incaa Film Institute. The show was created, produced and directed by Juan Pablo Laplace who tragically died on July 8, having made one of the most successful series on OnDirecTV. Variety talked to Scenna about “La Casa del Mar.”

What TV references did you start working with on “La Casa del Mar”? And how did you develop its themes moving into Season 2?

“Twin Peaks,” “True Detective,” “The Killing,” among others. It’s not that “La Casa del Mar” has any particular link with these series, but they were important references. Especially “Twin Peaks,” a unique classic. And the other two were important to us because of how they treated tone, plot and acting in the context of a crime thriller, creating a language of their own, which was Juan Laplace’s main goal. The second season continues the story of Laura Ramos, her family and the investigation of police inspector Pelazas. We wanted to underscore the factor of politics and power that are linked to police work, which is a very Latin American take. Juan Laplace worked alongside [Argentine dramatist] Lautaro Vilo for the second season. It was a very enriching experience.

One prominent element in the series is the music and how it adds to this thriller a completely different tone. What were you looking for with it? 

The music is from Noroeste, we worked with them on our previous series, “Perfidia.” For us, the music had to complement this particular language that we were working on. Juan worked with Pedro Gómez and Martín Chebli Murad trying to generate with the music moments of transition, tension and plenitude.

Many actors worked both on “La Casa del Mar” as well as “Perfidia,” also directed by Juan Laplace. What were the reasons for using the same actors? 

Mainly because they did an excellent job on “Perfidia” and Juan was very comfortable working with them. Actors need to work with their emotions and to do that they need to feel comfortable in order to give their best. Juan always rehearsed a lot with them before beginning shooting. Working with actors that you already  know and feel are part of the team is a great advantage for a series. In that sense, new actors are always a great challenge and we had a great experience in the second season of “La Casa del Mar” where many new talents joined the team like Soledad Villamil (who was recently nominated for best actress for the Tato Awards), Federico Olivera, Luis Luque and Norman Briski, among others.

”La Casa del Mar” has great production values in every department including the participation of renowned actors such as Dario Grandinetti, and a mix of public and private sector finance. When you set out to make these series, were you conscious that you were helping to create new, groundbreaking models for Argentine TV, seen in the thriller format and the series’ far shorter length? 

With the first season, we won funding from Argentina’s Incaa Institute, via its federal fiction series contest. We knew we had a great opportunity and a huge challenge. We had premiered on public TV our previous series “Perfidia.” It had seen local and international success. But the money from the prize wasn’t enough so we looked for partners to really make the series we dreamt about and we found StoryLab and DirecTV. We also had support from the city of Necochea. We knew we were doing something different that no one had done combining a state contest with private sector moneys. It wasn’t easy to open up that route but it was  a great experience.

What is Cisne currently working on?

We are of course at a stage of many changes and harvesting the the results from work well done. The International Emmy Awards nomination was very important. It opened many doors and is a great window for the international industry and a great opportunity for growth. There’s a lot of interest in the remake of “La Casa del Mar” for the English-speaking market. “Perfidia” will be made in the U.K. by the production company DLT. Juan Laplace was my partner in and outside the company so I want to continue what we built together. With our team we are developing film and TV projects. We do high-quality fiction, that’s our specialty. The gameplay is to continue with a new TV project called “Angels in Buenos Aires” and a feature film that we are developing. We would love to keep working on future projects with both StoryLab and DirecTV with whom we had an excellent  experience.

What are the key factors conditioning your work and key trends now driving Argentine TV production? 

Over the last years, TV production in Argentina has changed radically. The market has opened up to new players like us, small production companies that with the help of subsidies have been able to gain a foothold in the market. INCAA funding is going very much in the right direction since it combines private and the public finance from the get-go. In Argentina, audience consumption of series is on the upswing and will continue to grow. Our challenge is to continue to pursue standards of international quality. “La Casa del Mar” aired in Latin America on  the channel OnDirecTV that also programs series like “Fargo”  the original “The Killing,” “Deutschland ’83” and we have to rise to that challenge.

How do you think “La Casa del Mar” could help change the future Argentine TV? 

Series transcend frontiers, we consume series all around the world. And we achieve that with local product. The way audiences consume TV is changing incredibly fast. Regarding fiction series, quality will be increasingly important because now the spectator is the one who decides. There’s less chance to impose content like happened and continues to happen in free-to-air and cable TV. Audience have more and more power. Once again we have to rise to the challenge.

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