The setting for “The Head” Season 2, the second part of one of Spain’s biggest breakout hits, is a massive ocean freighter at the Pacific Ocean’s Nemo Point, the most remote place on earth, 1,681 miles from land.
The set for many of its interiors, including the freighter’s high-tech research lab, is slightly more accessible – Villaviciosa de Odón, 8 miles from central Madrid. A set visit on Wednesday said much about one of Spain’s biggest upcoming TV swings, now building into a franchise. Following, six takeaways:
Sell it Again, Sam
Many series only move into profit in their second season. That’s most probably not the case of “The Head,” whose first instalment has already hit gold dust, selling to over 90 countries, including HBO Max for the U.S, for producer The Mediapro Studio. Other buyers take in best-of-class players: HBO (Latin America and HBO Asia), Starzplay (U.K., Germany), Canal Plus (France), Amazon’s Prime Video (Italy, Netherlands), NENT (Scandinavia), SBS (Australia) and Orange TV (Spain). This powerful roll-out certainly has had a knock-on for Season 2 whose sales are going “phenomenally well” with frequent repeat business, Laura Fernández Espeso, CEO of The Mediapro Studio, told Variety during the set visit. “The Head” S2 is produced once more in association with Hulu Japan. Fernández Espeso added that “The Head” forms part of a larger growth move into English-language production, which includes a U.S. show with John Turturro – “We have a fantastic show which we hope to produce for next year” – and eight titles in various phases of development set up with “highly relevant” U.K.-based writers.
Scaling Up on Production
“The Head” Season 1 was set at an Antarctic research station, Polaris VI, to which a team of scientists return after a sunless winter to find nearly all their team dead or missing. Remarkably, much production took place at a 22,000 sq. ft. one-time Mercedes warehouse on a hilltop in Tenerife, not so far from the Sahara desert. For S2, which went into production on May 15, TMS went one better, renting a real life, 144 meter long by 22 meters wide tanker, capable of carrying 12,000 tons of containers. The tanker sailed from Cadiz to Tenerife, captured by drone photography, where TMS shot on board with actors for three weeks. Scenes were carefully divvied up between the tanker, called the Alexandria, ocean scenes lensed on an oil rig off Ireland, and the Madrid set, featuring the tanker’s cabins, cramped corridors and swanky research lab, with a giant aquarium.
Diving Deeper into Character
“We wanted to do something bigger, more locations, elevate it in all senses, in production and story,” said Fernández Espeso. S1’s two survivors are renowned biologist Arthur Wilde (John Lynch), head of Polaris VI’s scientific mission, and Maggie (Katharine O’Donnelly), the station’s young doctor. But she suffers Polar T3 syndrome – psychosis, memory loss. And their stories clash: It’s his word against hers. In S2, Wilde and Maggie are both on the Alexandria. S1 retains S1 hallmarks: Isolation, a survival thriller come murder mystery, no police, a hugely international-facing drama and, yes, the early discovery of a decapitated head, once belonging to a research team member. One of the big storytelling departures on Season 2, however, is to tell the story as it happens, said Ran Tellem, TMS director of development of international content. So the fate of the crew is not known at the get-go, unlike S1. Equally, flashbacks tell characters’ backstory, diving deeper into their complexities.
”The Head” S2: A Father-Daughter Love Story?
Nowhere will these complexities run deeper than with the character of Arthur Wilde. He emerged in Season One as a man who parlays his renown into systematic gender abuse of his female colleagues. On set in Madrid on Thursday, his hair gray, bearded, a bandaid plaster over one brow after slipping on set, John Lynch looked a shadow of his quietly patriarchal figure in S1. Broken by a year in prison, Wilde begins S2 confronting another curveball: His own estranged daughter, a member of the Alexandria research team. “In a way, the season’s arc is their accepting each other as father and daughter. She comes to understand what motivates him. He sees someone he’s never met before: Someone he can trust, because it’s his daughter,” Tellem told Variety. Season 2 is proving more emotional in many ways than S1, Lynch admitted to Variety.
These days, top series expected to not only be cinematographic, but push the envelope on visuals. The use of camera lens in “The Head” is a case in point, said Jorge Dorado, (“The Pier,” “Giants”), director of both seasons. Dorado and S1 and S2 DP David Acereto shot characters with different lenses, using for Wilde and Maggie a wide-angled 27 lens which effectively blurs backgrounds, emphasizing character. “Every scene depends on the place and the character. Each has a different treatment in terms of visuals,” Dorado told Variety.
In S1, cast was obliged to wear ice-packs, so they felt really cold, despite Tenerife’s sweltering August sun. In S1, the side panels of the ships corridors were constructed out of hard cardboard, painted white, because it was the only way to make them look like metal. Cabins replicate those found on the real-life tanker, down to plates on their doors with “Two Men” also written in Portuguese as “Dos Homens,” a nod to the tanker’s construction in Brazil.
Critical and Professional Reactions
That realism has been noted. “Watching this, I could practically feel the ice crystals forming on my beard – and I don’t even have a beard,” Suzi Feay wrote in The Financial Times.
Tellem began his set visit presentation noting that, when researching “The Head” Season 1, he and the screenwriters found out about a research station in the Antarctic which would celebrate the shortest day of the year by watching a scary movie. A scene in “The Head” S1 captures this, with the research team catching John Carpenter’s “The Thing.” Something like two weeks ago, O’Donnelly got an email from a station at the South Pole saying that this year they wouldn’t be watching a movie but “The Head.”
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