BOGOTA – “Seleccion natural” (Natural Selection), the first major Web series project in Colombia, is taking aim at cultural taboos, providing movie quality viewing on the Internet and charting a path far removed from traditional television content in the Andean nation.
“We’re the new guys on the scene. It’s the first big production we’ve undertaken together, and we decided to innovate in many ways,” the series’ general producer, Pedro Luis Mendoza, told EFE.
“Seleccion natural” is a production of Helena Films, a company focused on conceiving, developing and delivering experiences via audiovisual, digital and interactive entertainment.
The group of friends behind the production company met while studying cinema at Universidad Nacional de Colombia (National University of Colombia), which has produced bright, young filmmaking talents like Ciro Guerra, director of the Oscar-nominated “El abrazo de la serpiente” (Embrace of the Serpent).
Helena Films, whose YouTube channel streams the series, is looking to leverage its young talent and has built a team willing to assume risks and get behind a cause it believes in, as evidenced by its work on the “Seleccion natural” project.
In its first big undertaking, the Helena Films team opted for the crime genre as a framework for delving into themes such as ethical cynicism, double standards – in the political arena in particular – and homophobia and transphobia.
The series starts with the murder of a “drag queen,” Madorilyn Crawford, an incident that causes a stir in Colombian society and rattles the prosecutor investing the crime.
“We wanted to generate controversy ... It’s not only made for those who might agree with us, but also for those who don’t agree, who are conservative, transphobic, homophobic and believe in the traditional family,” he added.
Five episodes of the series have been uploaded to date, with new ones streamed every Tuesday.
“Seleccion natural” must have seemed like a pipe dream at the outset considering the virtual impossibility of obtaining financing in Colombia for audiovisual productions.
But thanks to the group’s steadfast commitment and perseverance, it managed to compile a budget of around $20,000 per episode, or roughly half the industry average.
No Colombian television channel would embark on a similar project since they “focus their content on other things” and “Seleccion natural” is not suitable for children, according to Mendoza.
“This has a point of view and touches a nerve. Let’s say that’s its purpose, to make people uncomfortable, not just to cause discomfort for its own sake, but to say something ... That was part of our mission: we didn’t want an easy story, but rather decided to go for something different,” he said.
Mendoza said, however, that “Seleccion natural,” a unique series made up of episodes lasting just 10 minutes each, was merely an initial venture meant to serve as a building block for future projects.
He noted that what lies ahead in the second season and beyond “will be more risky because we were testing the waters.”
“That doesn’t necessarily mean more risk, more controversy. ‘Seleccion natural’ is cause-driven, and Helena Films is committed and assumes the risk,” Mendoza said.
“If you take away some of the movie quality it becomes something else. If you put it on television, it becomes something else, and it’s not suitable for cinema because they’re 10-minute (episodes),” he added.