‘The Route,’ a Celebration of Spain’s Most Legendary Club Scene, Broken Down by its Creator and Producer

CANNES  —  An Atresplayer Premium Original, “The Route,” begins as the lead characters’ time together ends, in 1993. 

A star DJ on Valencia’s Ruta de Bakalao, Marc’s heart isn’t in it anymore. He visits his family home and sits in his bedroom, still plastered with teenage memorabilia, trying to connect with a younger self who felt music with passion. For Sento, clubbing is now a business. Toni wonders if it’s time to go home.

“The Route” (“La Ruta”) then goes back in time, one episode at a time to end to when the friends first met, in 1981, and enjoyed some kind of innocence. Even a flashback to 1981 in the first episode feature a sequence which is narrated backwards, though many viewers may not cotton on. 

As around all the world, global streamers demand for original series from Spain may in many cases now be slowing down. The creativity of Spanish TV production shows few signs of tapering off however. Also coming onto the market at Mipcom, “Rapa” weighs in as a classic rural murder mystery which then tears up that sub-genre’s rule book. “Offworld,” another Movistar+ original, is a collective series written by some of Spain’s most talented screenwriters, with each episode, set in a world after a massive power outage, helmed by a different director. 

Given its pedigree, you’d expect something different from “The Route,” however. Atresplayer Premium, the SVOD service of Atresmedia, premiered “Veneno” and “Cardo.” Partners at Spain’s Caballo Films, behind “La Ruta,” include Rodrigo Sorogoyen (“Riot Police,” “As Bestas”). 

“Atresmedia series have all had a great international run. We are lucky enough to have some of the most successful Spanish series in the world led by ‘Veneno,’ ‘Money Heist,’ The Cook of Castamar,’ ‘Alba’… And with ‘La Ruta’ we have the same goal: that it triumphs in Spain and then in the rest of the world,” said José Antonio Antón, director of content at Atresmedia TV.

In the run up to Mipcom, Variety talked to series co-creator and director Borja Soler and producer Nacho Lavilla, at Caballo Films.

Why tell the story backwards?

Soler: For me it was the first great discovery of the series and it responds to a very clear reason: the desire that the viewer’s journey, during these twelve years, be from darkness to light. To achieve this, it was necessary to start in 1993, the pivotal year of the music scene, when the countercultural identity of its origins began to fade very quickly.

This decadent contextual photograph from the first episode worked very well to tell the reunion of a group of friends in their thirties, with many open wounds and the terrible feeling of having lost a lot along the way.

The film celebrates in many ways youth, questions the appeal of maturity….

Soler: During the development process there was a question that became the heart of the series; Do you remember our first parties? We were very interested in remembering ourselves at sixteen, especially those years when everything was new and we lived with great intensity. We realized that most of our best memories were linked to those special nights with friends; a celebration, a trip… We brought photos of those nights, when we were still teenagers, and we realized that we had become other people. We had become our parents.

What were you guidelines for direction?

Soler: Of the eight episodes of the series, two are directed by Belén Funes, another two by Carlos Marqués Marcet and four by me. When I thought about what kind of directors I wanted to join me in the process, it was clear to me that I would look for ones that put the direction of actors first, ones who had enough sensitivity and precision to get the pulse of the passage of time on our lead characters. This was one of the great challenges of the series, Belén and Carlos have done exceptionally well.

From a technical point of view, there is also a formal commitment that tries to underline the emotional and vital pulse of the characters. In the first episodes, the camera distances itself from the characters, it is a stable and stylized camera, but as we approach the final episodes, as we grow young with the protagonists, the camera is freed up. The idea is that at the end of the series, the viewer feels that he is part of the group.

‘La Ruta’ plays on Atresplayer Premium. Premium is a word that’s used a lot. But what would you highlight as the premium elements in the series? 

Lavilla: Everything stems from the script. We didn’t want to greenlight the production until we were sure we had a story that was original and first-rate. The next step was an undisputable casting. From there we wanted to shoot in variety of locations in Valencia, avoiding the use of sets. We made an important commitment to use a wide selection of music licenses as the series covers 12 years of music. But without a doubt, what gives the content a premium character is the point of view of its directors: Borja, Carlos and Belén provide a very cinematographic perspective and way of doing things, contributing to the richness and variety of the content. Each episode is a different film. I think that in that sense the series greatly benefits from their artistic input.

Where would you like to see Caballo Films in two to three years?

Lavilla: We give each project our utmost attention. We do not build the productions with Caballo’s status in mind. Our value is to remain a boutique enterprise, to be able to put all our love and care into each of the productions and demand the same from ourselves in each of them. We do not want to overwhelm our production capacity. Perhaps our biggest ambition now is to increase the scale of our productions. This would allow us to grow our audiences organically with stories of international appeal, find elements that reinforce international co-production and, therefore, the possibility of reaching more people. This in turn would give us more resources and increase our worth. 

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