Starzplay, Bambu Wrap Production on Brand Defining Adult Industry Chronicle ‘Nacho’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Lionsgate-owned Starzplay, Starz’s premium international streaming service, and Spain’s Bambú Producciones, producer of “Cable Girls,” are wrapping production on “Nacho,” one of Starzplay highest-profile productions as it builds its burgeoning international originals portfolio.

Premium U.S. Spanish-language SVOD service Pantaya – already a partner with Starzplay on Lucia Puenzo’s “Señorita 89,” Pablo Fendrik’s “El Refugio” and Sofía Auza and Silviana Aguirre’s “Yellow” – will release “Nacho” in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

Starzplay distributes in Spain and Latin America. Elsewhere, Lionsgate will oversee international distribution.

Starzplay has shared with Variety a first-look image from the eight-part series, inspired by the life and times of Nacho Vidal, an adult film industry legend. Taken to California by Rocco Siffredi in 1998, Vidal became the sector’s first Spanish international mega-star.

The series is associate produced in Spain by La Claqueta. Caught on a late June set-visit, few productions look to capture better not only Starzplay’s production philosophy but also Bambu’s drive to keep pushing the envelope on drama series production. Here are 8 takes on what “Nacho” says about both.

 Starzplay: Adults Only

“You have to have local production, if you want to be relevant. There’s just too many good stories with too many good creative players in all these markets, especially Spain,” Jeff Cooke, Starz senior VP, programming, international digital networks, told Variety just after the set visit.

Entering relatively late in the game, launching in most of international from 2018, Starzplay’s challenge has been to become a rapidly relevant local player. One way is to stand very obviously apart. Starzplay series have “an adult target. We don’t want products for the whole family,” Mireia Acosta, Starzplay’s development and production executive in Spain, told delegates at June’s Conecta Fiction. “Nacho” is an obvious case in point.

Co-production: A Compelling Case

“Nacho” is “mainly produced for Starzplay,” said Cooke. Other titles – “All Those Things We Never Said” with Studiocanal, “Señorita 89” and “El Refugio” with Pantaya, Fabula and Fremantle – are co-productions. Cooke commented: “It’s interesting when we can come to companies and say: ‘Look, we don’t want to do a work-for-hire deal. We realise that you need some skin in the game, it’s your creation. We’ve heard that that’s a really compelling reason to work with us.” Little wonder other partners on Starzplay’s dozen-or-so international original series take in “Das Boot” executive producer Moritz Polter (“Night in Paradise”) and “Deutschland 83” co-creator Jörg Winger (“Ouija”).

”Bold, edgy and provocative”: Starzplay Originals

Starzplay can’t compete with big global streamers in terms of volume production. So again, it need to stand out in different ways. The first look photo captures Martiño Rivas, the male lead of “Cable Girls,” as Nacho, and María de Nati, recently seen in Netflix hit “The Wrong Side of the Tracks,” as the real life Sara Bernat, a sex worker who discovers Nacho’s extraordinary talents and takes him to perform in an on-stage sex show at Barcelona’s Sala Bagdad. At first Nacho can’t relax in front of live audiences. “We need series that are brand defining: Bold, edgy and provocative,” said Cooke. “A show’s got to resonate, make people’s even turn their head to say: “What is this show? It’s on Starzplay, I need to find out more about that service,” he added. Again, “Nacho” fits the bill.

Distinctive Styles for Different Life Chapters

Discovered by Spanish director Jose María Ponce, with whom he debuts as an adult movie performer, Vidal is taken by Rocco Siffredi’s to his Budapest studio and then on to California. “The show really jumps through time, to different locations, career areas,” said Cooke. That opens to the door to visual style change, he added. Bambu and Starzplay actively encouraged the series’ three directors – David Pinillos (“Cable Girls”), Beatriz Sanchis (“The Gigantes”), Eduardo Casanova (“La Pietà”) – to pursue their hallmark visual styles. From the first look photo, early scenes at the Sala Bagdad fairly pop. “I’ve been allowed to be myself,” Eduardo Casanova told Variety on set in Ibiza, which doubled up for California, where he was shooting a scene of Nacho in conversation with Bellísima (Miriam Giovanelli), costume and decor boasting various shades of pink. He used golden tones for earlier scenes of Nacho in Hungary, where he begins to triumph, he added. “People in the adult industry have lived many lives in one,” observed Giovanelli. The series’ style drives at much the same point.

”Nacho”: Told by Women

Fernández Valdés and fellow Bambu co-founder Ramon Campos first broke out in 2007 with “Desaparecida,” bringing a U.S. cable sense of pace, plot complexity and darker psychology to a Spain-set missing daughter thriller. From “Grand Hotel” (2011-13) and “Velvet” (2013-16), they sought to revolutionise women’s melodrama, offering series made with exquisite production values and modern gender values to audiences whose mothers consumed telenovelas. Though more of a dramedy, “Nacho” is still very much in this line. Showrun by Fernández-Valdés, it is written by “Cable Girls” four main women scribes: Fernández-Valdés, Gema R. Neira, María José Rustarazo and Flora G. Villanueva. “If this series had been written by men, it might not have seen the light of day,” Fernández-Valdés said in Ibiza. “We didn’t want this to be a show that really talks to the male gaze behind the camera, it was important for us to have some balance,” Cooke added.

….For Women – as Well as Men

“What we discovered when we researched was that there were a lot of important women in Nacho’s life, and these are often strong, sexually active women who enjoy sex, but are capable of drawing lines in terms of consent,” said Fernández-Valdés. The first part of “Nacho” turns on his relationship with Sara. When Vidal suggests a certain kind of sex, she refuses point blank. Hungarian-born Spanish adult industry star Sophie Evans, whose figure also appears in the series, was hired as a dancer at a roadside club in Asturias in northern Spain. When she discovered she was expected to work as a prostitute, she packed her bags and left the same night.”In Nacho’s story at least, I haven’t discovered women who were victims or felt trapped,” Fernández Valdés said.

Getting at Nacho’s Human Dimension…. 

“When we first presented a screenplay to Starzplay, we took a pretty measured story and they said, ‘No, we’re looking for something that’s far more way out, so we presented ‘Nacho,’” Fernandez Valdés recalled. After that, Starzplay was “very interested in humanizing the characters, understanding what drives someone to become a porn actor, how that conditions his life, and how he relates to his family,” she continued. “’Boogie Nights’ was, tonally, always like our North Star,” Cooke added. “There’s a fondness to it. These aren’t people who are victimised, they’re wilfully wanting to do this. Shows have to be entertaining, but there has to be something deeper to them, which makes you feel something, to somehow really see yourself and have a sort of empathy with the characters.”

So What’s “Nacho” Really About?

“It talks about identity, being who you want to be, not necessarily conforming to something that society is telling you to do,” said Cooke. “Nacho tears up the rule-book, lives life to the limit with large intelligence and a total lack of fear,” added Rivas. It also got several messages, said Fernández-Valdés. One is that “Superman doesn’t fly.” “Young people want to know about sex. The easiest window of access is watching porn. But we have to tell them that it’s fiction, not reality. There’s a screenplay, it’s directed at men, women play a secondary role. Porn can’t be seen as a model for a first night of sex.”