Tag Archives: Walcyr Carrasco

A bit on the Side

Brazilian screenwriter Walcyr Carrasco tells DQ how he was inspired by Voltaire’s Candide to create Globo telenovela The Good Side of Life and discusses the changing landscape of Brazilian drama.

With a television career spanning four decades, Walcyr Carrasco is firmly established as one of the foremost screenwriters in Brazil.

A journalist, author and playwright, Carrasco began writing for the small screen in the late 1980s with telenovela Cortina de Vidro for SBT, before penning miniseries Rosa-dos-Rumos (1990), O Guarani (1991) and Filhos do Sol (1991). He worked alongside co-writer Mário Teixeira on Xica da Silva (Rede Manchete, 1996) and later wrote SBT’s Fascinação (1998).

Then, in 2000, Carrasco created his first telenovela for broadcaster Globo, O Cravo e a Rosa (The Thorn & The Rose), directed by Walter Avancini. The pair later reunited for A Padroeira (The Patroness) in 2001. Telenovelas Chocolate com Pimento (Pepper Chocolate, 2003) and Alma Gêmea (Soul Mate, 2005) followed, along with Sete Pecados (Seven Sins, 2007), Caras & Bocas (Watercolors of Love, 2009) and Morde & Assopra (Dinosaurs & Robots, 2011).

His first series in Globo’s primetime 21.00 slot was Amor à Vida (Trail of Lies), a critical and commercial success in 2013, while Gabriela (2012) and Verdades Secretas (Hidden Truths, 2015) both aired at 23.00. The latter earned Globo an International Emmy, as well as the APCA Trophy and the Prêmio Extra de Televisão for Best Telenovela.

Last year, Carrasco created Êta Mundo Bom! (The Good Side of Life), which was directed by Jorge Fernando and aired in the 18.00 slot on Globo, while current series O Outro Lado do Paraíso (The Other Side of Paradise) reunited the writer with Hidden Truths director Mauro Mendonça Filho. It is now airing in Globo’s primetime slot.

As distributor Globo International brings The Good Side of Life – a 1940s-set tale about a poverty-stricken boy separated from his wealthy mother at birth – to the international market for the first time, Carrasco reveals the origins of the project and his thoughts on the changing Brazilian drama landscape.

Walcyr Carrasco is one of the foremost writers in Brazil

How would you describe The Good Side of Life?
The Good Side of Life is an optimistic and funny telenovela. I wrote it wanting viewers to feel happy and optimistic while watching, with plenty of laughs. I think I managed to do so, since the show had really high viewership in Brazil. The country loved the characters and the optimistic message as well.

What are the origins of the series?
The telenovela was inspired by Voltaire’s satirical novella Candide. Candinho is the lead character. We also have Professor Pancrácio, who is Professor Pangloss from the original work. A great Brazilian humorist, Mazzaroppi, created his own movie studio back when everything was still black and white and produced the first version of this classic, a film written by Abílio Pereira de Almeida. I was directly inspired by Voltaire, but I also soaked up Mazzaroppi’s humour, since we both bought into the work’s argument. It was a pleasure to work with such profound and intelligent but light-hearted texts.
Who is Candinho and who plays him? Who are the other key characters?
Candinho is played by Sérgio Guizé (Forever and Ever), who portrays the classic Brazilian run-of-the-mill country boy; a farm boy lost in the big city, whose friends are another boy and his pet donkey, which he truly loves. Marco Nanini (Walking the Clouds) plays Professor Pancrácio, Candinho’s mentor. Eliane Giardini (Brazil Avenue) is Anastácia, Candinho’s millionaire mother whose son was taken from her at birth and for whom she constantly searches. Débora Nascimento (Brazil Avenue) plays Filomena, Candinho’s great love, who comes to the city and becomes a dancer. It’s a really great cast.

Tell us about your writing process.
My writing is intuitive – I have a hard time rationalising. The story and the characters, they got to me and got confused with my emotions. I really get into them when I write. If it’s a funny scene, I laugh; if it’s dramatic, I cry.

What were the biggest challenges in making the show?
My biggest challenge was to keep everyone laughing until the end, and to sustain the optimistic message.

What’s the secret to writing a long-running telenovela with more than 100 episodes?
I don’t know the secret to writing a long telenovela; I don’t theorise much about my work. I sit down, I write and it just keeps coming. I’ve written telenovelas with more than 200 episodes and it’s always been incredible.

‘Optimistic’ telenovela The Good Side of Life is distributed by Globo International

Are Brazilian viewers still in love with telenovelas or are shorter series becoming more popular?
Brazilians are still in love with telenovelas. This is reflected in the viewer numbers, in the percentage of the population watching telenovelas. Of course, [shorter run] series are gaining ground as well. But I don’t see a dispute between telenovelas and series, as if the public necessarily prefers one or the other. I think the public prefers the more touching story. It’s not about the format, but the strength of the work itself.

When did you first decide to be a writer?
I decided to be a writer when I was 11 or 12, when I fell in love with books. My family deeply and lovingly supported me. I still feel the same sense of passion for writing today.

How is Brazilian drama evolving and what new stories can you tell?
This is a complicated question for me because I don’t theorise about the creation of TV drama or fiction. I prefer to let a story take me in, to let it grow so intensely inside me that I feel the need to tell it. So I can’t answer this question, since I’m moved by intuition, by creation, without being bound by theories.
At the same time, I can’t say how Brazilian drama production will evolve, just as I don’t know what will happen in literature or in the theatre. We need fiction in our lives as much as the air we breathe. Fiction is intense and transforms us, and has an amazing ability to set feelings, emotions and hearts into motion. I don’t believe an author can also be a theorist. The critic, the theorist, he studies dramatic structures and understands their process throughout history. The writer is simply somebody who has an antenna and is in tune with his feelings, movements and even the future. This antenna is surprising, just like fiction sometimes takes unexpected turns.

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Writing shows with mass audience appeal

Peter Lenkov
Peter Lenkov

In this golden age of TV, it’s easy to fixate on the high-end limited series that dominate cable and SVoD schedules. But spare a thought for the mainstream scripted series that deliver huge ratings and ad revenues week after week for networks.

A good example is CBS crime procedural Hawaii Five-0, which is currently dominating Friday nights at 21.00 in the US with an audience of approximately 10 million, compared with the meagre 1.7 million that Fox’s The Exorcist is currently attracting – and the 500,000 that prefer to watch The CW series Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.

A reboot of the classic 1960s/1970s series, the new Hawaii Five-0 has performed consistently well for CBS since it launched in 2010, usually averaging around 11-12 million viewers a season. At time of writing it is up to 150 episodes, which just goes to show the immense commercial value of the franchise. Keep in mind that it has also been licensed around the world to the likes of AXN Asia, Cuatro in Spain and Rai Due in Italy. It also performs a key role in handing over a big audience to 22.00 drama Blue Bloods.

The first episode of CBS's Macgyver reboot picked up almost 11 million viewers
The first episode of CBS’s Macgyver reboot picked up almost 11 million viewers

With around 25 episodes a year, the show sucks in a lot of writing talent. All told, more than 50 scribes have been involved in writing episodes since the start. One name, however, is ever-present – Peter Lenkov. Lenkov wrote the season one pilot and still writes the first and last episodes of every new season, usually in tandem with another writer such as Eric Guggenheim or Matt Wheeler.

Canadian Lenkov’s credits prior to Hawaii Five-0 included TV series 24 and CSI: NY, plus films RIPD and Demolition Man. He’s also played a central role in the reboot of MacGyver on CBS this year. Although the show hasn’t received a good response from critics, it has rated well enough to secure a full-season order of 22 episodes. If it can keep its ratings at the 7.5-8 million mark then it stands a good chance of getting a second season.

Another writer who has reason to feel pleased with himself this week is Stuart Urban, whose four-part drama The Secret for ITV has just been named best drama at the Royal Television Society NI Programme Awards. The show, which stars James Nesbitt, tells the story of a real-life murderous pact between a dentist and his mistress. Produced by Hat Trick, it is based on Deric Henderson’s non-fiction account of the story, Let This Be Our Secret.

James Nesbitt in The Secret
James Nesbitt in The Secret

Now 58, Urban’s career dates back to Bergerac in the 1980s. He subsequently won a Bafta for An Ungentlemanly Act, his dramatisation of the first 36 hours of The Falklands War. In 1993, Urban created his own production company, Cyclops Vision, under which he produced a range of feature films and documentaries including the black-comedy movie May I Kill U?.

Still on the awards front, it has also been a good week for Anna and Joerg Winger, whose German-language series Deutschland 83 has just been named best drama at the International Emmy Awards in New York. We featured the Wingers in our focus on German writers last week.

The winner of the TV movie/miniseries category was the Kudos/BBC1 production Capital. Based on John Lanchester’s novel Capital, this three-parter was written by Peter Bowker, who has since gone on to have a hit with The A Word, a BBC drama based on an Israeli show.

Walcyr Carrasco
Walcyr Carrasco

Best telenovela went to Globo’s Hidden Truths, written by Walcyr Carrasco and directed by Mauro Mendonça Filho. The show, which aired last year, explores the fashion underworld. Carrasco has been writing telenovelas since the late 1980s. Among his more recent titles was an adaptation of the Jorge Amado novel Gabriela and 2016’s popular Eta Mundo Bom!.

This week has also seen US pay TV channel BBC America greenlight a second season of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency, a series based on the books by Douglas Adams. The show has been adapted for TV by Max Landis, an American multi-hyphenate who has written several movie screenplays including Chronicle, American Ultra and Victor Frankenstein. He is also an executive producer of SyFy’s horror anthology series Channel Zero.

Landis is currently writing Bright, a supernatural cop thriller starring Will Smith that has received US$90m backing from Netflix.

Elsewhere, cable network TNT is piloting Snowpiercer, a futuristic thriller based on the 2013 film about a huge train that travels around a post-apocalyptic frozen world with the remnants of humanity on board. The TV version will be written by Josh Friedman, whose credits include Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles and War of the Worlds.

Frog Stone
Frog Stone

“Snowpiercer has one of the most original concepts to hit the screen in the last decade, and it’s one that offers numerous opportunities for deeper exploration in a series format,” explained Sarah Aubrey, exec VP of original programming at TNT.

At the other end of the budgetary scale, BBC4 in the UK has ordered a bittersweet comedy about a reserved schoolteacher who agrees to go on a road trip with her mother when she learns that the latter is dying. Entitled Bucket, the show is written by Frog Stone, who will also star alongside Miriam Margolyes. Stone began writing comedy with the Footlights at Cambridge University and has honed her craft writing comedy sketches for Radio 4.

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