Sunny Side ’19: Netflix’s Diego Bunuel talks growth in European markets

LA ROCHELLE, FRANCE – Netflix is looking to commission four to five local original doc series and features in each major European territory, as revealed Tuesday (25 June) by director of ...
June 27, 2019
LA ROCHELLE, FRANCE – Netflix is looking to commission four to five local original doc series and features in each major European territory, as revealed Tuesday (25 June) by director of original documentaries in Europe, Diego Buñuel, at Sunny Side of the Doc. Some are already in the works in Germany and France, and the streamer has similar plans for Italy and Spain.
Buñuel (pictured), who left his position of head of docs at Canal+ to join Netflix a year and a half ago, and skipped Sunny Side last year, eventually unveiled the global streamer’s ambitions in European docs. “We work with the best in the industry but mostly with English or American directors,” he said. “More Netflix subscribers are now based outside the U.S. than in the U.S., and it will continue to grow. My goal is therefore to find great directors from Europe, introduce new voices and new ways to tell stories that is not the traditional Anglo-Saxon one. This is part of our local global global strategy.”
Commissions from Buñuel’s unit, which are firstly meant to resonate with local audiences, come on the heels of a number of global factual series commissioned for the global audience from European producers by other Netflix unscripted teams, he stressed. The latter unit focuses more so on series that can have several seasons, as opposed to the original documentaries unit.
“We do limited series or feature films, anything that has a story that ends we do,” he said. About genres covered, he added: “We don’t look for theme, we look for stories, stories based on complex rich characters, and we are looking for a diversity of stories.” A thing Netflix does not intend to do, though, is history. “Because so many are done by the traditional broadcasters, that’s a different offering, we feel we don’t bring anything new. We like contemporary stories,” he said.Plans are to commission both feature docs and series. “Feature docs are very important in a certain space,  they are meant as creative object and driven by a director with a vision, and can create events at festivals, such as The Legend of Cocaine Island, which is also a fun documentary. We need more fun documentaries.”

In regards to what the digital streaming giant is seeking for series, Buñuel noted the company is looking for limited series in the vein of Wild Wild CountryMaking a Murderer and The Staircase, while also providing Le Petit Gregory, Netflix’s first French docuseries about the ’80s famous and still unsolved child murder affair, as an example. “Instead of focusing on who killed the child, it’s about the insanity that gripped an entire community for 35 years,” he described.

The platform is also interested in short form episodic documentary series: “We do several shorts per year, such as Period. End of Sentence. They do very well on the service,” said Buñuel.

Buñuel also expressed a desire to commission more stories about women, and further projects from both prominent and burgeoning female directors. In addition, the Netflix executive confirmed most shows will be fully commissioned, with the platform taking all rights and all territories. “We can be open to co-productions [as Netflix did with] The Staircase, which was a U.S. story produced for Canal+,  by a French company.

“If  there is one word to remember it’s ‘big.’ We need big things,” he concluded. “We are an entertainment company. To pitch to us, you must ask yourself, is my story strong enough to break through?”

About The Author
Jillian Morgan is the Associate Editor at Realscreen with a background in journalism and digital marketing. She joined the publication in 2019 after serving as the assistant editor to trade publications HPAC and On-Site. With a bachelor of journalism from the University of King's College in Halifax, she also works as a freelance writer and fact-checker.