Barcelona-born director Oriol Paulo has done what few European filmmakers have managed to achieve: he’s cracked the Chinese market.
Paulo's 2017 crime thriller Invisible Guest, which grossed a respectable, if hardly outstanding, $3.9 million in Spain, earned $26 million in China. In April of this year, his follow-up, the time-travel mystery Mirage, was a flop in Spain, making less than $900,000 on its initial release via Warner Bros. — but it grossed nearly $17 million in China, prompting the studio to take the unconventional step of re-releasing it in Paulo's home territory.
Netflix snapped up world rights outside China and Spain on Mirage before Paulo began filming.
In addition to their own success, Paulo's twisty, complex thriller scripts have spawned multiple remakes in Asia, the U.S. and elsewhere. He sold remake rights to his directorial feature debut, 2012’s The Body, to the U.S., South Korea, South Africa and India. Five countries, including China and the U.S., picked up remake rights to The Invisible Guest; and Mirage is set to be remade in four Asian territories, including China.
Mercedes Gamero, managing director of Atresmedia Cine and producer on all of Paulo’s films to date, suggests Paulo's particular style of plot-driven thrillers with a focus on storytelling over special effects, works nicely in China as "counter programming" to the blockbuster fare on offer from the major studios.
“His films combine ambitious script structures, suspense and characters in extreme situations,” adds Sandra Hermida, executive producer and production manager on Mirage and producer and production manager on Invisible Guest. “It's the balance between genre and emotion that makes his films unique."
Paulo, currently working on the eight-episode suspense series El Inocente for Netflix, spoke with The Hollywood Reporter about his inspiration, what he thinks of the remakes of his films and what it's like to be big in China.