Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Telenovela Production

As we have studied telenovela production and everything that goes into making an episode happen over the past few classes, it was made abundantly clear that these shows and their networks are not a casual affair. No one considers Latin America when thinking of the entertainment industry, but it's obvious that these networks pull out all the stops like any American one would. The load of pure work is just as heavy for the telenovela production team as for a movie crew if not more so because they must go through the entire ordeal daily. The elements of the process that struck me the most were the enormous responsibilities placed on the writers' and actors' shoulders.

For a modern telenovela writer, the minimum amount of screen time that has to be written each day is an hour. Every day is a full day for a writer, and there are little to no breaks until the telenovela is over- which is usually in 100+ episodes. Even in countries where the show is only aired 5 nights a week, the weekends have to be spent connecting plot points and thinking ahead so as not to fall behind. This process is untold numbers of pages that are drafted, outlined, edited, and finalized within hours on a daily basis so that they can be approved and given to the actors. Not only do the 'higher-ups' have to approve what is written, but there must also be agreement and cohesion within the writing team. Sometimes these different approvals can be hard to come by. The preliminary phase of writing starts long before that, though. It was amazing to see the forethought and planning that the writers specifically went through when choosing the location(s) of the story and how involved they were in that process. When we were shown pieces of a day spent exploring a location with Leonardo Padron, the only people accompanying the writing team were production assistants. I could not believe that it was the writers who took a complete tour of the property, concepting as they moved around. This dynamic is much different than in American television where writers are usually working completely within the confines of studio sets. The abundance of locations leaves more room for creativity but also expands the options that must be considered with every decision. But if there are any problems between executives and writers, actors and writers, or anyone else it means that the writing process is put on hold and the team loses even more precious time. To say which job within telenovela production is hardest would be impossible and entirely subjective, but writers are high up on the list as far as sheer workload goes.

Actors are some of the most hardworking members of a production team as well as the ones who carry the bulk of the burden of being the 'faces' of their telenovelas. Filming an hour every day from lines that have only become available to practice recently would be taxing on the most talented of performers, but to do it daily for the better part of the year takes special ability and dedication. The time schedule for filming also makes for long days nearly every day, though this goes for everyone and not specifically the actors. Sometimes the actors will even get lucky and not be needed for a certain portion of the day. It is a break of sorts. This is a rare occurrence for protagonists, however. Since many telenovelas feature on location filming, there is even some travel involved. Those days are surely jam packed with trying to film every moment needed in this particular spot in as short a time as possible. In regards to the actors as people, it is undoubtedly hard to have any sort of social life while filming. The off days- if there are any true breaks- are likely spent recovering from such a hectic schedule rather than on outings with friends and family. Pictures from actors on set show them rarely without the script in hand, so I imagine that the case is much the same when they are at home preparing for the next day. The pace set by the shows is too fast for there to be any downtime- even in the day to day. In the event that there is some, it is likely that actors spend it doing things related to the show. With social media interaction being such a large part of how telenovelas are consumed now, it is important for actors to have a presence on several different platforms. Fans seem to be interested in them as people as much as with the characters they play. Even after production is over there is a lot of time devoted to promoting the show- parties to watch the last episode, interviews about the show, etc. Actors are taking the brunt of the spotlight for their shows on and off screen.

This subset of the entertainment industry is unlike, and in my opinion harder working than, any other that I have come across. Specifically, to be an actor or a writer here requires not more talent necessarily, but more drive, dedication, and capacity to perform than anywhere else. There is no time to relax or second guess. It is a nonstop demand for output that lasts the better part of a year in most cases. As far as production goes, my praise goes out to these two groups of people.

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