Blooming in Brazil

Blooming in Brazil

June 1, 2023

The Writers Room

João Emanuel Carneiro, the creator and writer of Brazilian series All the Flowers, on making this modern fairytale and why bringing a telenovela to a streaming platform is a new adventure.

As a prolific screenwriter across a 30-year career, João Emanuel Carneiro’s award-winning credits include Shades of Sin, The Favourite and Miracle Hands. Yet it is Avenida Brasil (Brazil Avenue), a revenge story about a woman who sets out to recover the life stolen from her by her gold-digging stepmother, that is his greatest success.

The show is one of the biggest Brazilian series in history, attracting audiences of up to 50 million people to Globo when it aired in 2012. Avenida Brasil has also been one of the key components of Brazilian television’s export boom, with more than 140 territories acquiring the series. Broadcasters in France, Japan, Israel and Korea are among those to have picked up the drama.

For his latest project, Carneiro chose to create a series that has been dubbed a modern fairytale. Todas as Flores (All the Flowers) tells the story of Maíra, a young woman with a visual impairment who falls in love with the fiancé of her envious sister. Tricked by her sister and her mother, Maíra becomes a prisoner on a farm that uses forced labour. There, she finds out she is pregnant with her lover’s child. After having her freedom and then her child taken away, she is determined to recover what she lost and get justice.

Directed by Carlos Araujo, the show debuted on streamer Globoplay last year and has recently been launched to international buyers.

Here, Carneiro tells DQ about the secrets to writing a long-running telenovela, how All the Flowers pushes the boundaries of the format and how streaming is changing the way he tells stories.

João Emanuel Carneiro (left) with artistic director Carlos Araújo

How would you describe the story of All the Flowers?
All the Flowers tells the story of Maíra, Sophie Charlotte’s character, who was raised by her father thinking that her mother had died. The lie invented by her father was to protect her from the scorn of her mother, who rejected her when she was born.
Many years later, Zoé [Regina Casé], her mother, reappears asking for forgiveness. But what seems like a dream turns into a nightmare. On the same day she discovers that her mother is alive, her father dies unexpectedly. Maíra then goes to Rio de Janeiro, where she will be used by Zoé to donate her bone marrow and guarantee the survival of her sister Vanessa [Letícia Colin], who has cancer. What looked like a fresh start becomes a long and dangerous journey for Maíra.

In what sense is the story a modern fairy tale?
All the Flowers has the elements of a fairy tale. Maíra is a contemporary Cinderella, but she is a modern woman who makes her own decisions. And her fairy godmother is in fact her actual godmother, who wants to protect her goddaughter at all costs.

Did the fact that All the Flowers was ordered directly to a streaming platform change how you wrote or structured it?
I’ve always been known to be a very restless writer. I make telenovela episodes as if they were movies, always thinking about the final hook. In streaming, you build an episode already thinking about how to move on to the next one.

The telenovela has classic themes of love, revenge and redemption. How have you tried to honour or subvert them through the story?
The public likes these classic themes, and within these I place contradictory characters. The good guys and the bad guys get mixed up, and both have good and bad attitudes. The audience likes this provocation, this game-changer.

Sophie Charlotte (left) as Maíra and Letícia Colin as Vanessa

One of your characters is blind. What research did you do and how did you create the character?
More than the research, we have the experience of a team also made up of people with disabilities. We have visually impaired people in front of and behind the camera. Nathalia Santos, for example, is an assistant director; Camila Alves plays Gabriela and is our consultant; Moira Braga, who is our casting coach, plays Fafá; Amanda Mittz plays Laura; Cleber Tolini brings Márcio to life; and Marcelo Edward is an audio operator. We also had consultancy from Guilherme Bara, with a workshop that was held for the entire team.

How did you work with artistic director Carlos Araújo to create the visual style?
It’s my first partnership with Carlos and I think it was a very happy one. We speak the same language; we see the same things, and that’s important to give the scenes the rhythm that I imagine. There is an understanding between us, which makes all the work easier.

Is the location important to the story? How did you choose the setting?
Maíra grew up in the countryside and went to Rio de Janeiro, a huge city, so it was important to create that shock. Furthermore, one of the premises of the telenovela is to highlight the paradox between essence and appearance. These two universes are represented by Rhodes & Co Tailleur, a tailor, and the Gamboa neighbourhood, which show the antagonism between ‘having’ – a life of social status, wealth and consumption – and ‘being’ – a simple life, devoid of greed or possessions – respectively. Gamboa is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in Rio de Janeiro and is the birthplace of samba, while Rhodes is a fictional company that exudes grandeur.

The telenovela has 85 episodes – what is the secret to writing a telenovela and holding the audience for so long?
All the Flowers is a shorter telenovela than the others I’ve written. Brazil Avenue, for example, had 179 episodes. But I believe a concise plot with few characters delivers a more agile pace, which attracts the audience’s attention. In Brazil, it was shown in two phases, with an interval of almost four months between them, so the audience was eager to see the continuation of the story.

All the Flowers runs to 85 episodes, making it shorter than most telenovelas

How has streaming changed the demand for telenovelas or the way viewers watch them?
Having a telenovela on streaming is a different adventure. I like doing cliff-hangers and twists, and I think viewers like those regardless of whether the show is streaming. With the possibility of [binge-viewing], the audience dives into the story in a more intense way and it is very interesting to follow their reaction to each batch of episodes we release.

What challenges did you face while making the telenovela?
Telenovelas are a daily challenge. It is a job that demands physical and mental strength, in addition to constant dialogue with the team involved.

How do you remember Brazil Avenue? Why was it so successful, not only in Brazil but all over the world?
At the time of its release, it was very gratifying. I still feel happy and fulfilled to see that the challenge of making a different telenovela, in which the young lady was also the villain, and the effort, because it was a very laborious telenovela, pleased and amused the public.
Despite the social context being different today, Brazil Avenue remains current because it touches on universal themes and is a homogeneous plot in every sense. The story has life and strength thanks to the integrated and first-rate work of the cast, production and direction.

What will you work on next?
Delivering a telenovela requires a lot of dedication. For now, I’ll take a break before diving into a new job.

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