Brazilian drama Onde Está Meu Coração (Where My Heart Is) charts the struggle of a doctor battling a devastating drug addiction. Director Luisa Lima tells DQ about her intimate approach behind the camera.
Luisa Lima first joined Brazilian broadcaster Globo back in 2003 when she enrolled in its directing workshop. After working as an assistant director on series including Shades of Sin and The Sisters, she graduated to full directing duties on projects such as Irrational Heart, The Party and Land of the Strong.
She is now behind the camera on Onde Está Meu Coração (Where My Heart Is), the 10-part story of Amanda (Letícia Collin), a doctor who starts using crack cocaine to escape the pressures of her life. Struggling with an addiction that shatters her life and her family, she must decide whether to give up or fight her demons. The series is produced and distributed by Globo Studios.
Here, Lima tells DQ about joining the project, filming in São Paulo and the rising number of female directors in Brazil.
How were you chosen as the director of Where My Heart Is?
My partnership with writers George Moura and Sérgio Goldenberg goes way back. We worked together previously on Land of the Strong and The Party, and I love the human dilemmas they present in their scripts. The character arcs tend to be multi-layered and the characters grow throughout the story, in search of what eludes them and what they can’t understand.
In this project, the sensory element is very evident, along with the intimate personal dramas. I commit myself to shedding the tensions between our visible, surface relations and the world inside each of us.
Tell us about your directing style.
I’m constantly focused on analysing characters and trying to understand their issues, the hardships they face and their failures without ever judging them. With this show, we don’t go easy on drugs or romanticise drug use, but we do hope to spark empathy in our audience, particularly since the show depicts the struggles a family goes through when one of them is an addict.
I aim for visual simplicity and dramatic depth. I’ve been focusing more on the physicality of everything around Amanda, on the light, the sounds, the music and the spatial nature of the places she visits, her work environment, her parents’ home and São Paulo itself. There’s a great deal of camera movement.
How did you use São Paulo as the backdrop for the series?
The show’s aesthetic approach follows an emotional, psychological and sensory logic. It aims for a dramatic discourse in which we’re guided by Amanda’s family and subjectivity, stressing the volatility, lack of understanding and incompleteness of behaviours and the human/social condition.
We opt for an intimate, detail-oriented approach, even to the point of paranoia or self-reflection. We present a drama of fierce anguish, conflicts, relationship difficulties and the struggle of the conflicting desires for relief and destruction.
The locations contribute to the shaping of a world that’s cold and immaculate, as evidenced by Amanda’s brutalist conceptual flat. The imposing, terrifying scale of the hospital amplifies the sense of pressure experienced in the medical field, along with the simultaneously cruel and trivial nature of death as routine. The private crack house is a vast, labyrinthine apartment bearing traces of former wealth.
What was your experience of working on the series?
It was very rewarding to work with the idea that we were dealing with the point of view of a female protagonist, with a woman as the director.
The rise in the number of female directors in television is a relatively recent phenomenon. When I first came to Globo 16 years ago, there were very few of us. Things have changed, however, and we see more and more women in this position.
The very concept of the feminine takes on other meanings when narratives are shaped by women, since the handling of the feminine in television has nearly always been filtered through a male point of view. It is crucial for artistic discourse to give voice to all segments of society.
How has the role of the television director changed in recent years?
Plenty has changed in the time I’ve been at Globo, with the success of new formats, such as limited series and the growing female representation in this market. There’s a greater hunger for art and to be surprised, making TV a more visceral and thoughtful artistic laboratory – hopefully even a transformative one, capable of transforming society, the status quo, our humanity and contemporary life.
Carla Faour and Julia Spadaccini, the writers behind Brazilian series Segunda Chamada (Second Call), tell DQ why they wanted to shine a light on the country’s adult education system.
After series set in a hospital (Sob Pressão/Under Pressure) and a prison (Carcereiros/Jailers), Brazil’s Globo is going back to school with Segunda Chamada (Second Call), which focuses on the demands facing the country’s state education system.
The series follows Lúcia (Debora Bloch), who returns to teaching by taking on some evening classes for youth and adult education at the fictional Carolina Maria de Jesus State School. Looking for a fresh start after a traumatic experience in her private life, she clings to the opportunity to help students with their education and give them a brighter future.
Her hopes for her pupils are shared by other teachers at the school: history and geography teacher Sônia (Hermila Guedes), newly arrived arts teacher Marco Andre (Silvio Guindane), high-spirited maths teacher Eliete (Thalita Carauta) and practical principal Jaci (Paulo Gorgulho). Together, they face daily institutional abandonment, lack of resources and recognition, and deal with their diverse personal conflicts and dramas.
Written by Carla Faour and Julia Spadaccini, Second Call is coproduced by Globo and O2 Filmes, and directed by Joana Jabace (Harassment).
Here, writers Faour and Spadaccini discuss rooting the series in reality and the importance of drama with societal themes.
What are the origins of Second Call? Carla Faour and Julia Spadaccini: We met each other in the theatre, more than 15 years ago, but our professional partnership really started when we met again in the halls of Globo, to collaborate on the projects Slaps & Kisses and Chacrinha. With an increasing professional synergy, we welcomed Second Call as a challenge and an opportunity: giving visibility to the topic of nighttime education for adults.
Why did you want to focus on the education system and how did you decide what specific story to focus on?
Our school tries to highlight the reality of the most neglected part of the educational system, because the nighttime educational programme for adults is almost like the ugly duckling of education. It gathers people who were not able to finish their studies regularly and decided to face a double journey to graduation, with the tiredness they accumulate during the day following them into the classroom. We also show the reality of the teachers, who need to deal with different and repetitive issues: the tedious working hours, the precarious infrastructure and the violence that is becoming more and more present in this type of school.
In Second Call, we enter the universe of state schools, located in the outskirts of Brazilian cities. This is a reality that we think we know but, when we dig deeper, we notice it is an entirely different story. We tried to show the challenges faced by the ones who teach and the ones who wish to go back to school.
Were you inspired by any real-life stories or examples?
Our stories were freely inspired by true events, because our concern has always been creating a piece that is close to reality. We needed a lot of dedication and research to understand this universe and those who are part of it. We paid many visits to state schools and their nighttime programmes and talked to teachers and students. It was a long road, which started in mid-2017. We collected profiles from students, conflicts and different topics and then fictionalised all the material we gathered.
How would you describe Lúcia and how do we follow her through the series?
Lúcia is our protagonist. She portrays the teacher who is in love with her profession and takes any chance, to try to make students see education as a token of hope for better days. Our Portuguese teacher starts working in nighttime education after a big trauma causes a deep impact in her life, and completely changed the way she relates to her students. But Lúcia is fearless and has a natural strength that motivates people to get in motion again. Even though she carries her dramas – like a marriage that is no longer the same – the teacher does not give up the fight easily and is willing to talk to her students and try to help them rethink their prejudices.
Why is a school a common arena for television drama? What dynamics and tension can we find there?
School usually represents a family environment for the audience, because everyone has a relationship with the institution – either by its presence or absence. Most people have memories of this time – the teachers who marked their lives, their school friends and the life lessons they learned. The fictitious State School Carolina Maria de Jesus is a cauldron, where sometimes life is peaceful, and sometimes it is not. But, in essence, it is a space of hospitality, where people feel welcome and socially included. In Second Call, everything happens in one night, with approximately three students’ plots highlighted, intertwined with the teachers and their stories and, in the background, the other people.
Where was it filmed and how is the school location used to create a visual style?
Second Call was entirely shot in one location, and this space became another character within the plot. The building where the story happens is a historical and symbolic construction in the city of São Paulo. The space was built in the 1950s to host the São Paulo Jockey Club School but 10 years later – after hosting some private schools – it became vacant. After a long search, the location was discovered by the artistic director of the series, Joana Jabace, who saw in the building the ideal place to portray the story of the series: not only in terms of the narrative instance, but also for aesthetic licence.
How can social dramas best succeed on television?
Our story brings to light a discussion of the social reality of our country. As authors, we put ourselves in this creative and screenwriting process, with a critical outlook on these real conflicts that often repeat themselves. We think dramaturgy, besides being entertaining, also fulfils the role of raising discussions and reflections on several topics. Creating a series that could unite entertainment and social relevance has always been our greatest focus. We believe in the value of shedding light on these social issues.
Taís and Pedro face some life-changing decisions when they discover they are about to become parents in Brazilian series Pais de Primeira (First-Time Parents). Writer Antonio Prata tells DQ how the series was born.
Brazilian screenwriter Antonio Prata has experience across the board, from series such as hospital-based Under Pressure and Os Experientes (The Experienced), which features four-interconnected stories about ageing, to long-running telenovelas including Avenida Brasil (Brazil Avenue) and A Regra do Jogo (Rules of the Game).
His latest series, Pais de Primeira (First-Time Parents, pictured above), is about a couple who must reassess their priorities in life once they discover they are expecting a baby.
Here, Prata tells DQ about the origins of the Globo series, his writing process and the changing Brazilian TV landscape.
What was the inspiration behind First-Time Parents?
The maternal and paternal experiences of each of the scriptwriters – my experiences and those of Tati Bernardi, Chico Mattoso, Thiago Dottori and Bruna Paixão. It seems today we face every small decision as if it will have a huge and irreversible impact in the life of our children. Each detail will define whether the kid is going to be asthmatic or a triathlete, a quantum physics genius or unable to deal with their own feelings.
Our idea was to laugh at our afflictions and muddles, and also to demystify parenting as a bed of roses and the happiest time of your life. It is not, it is really difficult, especially for the mother.
What are the challenges of taking a universal subject like parenthood and making it specific?
Once you have solid, recognisable characters, it becomes easier to ask how each of them deals specifically with each conflict we are creating. But perhaps our greatest challenge is the opposite: how to take our specific experiences and make them universal. Brazil is a very unequal country and the way we experience raising kids does not always have anything to do with the way most people live. We are always asking ourselves, ‘Do young parents in a small town in the interior of the country also have this or that conflict we create for the characters? Does this story make sense to them?’ Our main characters are Taís (Renata Gaspar) and Pedro (George Sauma), a middle-class white couple from Rio de Janeiro, but they must resonate with other demographics.
How would you describe the writing process for the show?
We have a writers room where we work together from Monday to Friday. There is a huge blackboard where we create the plot of each story. It takes us about a week to create the step-by-step story of an episode, usually with plots A, B and C. Then it takes me a couple of days to finish the index cards, which are then divided among us four writers. Each writer has about two weeks to do a first draft, which we develop at home in the morning. This first version is read and commented on by everyone. Everyone then has one more week to do a second draft and then I take about a week more doing the final pass.
How involved are you through the production process?
Very much involved. The writers participated in the process of choosing the cast, as well as the approval of scenes and the soundtrack. We always saw the first cut of the episodes and could give many suggestions to the director, Luiz Henrique Rios. However, my involvement is not to the level of a showrunner in the US. Here in Brazil, responsibilities on series are still quite shared between writer and director. But it was a pretty cool collaboration – Luiz is a very talented and experienced director and I was able to learn a lot from him.
How is the Brazilian television landscape changing?
It is a contradictory situation. On the one hand, we have had a great expansion of the audiovisual industry over the past few decades. Each year we produce more movies and more series, with more quality.
On the other hand, we are currently experiencing a political and economic crisis. The arts in general, and the audiovisual industry in particular, are being directly affected, losing much of the state sponsorship and incentives that have made this industry what it is today.
Crisis, however, is not a new word in Brazil. We will discover other ways to make this industry viable. We will bypass the mishaps and use audiovisual media not only to better understand the storm we are in, but also to point to a brighter future.
What genre or topic would you like to write about that you haven’t yet?
Oh, many. I enjoy both drama and comedy and I have some projects in the works. Being a parent also makes me think of content for children. I have had three children’s books published and an animation project. I want to produce series, feature films, plays, animations, books…
Greenpeace, WWF and the UN are among the supporters of Brazilian drama Aruanas, which charts the work of environmental activists who investigate the suspicious activities of a mining company in the Amazon rainforest. DQ meets creator, writer and director Estela Renner.
When Brazilian drama Aruanas launches worldwide today, it won’t be found on any of the major global streaming giants. Instead, it will be available on a standalone platform for anyone around the globe to download – because the subject matter demands this story not be restricted to viewers with the right kind of subscription. It’s too important.
That’s certainly the view of the makers and producers of the 10-part Portuguese-language thriller, which is backed by more than 20 international and national non-governmental organisations (NGOs), including WWF Brazil, Amnesty International, Global Witness, UN Environment, UN Women, Oxfam Brazil and the Rainforest Foundation. Greenpeace is a technical collaborator on the show.
Aruanas comes from a partnership between prodco Maria Farinha Films and Brazil’s Globo TV, which have created the fictional story about three idealistic women who set up an NGO to investigate the suspicious activities of a mining company operating in the Amazon.
Bypassing traditional broadcast partners by making the series available at aruanas.tv – in more than 150 countries and 11 different languages – also means 50% of the download fee will go to initiatives designed to protect the Amazon rainforest. In Brazil, Globo will air the first episode on its domestic and international channels, which reach more than 100 million people, with the series then being made available on SVoD service Globoplay.
Sustainability is not just a theme of the series but was also at the heart of the production. Marina Farinha Films reduced the size of the crew and equipment, reused and recycled costumes and hired climate change specialist ZCO2 to ensure the production was carbon-neutral. Of the crew and leading actors, 47% were women, while a third of the cast were from the region of the Amazon where the series was filmed.
For the last 10 years, Maria Farinha Films has been built on producing documentaries and TV series focusing on social and environmental issues, tackling subjects including childhood obesity, refugees and LGBT rights. Climate change has been a cause long on its agenda but, as the company’s founder Estela Renner explains, the subject needed to be treated in a different way, which led the company to jump into fiction for the first time.
“We wanted to do something long term, something that could stay for seasons,” she tells DQ following the London premiere of Aruanas. “There are so many seasons of Grey’s Anatomy and ER and you learn so much about hospitals and the dynamics that are involved. How about making a TV series that takes place in an environmental NGO? What better way to talk about the drama and activists and all issues there are to address – the oceans, oil, soil, air. That’s why we decided to jump into fiction.”
Renner wrote the series with her business partner Marcos Nisti, in collaboration with Pedro de Barros, and developed it alongside Globo. The story introduces Aruana, an NGO that receives an anonymous complaint about a mining company working deep in the Amazon rainforest. When the NGO’s contact is killed and the incriminating dossier is destroyed, its staff become determined to uncover what is going on.
“Mining is a huge environmental issue,” Renner says of the story’s key focus. “We also talk about illegal gold mining, which puts so much mercury into the rivers and everything becomes sick – the rivers, the soil and the people.”
After getting the green light in 2017, there was a year-long writing process that also included support from “script doctor” Lawrence Konner (The Sopranos). The writers began by outlining the key characters and their relationships in the story. Luiza (Leandra Leal, Empire) has difficulty balancing her work as an activist – often undercover miles from home – with motherhood. Verônica (Taís Araújo, Shades of Sin) is a lawyer, while Natalie (Débora Falabella, Brazil Avenue) is a journalist. The group is completed by Clara (Thainá Duarte, If I Close My Eyes Now), an intern who faces up to the flaws and challenges of an NGO as the audience follows and learns through her experiences.
“We made a huge map with the relationships and what’s going to happen to them,” Renner explains. “Their challenges, their fears, their secrets; what they want and what they fear. On top of that, we do the procedural, the investigation itself – the cliffhangers, the ticking clock, the villains, the tensions and the obstacles.
“The first thing is the relationships, then the procedural on top. It’s like a puzzle. We have all the pieces and then we have to make them a perfect picture.”
That’s not to say the series is a lecture about climate change, nor does it present an unwaveringly positive representation of an NGO or condemn mining outright. “It’s not propaganda. You can see the activists doing stuff you wouldn’t recommend doing,” Renner says. “We found a way to build the layers of the series so we can see why mining can be important, because it develops a country, it creates jobs and it brings development sometimes.
“Even when Natalie interviews our villain, they have a battle where, for a while, you don’t know which side to take because both sides are right. But at the end of the season, we see this type of mining is wrong. You cannot mine and pollute the rivers, the soil, the air and people. You have to do it the right way.”
Renner also states that her NGO partners, which contributed no money to the production, were clear this would be a non-factual drama from the outset: “They were with us from the beginning but they also understood this is fiction. You have to put some salt and pepper in to make it interesting and edgy. All the organisations understood that and were happy. Because it’s fiction, they knew they didn’t have to correct us. It’s important it’s fiction; it’s not a documentary.”
Filming took place across four months, with the cast and 190-strong crew travelling back and forth between the south-west city of São Paulo and the Amazon, where filming took place in Manacapuru, in the northern state of Amazonas in the centre of the rainforest.
Renner shared directing duties with Carlos Manga Jr, with the visual style of Aruanas inspired by films such as Babel and Beasts of No Nation. One rule was that the camera should never impose itself on the story or the characters.
“Everything we did in the Amazon was handheld and everything in São Paulo was on a tripod or dolly, while we only shot in locations. We didn’t shoot in a studio at all,” Renner reveals. “We had a code so in São Paulo; there was a colour, a language and a style. In the Amazon, things get a little crazy – the explosion of colours and handheld and lots of steadicam.”
More than 200 extras were brought in from Manacapuru and the surrounding area, while Renner also enjoyed some rehearsal time with the leads. However, the falling river levels when filming began last August meant there was a race to complete all the rainforest sequences as quickly as possible.
“We had 10 episodes and filmed them as a big movie,” Renner recalls. “We shot by location, so each day we were filming scenes from different episodes. The river level was going to go down, so we had to start with everything in the rainforest, which ended up being great because then the crew were able to bond together without cell phones, as they didn’t have any signal!”
The decision to set the drama within an NGO and the world of its activists doubles as a mechanism for the organisation, in future seasons, to explore other aspects of climate change, looking at the oil industry and the oceans. Work is already progressing on a second season, which will explore a different type of environmental crime.
But Renner says that despite Aruanas’ representation of the work of NGOs and their fight for a more equitable and sustainable world, her main priority is to entertain viewers with this high-stakes thriller.
“Chernobyl would be the perfect example because it’s super well done, super entertaining and when you finish watching it, it makes you think this power of destruction we have now is bad,” she says, referring to HBO and Sky Atlantic’s recent miniseries about the 1980s nuclear disaster.
“Maybe people can connect with NGOs and see what they’re doing. We didn’t want this to be too on the nose. We want to stay for several seasons through the characters and their lives, and it does have a happy ending. There are so many series with a dystopian future; dreaming collectively of a good future is important because it has power.”
Brazilian actor Mariana Ximenes discusses taking centre stage in Globo limited series Si Cierro Los Ojos Ahora (If I Close My Eyes Now).
With a career spanning more than 20 years, Mariana Ximenes has starred in series such as Cidade Proibida (Forbidden City), Supermax and International Emmy-winning telenovela Joia Rara (Precious Pearl).
The Brazilian actor can now be seen in Globo limited series Si Cierro Los Ojos Ahora (If I Close My Eyes Now), which is inspired by Eden Silvestre’s novel of the same name. Set in the 1960s, the nine-hour coming-of-age story sees two boys, Paulo (João Gabriel D’Aleluia) and Eduardo (Xande Valois) discover a woman’s mutilated body.
After first becoming suspects, they decide to investigate the mystery, leading them to characters including mayor Adriano Marques Torres (Murilo Benício), first lady Isabel (Débora Falabella), and entrepreneur Geraldo Bastos (Gabriel Braga Nunes) and his wife Adalgisa (Ximenes).
The drama is written by Ricardo Linhares, with artistic direction by Carlos Manga Jr. Here, Ximenes tells DQ about the changing nature of Brazilian television and the appeal of starring in a limited series.
When you read a script, what do you look for in a character or a series?
I like to help tell a story. When I read a script, I ask myself: why tell this story? Will this character excite the public and excite me? Have I ever done anything with this kind of language or character? Who’s on the team? I like a challenge and always think about doing a story that reels me in at first glance. I follow my gut instinct.
The number of female-led series and strong female protagonists on screen is increasing around the world. Has this included Brazil?
I’ve been keeping up with international productions and I am very happy this movement is underway. Here in Brazil, we do have great female characters in TV but we’re coming up short in movies. Few stories are told from a female perspective, unfortunately. But I sincerely hope this will change very soon. I’ve already seen a greater number of women on film production teams. I starred in a comedy at the end of the year that was written and directed by a woman, produced by another woman, with a team full of women. It’s nice to see a set filled with a female team that’s driven and competent.
What interested you about playing Adalgisa in If I Close My Eyes Now?
Adalgisa is flippant, sarcastic, intense, mysterious, ahead of her time and experiences several underlying conflicts. That’s pretty appealing for an actress. It was also a privilege to be able to rely on such a well-oiled machine of a team. I love some of Adalgisa’s lines – like ‘I wish I had a liver in place of a heart, so I could drink more and feel less.’
How did you help develop the character?
During dress rehearsals, we discovered some traits of her personality and her relationships with the other characters in the series. I love to rehearse, and I think it’s key. I also like to work with a trainer, who is also a psychoanalyst, because she helps me create the character’s psychological profile. Adalgisa has some support mechanisms for the pain in her soul, such as booze and cigarettes. She’s always smoking and/or drinking in every scene. That alone brings a strong characteristic that influences posture, clothing, the way you talk.
How was your experience filming the show?
I loved filming in the small town of Catas Altas, in the state of Minas Gerais. Another thing that happens is complicity between the cast and team members, because we start to live intensely both on and off set. This creates a harmony that helps at work. There’s also the possibility to see beautiful places like all the waterfalls and the Serra do Caraça mountain. I’ll never forget those landscapes.
The series is set in the 1960s. Do you enjoy filming period dramas? How do the setting and design inform your acting performance?
I love period plots. You have a historical distance that gives you more clarity to build the character and understand their context within the story. When you enter the dressing room and put on the costume, the transformation has already begun. Then there’s hair, makeup, scenery – everything complements the actor’s work, creating an ambiance to build on and contribute to our creation. Everything influences behaviour: social class, rules, society’s codes, customs, music, politics.
Why do you think If I Close My Eyes Now will appeal to international audiences?
Because it’s an intriguing story packed with suspense and sprinkled with humour. The narrative is well built, and the show has beautiful Brazilian landscapes, an amazing soundtrack and impeccable photography with a Brazilian touch.
The works of English author Jane Austen are the inspiration for Globo’s latest telenovela. Artistic director Fred Mayrink tells DQ about the drama and his approach to his craft.
Since the beginning of his career more than 30 years ago, Brazilian director Fred Mayrink has always placed a special emphasis on his collaboration with actors. It’s a practice that has evolved from his boyhood experiences as a stage actor when he was just nine years old, so you know he is being sincere when he says he has great respect for and is very comfortable with actors, having grown up among them. That, in turn, also ensures his cast feel relaxed on set.
But when it comes to overseeing telenovelas, he has also discovered the importance of technical direction and aesthetic movement, with emotion serving as the glue that holds everything together.
“That’s where the work of actors comes from,” he explains. “That’s why I’m so careful with cast direction, because a well-directed actor, with the right emotion, can transport you to another place. It’s what effectively touches you.”
A common theme in telenovelas is love, and in the case of Pride & Passion, his new 100×60’ series for Brazil’s Globo, it is an emotion that can be found running through the drama. “It’s a telenovela with lots of romance and the texture of a fable, brightness and light, transporting the audience to a magical universe, with a very special enchantment that is unique to this story.”
Set at the beginning of the 20th century, the story introduces a mother who dreams of marrying her five daughters to eligible bachelors – but marriage is not a priority for them. From this short synopsis and the title, it’s not difficult to imagine how screenwriter Marcos Bernstein was inspired by the works of English author Jane Austen.
Rock Story actor Nathalia Dill stars. The cast also includes Vera Holtz (Brazil Avenue) and Thiago Lacerda (Precious Pearl).
Pride & Passion, which is produced by Globo and was launched at Natpe Miami by Globo Internacional earlier this year, marks Mayrink’s fourth period telenovela. “I love it,” he says of bringing the past back to life.
“It is a chance to shift your perspective and look into a space, a slice of time that you are not living in. Nobody has time for anything anymore and many beautiful things have been lost. Therefore, a period telenovela gives us this romantic, soft atmosphere, when time was available and we used it differently, almost in a charming manner.”
Despite its period setting, this show is extremely contemporary as a female-driven series that “portrays women as they are, as real people.” In a telenovela, however, love will always find a way.
“We speak of love today in the same way that we talked about it in 1800. Our desires, our dreams and our passion are the same as they were 200 or 300 years ago,” Mayrink explains. “Our insights have changed, our receptiveness has changed, but I am very happy to talk about those subtleties. This is a big part of the magic of this telenovela.”
As with all telenovelas he has worked on, the director says the biggest challenge he faces is creating a dialogue with the audience by tapping into their feelings and drawing an emotional response from them.
“It is a magical moment when you can establish this connection,” he says. “There is no recipe. The challenge is to have the sensitivity, care and subtlety to realise what story you are telling and how you want to build this bridge with the audience, using your best emotions. This is the long path we have to tread for months, taking great care every day, in every scene, in each actor’s performance, costumes and lighting. The team is greatly dedicated to making this magic moment happen.”
Despite Latin America’s recent move towards shorter series, telenovelas are still as strong and popular as ever. Mayrink believes their particular approach to storytelling serves as a portrait of society, with the huge running time able to offer time and space to broach a wide range of topics and themes.
“It’s a very broad and rich product with many possibilities, and one that is constantly evolving,” he adds. “The themes are constantly being revised, new topics come up and the language changes. It is this outward perspective that brings new elements that will be worked into the telenovelas.”
George Moura and Sergio Goldenberg, writers of Brazilian ‘superseries’ Onde Nascem os Fortes (Land of the Strong), talk about how the country’s unique landscape inspired this story of love and tragedy.
Onde Nascem os Fortes (Land of the Strong) is a 30-hour-long ‘superseries’ produced by Brazilian network Globo.
When an adventurous young man, Nonato (Marco Pigossi, Edge of Desire), goes missing after a fight, his mother Cássia (Patrícia Pillar, Side by Side) and his twin sister Maria (Alice Wegmann, Dangerous Liaisons) begin a dangerous journey in search of answers in a town where brute force is more powerful than the law.
From writers George Moura and Sergio Goldenberg, the pair behind fellow Brazilian dramas Doomed and Siren’s Song, the series is described as a modern and female-led western that looks at love, hate and forgiveness as it delves into an old family secret that puts many lives at stake.
As Globo brings the series to the international market for the first time, Moura and Goldenberg tell DQ about the origins of the drama, their writing process and the challenges of shooting in a unique landscape.
What are the origins of the series? Sergio Goldenberg: Land of the Strong is a story about how passion can lead to love and hate, and how forgiveness is the only way out of certain impasses. Based on the classic telenovela format – the story of a love thwarted by a tragedy – we have crafted a story that portrays Brazil as it is today. George Moura: The story’s setting was defined long before we thought about the plot. Although I’m from the city of Recife, which is the capital of Pernambuco, in north-east Brazil, I discovered the hinterlands very early on. The Brazilian hinterlands have a symbolism similar to the west for Americans or the desert for Arabs. Land of the Strong is not a story about the friendly side of Brazil, for which the country is more commonly known. The plot addresses a Brazil where survival of the fittest prevails, where citizens find neither support nor assistance from the state and must make it on their own. This is one of the aspects of this story, which we developed after researching and experiencing the north-eastern hinterlands.
How did the location inspire the story or setting? What makes it a good backdrop for a drama series? Moura: The hinterlands are more than a setting; we moulded them into a character in the story. We’ve always wished to return to the geography of the hinterlands to tell new stories, and Land of the Strong was a great opportunity. The hinterlands are a place with a mythical atmosphere which is deeply related to the formation of Brazil. What’s more, it has a confrontation between the old and the new that is very rich in terms of drama. Land of the Strong is a story that needs to take place in this area. Artistic director José Luiz Villamarim (Brazil Avenue, Doomed) and our entire team embarked on an adventure to make the show, shooting across different locations in the north east for almost six months and breathing life into the imaginary town of Sertão. We have a large number of external scenes, and it was an intense team effort. Essentially, our intention was to showcase a Brazil that few people know. Goldenberg: By leaving the Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo axis, we created an opportunity to explore a Brazil that, although very rich, is still unknown to many. It’s extremely important for us to portray Brazil from a different angle from the one the public is used to seeing.
What research did you do before writing the scripts? Moura: I decided to take a long trip around the north east before writing the show. I believe we need to contemplate the world with a clear head before writing a story, so that’s what I did. With pen and paper in hand and some books in my luggage, I travelled more than 3,000km through the hinterlands in 10 days, taking notes, daydreaming, listening to the silence and experiencing the local culture. Sergio and I used this information to outline the story we wanted to tell. The next step was a lot of work. It’s an obsession, a sort of trance that is more or less lucid at times. In many instances when we wrote sequences, we had already imagined where they would take place. This is not the only way, but it brings truth to this story.
Tell us about your writing partnership – how did you work together? Moura: I met Sergio, whom I affectionately call Gold, a golden boy, more than 15 years ago during a TV job. From then on, we’ve always found a way to work together. I have full confidence in him and deep admiration for his talent and insights in tune with the world and, above all, people. He’s a tireless partner, always ready to get the best from the scene. It’s a pleasure and a joy to join him on this journey.
How was your writing process similar or different from that for Siren’s Song, Doomed and The Party? Goldenberg: Above all else, the journey was different. Siren’s Song had four episodes, Doomed did not reach 10 and The Party had a small number of episodes as well. We made a more daring choice in Land of the Strong: despite the greater number of episodes, we challenged ourselves to write a story with only a few central characters – approximately nine – who develop due to the twists and turns of the plot and the changes they undergo throughout the story. It was difficult but very rewarding, because the audience’s response surprised us. It’s like we did four seasons of the same series all at once.
How did you work with the directors to bring your scripts to the screen? Moura: When you write, you inevitably imagine the characters, geography, intentions and everything else. That’s where my partnership with Villamarim, comes in. We’ve made Por Toda a Minha Vida, Siren’s Song, Doomed and The Party together. It’s a type of partnership in which these things seem to be born together. Villamarim doesn’t write and I don’t direct, but somewhere along the line we meet to help transform what’s on paper into moving images.
What were the biggest challenges you faced, either during the scriptwriting or in production? Goldenberg: Keeping the audience’s interest for more than three months on air with daily broadcasts, and shooting in a very dry environment, with very high temperatures, far from urban centres. The team was isolated for months, creating a sense of immersion that can be felt in every scene.
How is Brazilian drama evolving and what new opportunities are there for writers? Goldenberg: The Brazilian market is very active. In addition to linear TV, there’s cinema and new platforms. I believe diversity is the hallmark of these times, and this is opening up new horizons for bolder stories that are yet to be told.
Maria Camargo, lead writer of Brazilian drama Assédio (Harassment), tells DQ about the real-life themes and issues that inspired this series about a group of women who stand up to the doctor who sexually abused them.
Described as one of a “new breed” of drama series for Brazilian broadcaster Globo, Assédio (Harassment) was notable in that it first launched on the network’s streaming platform, Globoplay.
The subject matter is also particularly topical and timely, dealing with many of the issues at the centre of the #MeToo campaign against sexual harassment, a topic of significant relevance to audiences in Brazil and around the world.
The story follows a group of women who get together on social media to expose the sexual harassment they have all experienced at the hands of a renowned specialist in reproductive medicine, beginning when one of them decides to reveal what had until then been confined within the walls of the doctor’s office.
Stela (Adriana Esteves), Eugênia (Paula Possani), Maria José (Hermila Guedes), Vera (Fernanda D’Umbra) and Daiane (Jéssica Ellen) all suffered the same abuse by Dr Roger Sadala (Antonio Calloni). Through the show, the lives of these five women intertwine amid dreams, frustrations, grief, resilience, heroism and a burning desire for justice. Supporting their cause is Mira (Elisa Volpatto), a tireless journalist who obsessively pursues evidence of the doctor’s crimes.
Significantly, the drama is split into two sections. The first depicts the rise of Dr Sadala, in contrast to the women’s suffering. The second takes place after the women unite and break their silence.
Filmed on location in São Paulo, with the big-city backdrop juxtaposing with the victims’ loneliness, the 10-part drama is written by Maria Camargo (The Brothers), together with journalist Bianca Ramoneda plus Fernando Rebello and Pedro de Barros. Behind the camera, the series was led by artistic director Amora Mautner (Precious Pearl, Brazil Avenue), who guides the limited series, with general direction by Joana Jabace and direction by Guto Botelho. Globo is the producer and distributor.
Carmago tells DQ more about the show, which is among the new dramas being screened at Berlinale’s Drama Series Days next week.
What were the origins of the story? Maria Carmago: The series is fictional, but based on real life – the case of doctor Roger Abdelmassih, a fertility expert who was convicted of sexual abuse. It wasn’t his story that interested me, but the symbolic significance of his crimes, his capture and his conviction. For me, the central conflict was the clash between a world that has always been too violent for women and women who, together, break this cycle of violence. The plot reflects a world in transformation.
How was the series inspired by the ongoing #MeToo movements and other similar groups?
When we started writing Harassment, there already were some complaints on the internet of harassment, violence against women and sexism in Brazil. The issue was in the air – #meuprimeiroassedio (loosely translated as ‘my first harassment’), for example, appeared on social media in October 2015, two years before #MeToo. When the movement in Hollywood came to light, we were already writing the series. Therefore, more than an inspiration, the movement was a confirmation that we were on the right path.
Describe your writing process with Bianca Ramoneda, Fernando Rebello and Pedro de Barros.
It was a little different from what the writers room used to be. Since we were dealing with a structure that had many plots, most of the time the work was distributed among the writers by story groups, not by chapter. I structured the episodes after the creation meeting, with the scenes already described and in the right order, and Bianca, Pedro and Fernando wrote the scenes from the groups they mastered best. At the end, with the scenes written, I did the final writing of the episode.
There’s a little bit of everyone in the series – and also of Eduarda Azevedo, a researcher who helped us explore the true story and turn it into fiction in a responsible manner.
Why did you decide to tell the story in two distinct parts?
The construction of the narrative had a clear intention: to make the public follow very closely the story of each woman and, then, their union – a union that gives them the strength to face the doctor. In the first half of the series, the antagonist is on the rise, increasingly powerful, rich and influential. The women, on the other hand, are falling down, living in an increasingly deeper hell. They are presented in their suffering, one in each episode, like voices being added to a choir.
In the second half, this choir is complete and, together, the women gain strength – unlike the doctor, who is cornered and starts to decline. Anchored in a world that allowed him to do what he was doing, he weakens against the union of his victims. Both parties are, therefore, constructed from two main opposing dramatic curves, representing the doctor and his victims. A third vector is added to the latter: the journalist who helps the victims during the complaint.
How did you build the characters of the women at the heart of the series?
The actual story only happens because the protagonists are women, with desires, vulnerabilities and, above all, a strength that is essentially feminine. In Harassment, women are the ones who run the world.
Having these multiple female protagonists as a starting point, we did thorough research into the story and the real victims. We investigated in depth their testimonies, their motivations, the paths they travelled between violence and their search for justice, starting with the desire to become mothers and their frustration at not being able to fulfil this wish. Motherhood has always been a central point for me. Despite not facing obstacles to having a child, I always thought that, if I had, I would have done anything to get pregnant, because it had always been my greatest wish.
After investigating and identifying the victims, we knew it would be impossible to account for all their stories. Therefore, we built fictional characters to represent the tragedies experienced by real women. Stela, for example, is the woman who keeps silent for a long time, has her life completely destroyed by the doctor and is not able to make the dream of motherhood come true. Eugênia, on the other hand, is more emotionally structured and has her husband as an ally, but lives in conflict regarding the paternity of the child generated in the fertility clinic. Maria José has a more humble origin, having crossed the country and sold her assets to accomplish her dream – a dream she achieves, but at too high a price: in addition to the rape, she is also a victim of violence from her husband, who doesn’t believe her.
With the six main characters – and other women, with smaller roles – we tried to encompass hundreds of stories balancing facts, versions of the truth and, of course, fiction. We did everything within our grasp to make the passage to fiction gently and responsibly.
Why did you decide to introduce a journalist to help them fight their cause?
Like the six victims represent aspects of a story that involved so many other women, Mira, the reporter, represents the media professionals who were essential to capture the doctor and served as an inspiration for the limited series. Obstinate and obsessive, she is a symbolic character. The role of the press in the case was hugely important and could not be left out.
How is Dr Roger Sadala presented – as an evil character? Or is it not as simple as that?
He is a classic antagonist, in a way. He is awful, but, at the same time, extremely charming and seductive. His out-of-control libido, combined with a social, political and legal permissiveness that favoured him, made him a criminal. It’s hard to create nuances in a character like this but, when writing a character, you have to put yourself in his shoes, say things he believes in, believe in the stories he tells himself. Without this, he would be an excessively stereotypical villain. We wanted him to be a character whom anyone could run into. These are the worst antagonists – the ones you can meet in real life. Even more in this case, when we start with a man who exists in real life and whom several women had the misfortune to meet.
We tried to build all characters, including the secondary ones, like this, focusing on their truths. But what prevails, of course, is the women’s point of view. We, as authors and directors, took their side.
Harassment has multiple groups that intertwine, and we include a few moments where the doctor and his family are shown. But in the scenes of the attacks, we are always with the victims. This careful approach was developed from the beginning. We’re not seeing with the eye of the aggressor.
In this sense, I go back to what Dr Roger Sadala represents – a world established on a patriarchal and sexist operating model, which accepts, enables and encourages violent behaviour that should not be tolerated. Apparently harmless harassments pave the way to cases of unspeakable sexual violence. This is what we’re talking about: a system that silently allows violence and abuse against women, and a movement of women who break this silence.
How did you and the other writers work with artistic director Amora Mautner?
The screenplay and direction teams always worked in line; we were telling the same story. It was our first time working together and it was a happy marriage.
Amora has a very special insight into the mechanics of a scene, a sophisticated eye and inexhaustible energy to make things happen on set. And there was, of course, affinity, which is rare. I like the way she directs, she likes the way I write. We have the same type of observation – we like the same images. I graduated in cinema and, before becoming a screenwriter, I was an assistant director and dabbled with photography. These past passions are present in my writing and helped our aesthetic affinity. Additionally, it was very good that we were women helming the project.
What do you hope viewers take from the series?
In addition to entertaining, I hope the show can also cause reflection. I’m not talking of pamphleteer speeches that kill any drama, but of the choice of theme and how to tell it, of ways to see the world. I believe a good story can help change things, especially when it is strongly intertwined not only with reality, but with a reality that needs to be questioned and modified.
How is Brazilian drama evolving for writers?
Writing is not easy, in Brazil or anywhere in the world. In dark times such as those in which we are living, this is exacerbated. On the other hand, we have an abundance of raw material. Brazil is an astonishing country, in good ways and bad.
What’s good is that female voices have gained space. Of course, we will always have men writing about women and women writing about men – empathy is almost synonymous with dramaturgy – but the fact is that, for generations, there was much more room for male storytellers, particularly in the audiovisual sector. The diversity of perspectives and voices is an evolution, and it is good for everyone.
Brazil’s Globo tackles the body-swap format in La Fórmula (The Formula), which sees a scientist transform into a younger version of herself after taking a unique elixir. DQ chats to leading actors Drica Moraes and Luisa Arraes about playing very different versions of the same character.
The road to true love is never easy – but in Brazilian drama La Fórmula (The Formula), the path is particularly treacherous.
The eight-part limited series sees scientist Angelica reunite with her high-school sweetheart after discovering an elixir that can make a person 30 years younger. After she tests the potion on herself, she begins switching back and forth between her real age and her younger self, becoming her own love rival as her boyfriend falls in love with both versions, unaware they are the same person.
The series, distributed internationally by Globo TV International, stars Drica Moraes and Luisa Arraes, who previously appeared together in fellow Globo series Justiça (Above Justice), as the older and younger versions of Angelica respectively.
Speaking to DQ, they discuss the appeal of the roles and how they worked together bring the character to life, in more ways than one.
How would you describe the story of The Formula? Drica Moraes: The Formula is a story about the reunion of a couple of scientists, Angelica, played by myself, and Ricardo – Fábio Assunção – 30 years after a confusing break-up when they were young. In the past, both were students and competed for a place at Harvard University. She gets it, he doesn’t. However, Angelica devises a plan to swap the exam results and make Ricardo think the opposite happened. Ricardo leaves for Harvard and becomes a major businessman in the cosmetics industry and Angelica graduates in Brazil and has a prestigious academic career. They meet again 30 years after breaking up, at a conference where Angelica mysteriously ends up developing a formula that can make you 30 years younger. She applies the formula to herself, becoming a test subject for her own invention. A third character is born from this experiment, Aphrodite – played by Luisa Arraes – the rejuvenated version of Angelica, but with a personality of her own. Ricardo slowly learns that there are two women in one. So begins an unusual love triangle in which Angelica is her own rival. Luisa Arraes: It’s a story about age and its peculiarities. Angelica discovers a formula that makes her 30 years younger and, with her maturity and experience, she sets off to live her life in the body of a 20-year-old. This causes a lot of confusion, because this new body begins to have feelings and even a new identity, named Aphrodite. And these two women begin to fight for their existence.
What was the appeal of playing your character? Moraes: We had several resources to create a unique, multifaceted character with a double identity. The basis was intense training between Luisa and me. We researched similar gestures, rhythms and dynamics. The directors bet on a language based on long, continuous shots, with heavy use of hand-held cameras – and their relationship with the actors’ ‘ballet’ also helped build the illusion of the characters’ split personality. Arraes: It was wonderful because I’ve always been a fan of Drica, especially after I started working as an actress. So playing the same character as her and studying her way of acting was amazing. One was a young, still innocent Angelica; the other was a mix of Angelica’s intelligence and maturity with Aphrodite’s expansiveness. Angelica gets crazier when she becomes Aphrodite.
How are they different from each other? Moraes: Angelica is a focused, serious, thoughtful woman with a stagnant sex and love life. On the other hand, Aphrodite is a pure explosion of hormones. The fun in developing these characters comes from this contrast in their personalities.
How does their story progress through the series? Arraes: In each episode, Aphrodite becomes increasingly independent of Angelica, developing another personality and becoming almost a villain in the love affair between Angelica and Ricardo. She wants to exist, but when she does, Angelica doesn’t. Therein lies the conflict.
How does the series balance drama and comedy? Are there many funny moments? Moraes: The plot is half drama, half comedy. A love triangle in which the female protagonist becomes a rival to herself is so absurd that it creates unexpected moments of drama and comedy. An example is when Aphrodite decides to get pregnant with Ricardo’s child, but Angelica can no longer bear children. This creates significant dramatic tension. On the other hand, the mix-ups in which the young woman places her counterpart at risk are very fun. Arraes: There are many funny moments. The series sometimes uses humour and drama in the same scene. It’s sort of like laughing at misfortune.
How did you work together to ensure you were both playing forms of the same character? Arraes: Drica and I were joined at the hip from the start and we studied each other a lot. I watched all her scenes and she watched mine. We gave each other tips. Sometimes I didn’t know how to play a scene and I asked her to do it, and vice versa. We worked together.
What did your preparation for the series involve? Moraes: We did a one-month immersion involving readings, improvisation, several types of contact with the text and many exercises – including body, voice and mirror exercises – plus work in scene adaptation. This was all very useful on the set. Arraes: A lot of interaction among the cast, studying with the directors and preparation with casting associate Eduardo Milewicz. Every day before filming, we all sat down to discuss the scenes.
Tell us about filming the scenes where Angelica would transform into Aphrodite. How was this achieved? Arraes: Most of the scenes were resolved with sequence shots and stage tricks, not computers. This was director Flavia Lacerda’s brilliant idea. The actors make the transformations believable, not the effects. Sometimes we made very lengthy sequence shots and Drica hid on the set to pick up where I left off, and then I jumped behind the curtains so they could continue the scenes.
We’ve seen many ‘body swap’ films and series made – why do you think it’s a popular format for a story? Moraes: I think plots that involve body swapping and transmutations ask a direct question: what would my life be like if I were someone else? How would I feel? Would it make me happier?
What does the series say about vanity and the struggle for eternal youth – and do you agree? Moraes: The series paints a picture of how women historically have been forced – often by themselves, but also by society – to meet certain beauty and youth standards to be accepted. These values are changing quickly but are very ingrained. It’s a fight that will go on for many years. I believe the benefits of aesthetic medicine can bring pleasure and happiness when in the right measure. Otherwise, it becomes a disease, an obsession, in which women are always fighting a losing battle. Time goes by and this is normal. It would be very nice to be able to make peace with this fact. Arraes: I think it denounces without moralising. There’s a study that says people have a harder time with ageing than dying. We need to talk about getting older; being young can’t be the only option.
Why do you think this series would appeal to international viewers? Moraes: The Formula has long sequence shots, which brings some freshness to the acting. It has a ‘live’ feel, a sense of ‘filmed theatre,’ which can be quite entertaining for the audience in general. Arraes: It’s a very high-quality series made in Brazil with engaged actors. Ageing is a universal issue.
Do you prefer acting in short-run series or longer telenovelas, and why? Moraes: I prefer series. We start with a better notion of the whole and greater care with the product’s final outcome. Arraes: I prefer series too, because we normally have more time to prepare for scenes. But the telenovelas usually have amazing plots as well.
How would you describe the current state of Brazilian drama? Moraes: The market is always booming because we have some of the best TV shows in the world. Globo’s telenovelas and series are very high quality. The content and themes are generally very current. It’s an economy that never stops. The variety of audiovisual formats extends the market to everyone – artists and technicians.
How will the business change over the next few years? Moraes: I believe telenovelas and series will always exist and that there will be new developments in shorter formats for broadcast and cable TV, as well as programming that already exists for the digital universe. Arraes: I think we have no way of avoiding the strong influence of the internet on dramaturgy. And with respect to the scenario, the plus side is that world is getting closer with every new device.
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.
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.
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.
Ambitious Brazilian telenovela Deus Salve o Rei (God Save the King) goes big on visual effects in a bid to recreate its medieval setting.
Sometimes finding the right location to stage a scene or recreate a particular era can prove impossible. So for its latest telenovela, the historical Deus Salve o Rei (God Save the King), Brazilian broadcaster Globo bet heavily on visual effects.
The series, which launched yesterday, is being filmed in a town that has been built inside a studio, made to look like an outdoor setting. The scale of visual effects used exceed that on any other Globo production.
Set in medieval times, the telenovela, which blends drama and comedy, uses state-of-the art technology, scenography and costumes to recreate the two fictional kingdoms at the heart of the story. The plot concerns two princely brothers who do not want to succeed to the throne: one is afraid of becoming king and the other abdicates because of his love for a civilian.
The cast includes Marina Ruy Barbosa (Total Dreamer), Bruna Marquezine (Helena’s Shadow), Caio Blat (Empire), Ricardo Pereira (Precious Pearl) and Johnny Massaro (Fight or Love?), plus Tatá Werneck and Rosamaria Murtinho (both from Trail of Lies).
To bring to life the castles, mountainous landscapes, vast plains and royal settings, as well as two medieval kingdoms, Deus Salve o Rei is being shot at Globo Studios in Rio de Janeiro, inside two warehouses with more than 2,000 square metres of floor space.
One houses the Kingdom of Montemor, with a castle and town, while the second warehouse is home to the Kingdom of Artena. It also holds a large area for scenes involving visual effects, forests, landscapes and battle sequences.
“Shooting in a town built in an indoor studio gives us total control over lighting at all times, as well as a space that can be transformed for multiple uses,” says artistic director Fabrício Mamberti. “In the creation of the two kingdoms, we mixed various references and European styles to reach the final visual results with the castles, villages, hamlets, taverns, shops and the houses of some of the characters.”
With up to eight times as many visual effects as the average Globo production, almost every scene of Deus Salve o Rei will have some form of digital implant. These include, in particular, the battle scenes and virtual forests, which are created and inserted into scenes shot on camera.
“The actors will be interacting most of the time with real sets,” Mamberti continues. “They will be exposed to the virtual environment but with the inclusion of real-life objects and also references of real locations, especially in the forest scenes.”
Techniques such as motion capture, using more than 50 cameras, are also in play, giving more agility and precision to the animations, while computerised camera cranes are able to reproduce repetitive movements with high precision.
The Globo team has also developed a face-scanning system that enabled them to capture the faces of the real actors to create high-resolution models that can be incorporated into the real-life scenes of a production with more than 100 episodes, airing six days a week.
To create the background scenery, real-world images were captured from eight countries: Spain, France, New Zealand, England, Iceland, Northern Ireland and Scotland. A small crew spent 32 days travelling to capture 4,000 images, which are being used for stock shots and 3D implementation.
“We are making use of some of the most advanced visual computing technologies in this production and all of the solutions are developed internally,” says Paulo Rabello, director of entertainment technology at Globo. “The great challenge in a telenovela is that we have to finalise complex scenes from a technological standpoint in a few days. But we have invested heavily in innovation and training for the professionals in charge of creating such impactful special effects.”
Meanwhile, the art department has been on hand to supply the set with items such as carriages, ceramics, cutlery, food and books.
Weapons including swords, axes, bows and arrows have been sourced and bought in Spain and Portugal or crafted in Rio de Janeiro, while great feasts featured in the show have required props such as glasses, cups, plates and dishes made from materials including clay, wood, tin, soapstone and bone. Flags, maps, manuscripts, pictures and paintings have also been added to background sets.
It all adds up to a visual feast for Globo viewers, and offers a new insight into the way television productions are creating new and old worlds for stories to live.
For a video illustrating how visual effects are used in Deus Salve o Rei, click here.
Brazilian hospital drama Bajo Presión (Under Pressure) takes the medical genre to new levels of authenticity, using real-life stories and filming at a disused hospital. DQ hears from creator Jorge Furtado and artistic director Andrucha Waddington about producing this ‘genuinely Brazilian’ series.
For all the talk that nobody watches linear television these days, ignoring traditional schedules to catch up in their own time, one series has proven beyond doubt it is still possible for a family – heck, a nation – to share the experience of watching a drama series together.
When it first aired in July, Brazilian medical drama Bajo Presión (Under Pressure) attracted an astonishing 44 million viewers. At a time when there are more ways to watch television and more shows to watch than ever before, five out of 10 households across the country tuned in to Globo’s fast-paced series, set in a run-down hospital in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro.
Coproduced by Globo and Conspiração and distributed by Globo International, the nine-part series follows a team of doctors torn between their personal conflicts, the difficulties of their profession and the surprising dramas behind each patient as they attempt to save lives.
Here, creator Jorge Furtado and artistic director Andrucha Waddington, who also directed a movie that preceded the series, tell DQ about the origins and production of the show.
How would you describe the story of Under Pressure? Jorge Furtado: The series is about a very real story of urgency – life and death. It’s about the lives of the doctors and staff at a public hospital in the suburbs of Rio. It’s about each of the characters – and the two leading roles, of course – and their relationships as the story moves forward.
The curious part is that the two leads are most likely their own worst enemies: Evandro [Julio Andrade, Above Justice] is haunted by the ghost of his deceased wife. Carolina [Marjorie Estiano, Dangerous Liaisons] suffered a traumatic experience during her childhood and still struggles with the consequences. She still carries the self-inflicted marks and bruises on her body. The climax for these two characters is when they are able to finally deal with the skeletons in their closets.
Why were you interested in telling a story set in a hospital? Furtado: The idea for Under Pressure came from the movie with the same name, which was originally envisioned by director Mini Kerti, freely inspired by the book Sob Pressão – A Rotina de Guerra de um Médico Brasileiro (loosely translated as Under Pressure – A Brazilian Doctor’s War Routine), written by Dr Márcio Maranhão.
But what really interested me was how important it was to bring pressing issues to our audience’s attention. I went to medical school for four years, back in the 1970s [along with Dr Maranhão], but I decided to give it up because it was not my true calling. When you get to the fourth year of medical school, which is when you spend the most time at the hospital, you see people dying right in front of you every day.
One day when we were at the hospital, there was a child screaming with pain in the waiting room. Márcio took a look at him and said it was probably appendicitis. So he asked the doctors why they wouldn’t prioritise the kid’s case. A doctor answered: “We don’t have any cotton compress.” I saw the boy begging us to do something and realised that our role was to make television.
Why is the series described as ‘genuinely Brazilian?’ Which elements make it unique to Brazil? Furtado: Each episode brings to light different problems of life in Brazil that challenge the medical staff. The series is about our shortcomings and realities, and it always conveys important messages of public utility: wear condoms, AIDS is making a comeback, don’t drink and drive, always wear a helmet and so on.
This series is not just about doctors investigating diseases. The disease is the final straw. The main focus is on the personal drama lived by these doctors while facing the harsh reality and pain of the patients.
What research did you carry out? Furtado: All of the patients’ stories in the show are based on actual cases. They came from conversations with Dr Maranhão, who worked as a consultant while we were shooting, and from a lot of reading and visits to Rio hospitals to gather information.
The most incredible story we came across was about a woman who survived being shot in the heart with a rifle. When we asked the doctors how that was possible, they simply said: “We have no clue.”
The research process was very inspiring for us to create the stories. There were days when we’d leave the field with more than 10 new stories for the series.
How would you describe the writing process? Furtado: Antonio Prata, Marcio Alemão, Lucas Paraizo and I wrote the series using a lot of research, and conversations with several different doctors, especially Dr Maranhão, as well as the many visits to hospitals.
Describe the visual style. Andrucha Waddington: We aimed for realism, with most of the show being filmed in a real hospital. When we were searching for a location, we found out about Hospital Nossa Senhora das Dores, in Rio de Janeiro, which has the perfect structure and only uses 20% of its capacity. A huge wing is empty, and using it as our location did not interfere with the hospital’s operation in any way. We filmed 75% of Under Pressure there. Additionally, some scenes were filmed in other locations, where the personal lives of the medical team go on.
The photography, art direction, makeup and wardrobe all serve dramaturgy, helping to translate the personality of the professionals who are part of the ER’s chaotic environment. At the same time, we have the guidance of a medical team supervised by Dr Maranhão, our consultant for the series as well as the movie.
What were the biggest challenges in development and production? Furtado: Our goal is to always balance drama and hope, while showing how hard the doctors work to save a patient, even with all the difficulties and obstacles – all while trying to bring as much realism as possible to a fictional series.
Andrucha is an extreme perfectionist, which helps set the tone for the plot. The surgery filming time, for example, is handled very carefully. And there are also the prostheses that he had made. It’s all very realistic, including the location. The fact it was shot in an actual hospital makes all the difference.
How is Brazilian drama evolving and what new stories are you able to tell? Furtado: I’m very optimistic about how audiovisual drama production is progressing in Brazil. I don’t think we have ever had such a diverse range of narratives, themes, accents and genders. There is a little bit of everything for every taste and need; the hard part is finding the right audience for films and series. The various platforms, wide-ranging media and technological amenities ultimately leverage the production and demand for audiovisual content. I believe all of this is very positive. Nowadays, there’s no excuse not to make a series. Waddington: Brazil is full of stories that are unique, rich, happy and full of drama. The more Brazilian the stories featured in drama pieces, the deeper and more cosmopolitan they become.
The great and good of the television industry are once again packing their bags for another week in the south of France. DQ previews some of the drama series set to break out at Mipcom 2017.
Mipcom is often viewed as an opportunity for US studios to showcase their scripted series to international buyers. But this year the US will be jostling for attention with dramas from the likes of Spain, Russia, Brazil, Japan, Scandinavia and the UK.
The Spanish contingent is especially strong thanks to a major investment in drama by Telefonica’s Movistar+. Titles on show will be Gigantes, distributed by APC; La Peste, distributed by Sky Vision; and La Zona and Velvet Collection, both from Beta Film. The latter is a spin-off from Antena 3’s popular Velvet, previously sold around the world by Beta.
Beta is also in Cannes with Morocco – Love in Times of War, as well as Farinia – Snow on the Atlantic, both produced by Bambu for Antena 3. The former is set in war-torn Spanish Morocco in the 1920s, where a group of nurses look after troops, while Farinia centres on a fisherman who becomes a wealthy smuggler by providing South American cartels a gateway to Europe.
Mipcom’s huge Russian contingent is linked, in part, to the fact 2018 is the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Titles that tackle this subject include Demon of Revolution, Road to Calvary and Trotsky – the latter two of which will be screened at the market. Trotsky, produced by Sreda Production for Channel One Russia, is an eight-part series that tells the story of the flamboyant and controversial Leon Trotsky, an architect of the Russian Revolution and Red Army who was assassinated in exile.
Other high-profile Russian projects include TV3’s Gogol, a series of film-length dramas that reimagine the famous mystery writer as an amateur detective. Already a Russian box-office hit, the films will be screened to TV buyers at Mipcom.
Japanese drama has found a new international outlet recently following Nippon TV’s format deal for Mother in Turkey (a successful adaptation that has resulted in more interest in Japanese content among international buyers). The company is now back with a drama format called My Son. NHK, meanwhile, is screening Kurara: The Dazzling Life of Hokusai’s Daughter, a 4K production about Japan’s most famous artist.
Brazil’s Globo, meanwhile, is moving beyond the telenovelas for which it is so famous. After international recognition for dramas like Above Justice and Jailers, it will be in Cannes with Under Pressure, a coproduction with Conspiração that recorded an average daily reach of 40.2 million viewers when it aired in Brazil.
From mainland Europe, there’s a range of high-profile titles at Mipcom including Bad Banks, distributed by Federation Entertainment, which looks at corruption within the global banking world. From the Nordic region there is StudioCanal’s The Lawyer, which includes Hans Rosenfeldt (The Bridge) as one of its creators, and season two of FremantleMedia International’s Modus. The latter is particularly interesting for starring Kim Cattrall, signalling a shift towards a more hybrid Anglo-Swedish project.
While non-English-language drama will have a high profile at the market, there are compelling projects from the UK, Canada and Australia. UK’s offerings include Sky Vision’s epic period piece Britannia and All3Media International’s book adaptation The Miniaturist – both with screenings. There’s also BBC Worldwide’s McMafia (pictured top), sold to Amazon on the eve of the market, and ITV Studios Global Entertainment’s The City & The City, produced by Mammoth Screen and written by Tony Grisoni.
From Canada, there is Kew Media-distributed Frankie Drake Mysteries, from the same stable as the Murdoch Mysteries, while Banijay Rights is offering season two of Australian hit Wolf Creek. There’s also a screening for Pulse, a medical drama from ABC Commercial and Screen Australia.
Of course, it would be wrong to neglect the US entirely,since leading studios will be in town with some strong content. A+E Networks, for example, will bring actor Catherine Zeta-Jones to promote Cocaine Godmother, a TV movie about 1970s Miami drug dealer Griselda Blanco, aka The Black Widow.
Sony Pictures Entertainment, meanwhile, is screening Counterpart, in which JK Simmons (Whiplash, La La Land) plays Howard Silk, a lowly employee in a Berlin-based UN spy agency. When Silk discovers that his organisation safeguards the secret of a crossing into a parallel dimension, he is thrust into a world of intrigue and danger where the only man he can trust is his near-identical counterpart from this parallel world.
If you’re in Cannes, don’t forget to pick up the fall 2017 issue of Drama Quarterly, which features Icelandic thriller Stella Blómkvist, McMafia, Benedict Cumberbatch’s The Child in Time, Australian period drama Picnic at Hanging Rock and much more.
Fiction and reality combine in romantic period drama Nada Será Como Antes (Nothing Remains the Same), set during the time of Brazil’s first TV network in the 1950s. Writer Jorge Furtado spoke to DQ.
1950s-set period drama Nada Será Como Antes (Nothing Remains the Same) is a love story told against the backdrop of Brazil’s nascent television industry.
The series, produced and broadcast by Globo, follows radio producer Saulo (Murilo Benício), a visionary who dreams of creating the first TV network in Brazil.
Yet his blossoming romance with Verônica (Debora Falabella), a radio star who aspires to be an actress, must overcome challenges on- and off-screen if they are to live happily ever after.
Full of intrigue, jealousy and betrayal, the 10-part series has its roots in reality, set at a time when not only TV but movies and music were impacting on swathes of Brazilian culture.
The series, which first aired last autumn, was written by Jorge Furtado, Guel Arraes and João Falcão and directed by José Luiz Villamarim. It is distributed internationally by Globo International.
Here Furtado tells DQ what inspired the story and how the creative team sought to impress the spirit of the country’s famous long-running telenovelas into a 10-part series.
Tell us about Nothing Remains The Same.
Nothing Remains the Same tells the story of Saulo [Murilo Benício, Brazil Avenue], a pioneer in Brazilian television; Verônica [Débora Falabella, Brazil Avenue, Merciless], a radio star who rises as a television star; and Beatriz [Bruna Marquezine, Helena’s Shadow], a young actress seeking a career in the new world of TV. The series looks at the early years of television, from its almost accidental creation to the colossal industry it would later become, shaping Brazil’s culture and politics along the way. Television appeared in a moment of great change in the country, the late 1950s, alongside a growing wave of industrialisation, the return of democracy, the capital city moving to Brasília and revolutions in behaviour – particularly the new roles women were assuming.
What are the origins of the series?
We have worked in television for more than 30 years and we have long wanted to tell the stories that took place behind the scenes. The need to reflect on our own work was the starting point for this series.
How was the show developed for Globo?
The project started with an original script, which was rewritten in an effort that took almost two years. When we finally felt that the story was ready, we were faced with yet another challenge, which was to set up a production structure capable of faithfully recreating a period filled with so many changes. The time the series is set in was a special moment in Brazil. It was vastly rich culturally, with not only TV emerging but also Brazilian music and movies that are now the foundation of our culture, and also the reorganisation of the political structures we know today.
How would you describe the writing process?
This was perhaps the most complex project we have ever ventured into in all these years of work. Our foundation was the Brazilian telenovela, which is the strongest genre in our television and our favourite national pastime, which we also export to other countries. The three of us sat down and wrote various script treatments, separating the many plots going on behind the scenes of a telenovela into 12 chapters.
How did the writers and director work together to create the visual style of the show?
The series’ visual design took shape under the hands of artistic director José Luiz Villamarin and his team, with photography by Walter Carvalho, art production and set design by Tulé Peak and Pedro Équi and costumes by Cao Albuquerque. Studios, backstage sets and dressing rooms were faithfully rebuilt.
Where was the series filmed and how do you use the locations on screen?
The series was filmed at Globo Studios and on location in the city of Rio de Janeiro. We also used a lot of archive footage, which was carefully blended with our images, to re-create the late 1950s on screen.
What were the biggest challenges you faced during production?
The greatest challenge was creating something that reflected the seductive power of telenovelas without spiralling into an actual telenovela.
How would you describe the current state of TV drama in Brazil? Are series becoming more popular than telenovelas?
No, telenovelas still reign supreme as the favourite pastime of viewers. But the audience’s passion for Brazilian dramaturgy and our cultural industry’s great capacity came together to form a solid foundation to produce Brazilian series, which has been going on for some time now. Now we are embarking on a new era with unique dramaturgy focused on more Brazilian themes.
What new stories are now being told in Brazil? Are viewers’ appetites for new genres changing?
Viewers can now access a growing number of different types of audiovisual dramaturgy, with digital media bursting with countless formats. Today, we already have series that reflect the extraordinary cultural diversity we have in Brazil and also our ancestral problems arising from social inequality. We believe that there is room for many different formats and that audiences are ready to accept them, as long as their contents are good and relevant.
Brazilian series Carcereiros (Jailers) is building on the current trend for prison dramas by presenting events from the unique viewpoint of those charged with keeping the peace between inmates. DQ hears from the writing team behind the show.
With the success of Orange is the New Black and Wentworth, the return of Prison Break, and shows such as Spain’s Vis a Vis (Locked Up) and Brazil’s Supermax breaking out around the world, the current prison drama trend shows no sign of slowing down.
Last September, Brazilian network Globo launched Supermax, which blended reality and fiction as 12 people take part a reality show set in a former prison, all with one thing in common – they have committed a serious crime. When the production team suddenly disappears amid a series of strange events, they discover that in order to win the prize money, they will have to get out alive.
Globo is now following up that show with another prison-set series, Carcereiros (Jailers). It launched on digital platform Globo Play on June 5 and will air on the main network in 2018.
Inspired by Dráuzio Varela’s novel of the same name, it stars Rodrigo Lombardi as Adriano, a correctional officer who endures the difficulties of prison life – both his own and those of the inmates.
Adriano is charged with keeping the peace inside the jail but also faces pressures in his home life, from his wife who wants a baby, to his teenage daughter and his father, a former jailer himself. Tested daily with ethical and moral dilemmas, he lives between walls and prison bars, weapons, threats and conflicts – both human and psychological.
Writer Marçal Aquino explains: “The series revisits the prison system’s universe, but this time from the perspective of a correctional officer. We created characters who narrate the hardships of everyday life in prison, showing the clashes and tension between state and crime.”
Co-writer Fernando Bonassi adds: “The reality of Brazilian prisons – which manifests itself almost daily in the form of riots, massacres and prison breaks – influenced us more than the available fiction like books, movies, plays and series.”
Produced by broadcaster Globo and Gullane/Spray Films, Carcereiros is distributed internationally by Globo. It was the only Latin American production to be selected for this year’s MipDrama Screenings in Cannes and was subsequently awarded the Grand Jury Award (full episodes category).
Here, Aquino, Bonassi and Dennison Ramalho, who wrote the drama with Marcelo Starobinas, reveal more about how the series was developed.
What are the origins of the show?
The series was loosely inspired by the book Carcereiros, written by Dráuzio Varella.
How was the story developed for Globo?
To speak about a character who lives among prisoners, but not as one of the convicts, we worked with [writer] Dennison Ramalho to develop plots that show how such a stressful and threatening atmosphere lingers beyond the protagonist’s work environment, as he ends up ‘imprisoning’ his family.
How would you describe your writing process?
After the synopses were drafted, we wrote the scripts in collaboration with screenwriter Marcelo Starobinas.
How did you work with the director to develop the visual style and tone of the series?
The script served as the basis for the director and his team to work freely on the design of the series’ visual concept and also to guide them in setting its tone.
Who are the lead cast members?
The cast features Rodrigo Lombardi (Hidden Truths, India – A Love Story) as the jailer Adriano. Also cast in key roles are Othon Bastos (Empire), Mariana Nunes, Giovanna Ríspoli (Total Dreamer), Tony Tornado (The Enchanted Tale) and Lourinelson Vladmir. Other cast members include Leticia Sabatella (The Clone), Ailton Graça (Empire), Chico Diaz (Above Justice), Matheus Nachtergaele (Sweet Mother), Gabriel Leone (Hidden Truths), Caco Ciocler (India – A Love Story).
Where was the series filmed and how were locations used in the script?
The series was shot in a yet-to-open prison located in the city of Votorantim, in the state of São Paulo.
In what ways does Jailers stand out from other Brazilian dramas?
Jailers presents the tragic reality of the Brazilian prison system from an original point of view, focusing on the perspective of the jailer – a character left aside in the previous productions on the subject. Our goal was to examine the prison universe, already deeply scrutinised in books, films and series, but from an unprecedented viewpoint. This enabled us to address the day-to-day work routine faced by such professionals and its implications for their personal lives. Do they carry the stress and savagery they are often exposed to at work into their homes? What kind of a father, son and husband can a jailer be? What about their families – how do they deal with the constant and intense concern of having a loved one exposed to such an insecure environment? These and many other issues have guided our work, and we hope they will bring about curiosity and arouse discussion among viewers.
What do you hope viewers take away from the series?
Our goal is to encourage reflection on what is a serious aspect of Brazilian reality, while always making it clear it is an entertainment piece.
What are you working on next?
Actually, the second season of Jailers.
Writer Manuela Dias tells DQ about Justiça (Above Justice), a Brazilian drama that follows the fate of four people arrested on a single night.
Brazilian miniseries Justiça (Above Justice) follows the interconnected stories of four people who are arrested on the same night.
Vincent (Jesuíta Barbosa) murders his fiancée Isabela (Marina Ruy Barbosa) after walking in on her with a former boyfriend; housewife Fátima (Adriana Esteves) is set up for drug trafficking after killing policeman Douglas (Enrique Díaz)’s dog; Rose (Jéssica Ellen) is arrested for possessing drugs at a party; and Mauricio (Cauã Reymond) is held on suspicion of murder after assisting in the suicide of his dancer fiancée Beatriz (Marjorie Estiano).
In each strand of the story, the central characters either face or fight for justice after the as the drama unfolds over several time periods.
Creator and writer Manuela Dias tells DQ more about the 20-part series, which was produced for TV Globo and is distributed by Globo.
Where did the idea for the show come from? Manuela Dias: Above Justice was inspired by a real story. My house cleaner asked for my help because her husband was arrested for killing their neighbour’s dog. The neighbour was a police officer and her husband subsequently spent more than two months in jail. I thought of her sleeping alone in an empty bed, and the series was born from that emptiness. There is an intimate side of our lives governed by law. It’s not a story about courts; it’s a story about people affected by the law. They commit acts that are considered crimes and go to jail; they serve their time in prison and then return to their lives. But their lives are completely torn apart. Above Justice is a series about what happens after you pay your dues to the justice system. On the one hand, we have forgiveness; on the other, there is revenge.
How was the story developed for Globo?
After the idea came to me, I wrote a project and showed it to Globo. Zé [José Luiz Villamarim, director] read the project because he was on another show with our art director Moa Batsow, and he fell in love with it. We didn’t even know each other at the time. Globo approved its development and I started working on it.
How would you describe the writing process?
It took me one year to write the 20 episodes, with the help of two collaborators. They helped me create the tone and structure the story – in this case, four stories. But I always write all the dialogue by myself. My partnership with Zé is also key to the creative process. We read everything together, build the atmosphere and we talk about everything from characters to plots, locations and actors.
How did you work with the director to develop the show’s look?
Just like Zé has his share in my work, I also give some input to his work. I imagine the scene while I’m writing it and we discuss every element. Moa also collaborated with us in several areas.
Who are the lead cast members and what do they bring to the series?
The cast was selected through an intense brainstorming process between the authors, the artistic directors and the casting directors. But the main characters are then developed based on each actor. I think about the actors a lot when I’m writing – how to use their strengths in a subversive and challenging way. The performances of Enrique Diaz [Happily Ever After?/Felizes Para Sempre?] and Leandra Leal [Império/Empire], playing Douglas and Kellen respectively, are perfect examples of two actors who were taken outside their comfort zone. Zé is very good at subverting the actors.
Where was the series filmed and how were locations used in the script?
Years ago, I wrote a movie called Deserto Feliz, directed by Paulo Caldas, which took place in Recife and in the backlands of the state of Pernambuco. This made me go on some research trips, and a lot of things caught my attention there. Recife was already on my mind when I had the idea for Above Justice. The storyline called for that urgent atmosphere of Pernambuco. Zé also liked the idea, and so we went for it. I usually travel to check the locations because it is an inspiring experience, but I couldn’t join the team for the Above Justice process because I was in the late months of my pregnancy. But they sent me photos and we discussed our opinions. After choosing the locations, I rewrote some things, allowing the scenery to merge into the drama.
What were the biggest challenges during production?
Above Justice tells four stories that divide a city. The narratives are connected in space, but they don’t necessarily share the same drama. In fact, it is quite the contrary: the same event triggers independent dramas. We also have what we call ‘joint scenes’ – sequences that appear in all four stories. They serve as basis for the series’ format. Accomplishing this was a great challenge in terms of concept and execution – not to mention having to deal with fires, a storm, and boat and helicopter scenes. It almost sounds like an action story!
What do you hope viewers take away from the series?
I hope people will open up to the great dramas that hide behind the unknown faces we come across every day. Empathy is a fascinating social tool. Being able to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes is a complex and necessary part of civilisation. And I believe emotion allows us to relate to others. The transforming power of emotion trumps reason in all aspects. For example, we’re able to coexist with poverty in our day-to-day lives because we develop tools to dehumanise beggars and devoid ourselves of any emotion in that sense. Experiencing any kind of resentment towards injustice is not just a mental process; it’s more than that. Love can accomplish things that are so unlikely, they can even sound miraculous. While we can’t change the world, perhaps we can influence people through drama.
How would you describe the state of Brazilian TV drama and how is the industry evolving in 2017?
Brazilian TV production is huge and diverse. I see a melting pot of screenwriters and directors – on both broadcast and cable TV. We have a strong tradition in television drama, with work from the likes of Gilberto Braga, Silvio de Abreu, Aguinaldo Silva, Walcyr Carrasco and João Emmanuel Carneiro reaching millions of viewers in Brazil. The industry has lots to offer to people who, like me, are just starting. Globo, in particular, has been investing a lot. There are writers with 10 or 20 years’ of experience in the market who have built their brands. It’s a very consistent process that I believe will bring something new.
What are you working on next? I’m developing a telenovela. As someone who works with television drama in Brazil – cinema and theatre as well, but mostly television drama – writing a novela with 170 episodes has long been a dream for me. It will be a great challenge.
From romance and comedy to politics and crime, the Latin drama line-up at Natpe 2017 looks as entertaining as ever. DQ examines some of the new titles being showcased at the Miami event.
In recent years, Miami programme market Natpe has firmly established itself as a global distribution hub. However, its location means it is also an exceptionally strong platform for telenovelas and other forms of Latino drama. As in previous years, the 2017 edition will see a broad array of launches from leading players like Globo, Televisa, Telemundo and Telefe.
Brazilian giant Globo is in Miami with a large slate of titles including Lady Revolution, a telenovela about a woman striving to achieve her dream of freedom in the 18th century, and Parts of Me, a telenovela about a lonely man who finds out he’s the father of seven kids.
The broadcaster also has a telenovela that fits neatly into the recent trend towards time travel stories. Entitled Time After Time, the show is a love story centring on a young couple called Livia and Felipe. Prevented from living a love story in the 19th century, they are given a second chance 150 years later when their souls return in a different context but with a love just as intense and true as before. In Brazil, the show reached 173 million viewers (according to Ibope) and generated around 654,000 comments on social networks.
Globo, more than most Latin American companies, has made an effort to internationalise its offering. While telenovelas are still the cornerstone of its output, the company is also at Natpe with a number of shorter shows. One is the 16-episode series Above Justice, headed by Avenida Brasil co-director Jose Luiz Villamarim. With its high-profile cast, the show follows four different people arrested over a single night in Brazil’s Atlantic coast city of Recife. Slowly, their storylines intertwine in a narrative turning on crime, justice and revenge. At home, the show was a big hit, securing 41 million viewers a day.
Also on Globo’s slate are 10-episode limited series Nothing Remains the Same, a love story set in the 1950s; and Supermax, a psychological thriller, also 10-episodes. The latter show will be especially interesting to international buyers because it has been produced in Spanish – as opposed to Globo’s native Portuguese. The goal is for the show to be sold to Hispanic US and Spanish-speaking South American markets, though the length means it should attract attention outside the Americas.
Vying for attention with Globo will be Mexican heavyweight Televisa, arguably the leading force in telenovela exports. Titles at Natpe include A Beloved Man, My Sweet Curse, In Love With Ramon, No Trace Of You, Love Divina and The Candidate. Between them, these titles cover the romance, comedy, melodrama and teen genres. Probably the most high profile is The Candidate, which follows a woman’s decision to challenge her corrupt politician husband for the role of president. There is, of course, also a love triangle involving an old flame.
Most of Televisa’s Natpe titles come in batches of 60 or 120 episodes. The exception is No Trace of You, a 10-part drama. In this one, Julia, a young paediatrician with a promising future, vanishes the night before her wedding. Five years later, a college student discovers a woman in a wedding gown, beaten, and covered in blood. It’s Julia – sans memory.
One big theme in telenovelas has always been empowered women (The Candidate, La Patrona, La Duena etc). Mexico’s other major telenovela player TV Azteca Internacional (TVAI) has an example on its slate in the shape of Iron Lady, about a strong-willed prosecutor on the trail of the drug lord who killed her father. Also on the TVAI slate are titles such as Nothing Personal, Missing Bride, What Women Keep in Silence and Living To Race. The latter is a high-octane action drama that uses the legend of Mexican racing drivers Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez as the backdrop to a contemporary racing series.
Telemundo Internacional is the distribution arm of Hispanic US network Telemundo. Its Natpe slate includes hot new title El Chema, which started airing in December. A spin-off of the extremely popular and long-running drug baron series El Señor de los Cielos (The Lord of the Skies), the show follows Chema Venegas’ first years working in Mexico’s world of organised crime and his ascent to become the renowned cartel leader seen in the parent show. The decision to spin off a show is no real surprise given that El Señor de los Cielos has now racked up in the region of 340 episodes on Telemundo.
Other titles on Telemundo’s slate include La Doña, Ambar and La Fan, which tells the story of a passionate fan of a famous telenovela actor. One day, fate brings the two together. At first, he hardly notices her, but before long he can’t imagine his life without her. La Doña, meanwhile, is based on Doña Barbara, a novel by Romulo Gallegos. Typically telenovela, it is the story of a strong-willed, ruthless woman who brings bad men to justice (another example of the fascination with strong women).
One big news story on the eve of Natpe was that Mexico-based distributor Comarex has taken control of the rights to Cisneros Media Distribution (CMD)’s catalogue outside the US and Spain. The deal is reckoned to involve around 30,000 hours of programming. Comarex will be at Natpe with CMD’s content as well as shows from Canal 13 in Chile and Canal 11 in Mexico.
Key titles from Venezuela-based CMD include Entre Tu Amor Y Mi Amor (Separated by Love), which follows the story of a young woman, Sol, who leaves her country home for the city in search of a better life. Here she falls in love with Alejandro, not knowing he is the son of the evil woman who swindled her parents and had them killed when she was a baby. The show has already been licensed to US streaming platform Glosi.
From Canal 13 Chile, Comarex will have Preciosas (Runaways), the story of four women who meet while serving time in jail. They include Lorena, a 30-year-old who has been wrongly convicted of the murder of Juan Pablo, a co-worker. Lorena seeks to clear her name with the help of Alex, her defence lawyer and with whom she will (surprise!) have a romance.
The regional variety of shows at Natpe is enhanced by the presence of Telefe Internacional (Argentina), RCN (Colombia) and Caracol Internacional (Colombia). The former is in Miami with titles such as Dear Daddies, Love After Love, Educating Nina, The Return of Lucas and ratings hit Story of a Clan (35% share on Telefe in a weekday 23.00 slot). The latter continues the fascination with Latino crime families, telling the story of the real-life Puccio crime family. Strong Latino women is again the subject in telenovela Lioness, about a female textile factory worker who rallies her fellow worker to gain rights (while falling in love with the new factory owner along the way).
Caracol’s contribution to the fun is A Carnival Affair, Pursuit of a Dream and Surviving Pablo Escobar Alias JJ, the latter based on the book by John Jairo Velasquez, who was a lieutenant in the drugs lord’s gang. RCN, meanwhile, is promoting Ruled By Love, Azucar and A Thread of Blue Blood. The latter revolves around the death of a financial expert and the attempt by a journalist to discover the cause. All RCN titles are 70 episodes or more.
All of the above players are local producer-broadcasters, which tends to be the norm in the Latin American telenovela business. But there are a few notable exceptions. Sony Pictures Television, for example, has some celebrity-themed telenovelas nestling in amongst its slate of international dramas. These include Paquita La Del Barrio, about the life and career of Mexican singer Francicsa Viveros; and Blue Demon, the fictionalised life story of the famed Mexican wrestler.
Israel’s Dori Media is another company that long ago identified the global appeal of Latino-produced telenovelas. At Natpe, its key titles include Por Amarte Asi (Loving You), which follows the twists and turns in the life of a father and daughter who get a chance to fall in love with partners despite the difficult circumstances that brought them together. Echoing the trend identified above, Dori has also been exploring non-telenovela options. For example, at Natpe it will present the Séries Mania 2016 Grand Prix winning crime drama El Marginal, a coproduction from Underground Producciones and TV Publica. Created by Sebastian Ortega. El Marginal premiered on TV Publica in Argentina in June last year, where it has gone on to more than triple its timeslot ratings on the channel.
Another company that sits outside the norm is Argentine producer POL-KA, which will be at Natpe under its own banner. Titles on its slate include Quiero Vivir A Tu Lado, Los Ricos No Piden Permiso and Guapas. The latter, Cunning Girls in English, is a 174-episode drama about five women who lose all their savings after their bank closes down. They pull together to get back on track both financially and emotionally. POL-KA, it’s worth noting, is also a partner in Televisa’s Love Divina.
Finally, a word on Brazil’s number two channel Record TV, which is at Natpe with a slate of epic religious dramas including The Promised Land, Moses and the Ten Commandments, The Miracles of Jesus and Joseph from Egypt. An explanation for this emphasis is that Record TV is owned by colourful Brazilian billionaire businessman Edir Macedo, who is also founder and leader of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God.
In 2011, US programme market Natpe moved from Las Vegas to Miami to be closer to the Latin American TV community. So it’s fitting that Natpe 2016 (held between January 19 and 21 last week) provided a platform for so many Latin American scripted TV announcements.
Pick of the bunch was the news that Brazilian media giant Globo is moving into Spanish-language production with a thriller called Supermax. Although Globo has previously coproduced Spanish-language shows with the likes of Azteca in Mexico and Telemundo in the US, Supermax marks the first time it has fully funded a drama in Spanish.
The 10-part series, being produced in-house with Argentinian filmmaker Daniel Burman as showrunner, follows eight characters who travel to a remote prison to participate in a reality show. Although production doesn’t start until April, it has already been picked up by Azteca for broadcast in Mexico.
Commenting, Globo executive director of international business Raphael Corrêa Netto said: “We’ve taken a strategic look at the market and worked out how to leverage our creative capabilities. We wanted to develop and produce (this show) based on our thinking for the global market – from script development to production and design.”
In other Latino news, Mexican media conglomerate Televisa has revealed that it is to adapt four Keshet International Israeli dramas from the original Hebrew into Spanish. One of them is a title we discussed last week, Loaded, which is also being remade by Channel 4 in the UK. The other three are yet to be selected but will be produced over the course of the next three years.
Televisa is also involved in a coproduction with Sony Pictures Television (SPT) that will focus on the life of Alejandro Muñoz Moreno, a Mexican wrestler better known as the Blue Demon. The 65×60’drama, simply called Blue Demon, will air across Latin America on Televisa platforms and before being distributed worldwide jointly by SPT and Televisa.
The show is the latest title to come out of a coproduction alliance formed by the two partners in 2014. Angelica Guerra, senior VP and MD of production, Latin America and US Hispanic for SPT, said: “There is a growing demand in the region for stories about real people and events, a trend that started in Colombia and has made its way to Mexico. Blue Demon will offer audiences an intimate look at one of (freestyle wrestling’s) greatest legends, exploring a complex and turbulent world that few knew about.”
Also coming out of Miami was news that producer Ben Silverman is teaming up with Eric Newman, the showrunner behind Netflix hit Narcos, on a series about Juan Esteban Aristizábal Vásquez, the Colombian singing sensation better known as Juanes. The show, whose English title is Chasing the Sun, will follow Juanes’s early life in Colombia through to his arrival as an aspiring musician in Miami.
The goal is to produce an edgy series, with the press announcement saying it will “stylistically be in the vein of an Entourage-meets-Narcos bilingual drama.” No network is attached as yet, but Silverman has a good track record for bringing Latin American ideas to the world with series such as Jane the Virgin and Ugly Betty. Note that it is being set us as a bilingual series.
In other greenlight news this week, USA Network has given a straight-to-series, 10-episode order to Eyewitness, a drama based on Norwegian crime thriller Øyevitne. The US version will be created by Adi Hasak, whose credits include Shades of Blue. He will work alongside Norwegian series creator Jarl Emsell Larsen.
Øyevitne, which aired on NRK, was one of the most talked-about Scandinavian shows of 2015. It focuses on two gay teenage boys who secretly meet up in a forest. During one such liaison, they witness a shooting and barely escape with their lives. Desperate to keep their relationship a secret and in fear of being found by the perpetrator, they remain silent.
Commenting on the decision to pick up the show, Alex Sepiol, senior VP of original scripted programming at USA, said: “Eyewitness takes a horrific crime and, in compelling fashion, uses it to examine a whole network of unique character relationships. We were immediately drawn to the source material, and Adi has found a very smart way to adapt it into a universal and engaging story.”
The dark tone of the show fits a broader agenda at USA, which is reinventing itself as a more exciting destination for young viewers. Alongside the Eyewitness project, it has Golden Globe-winning hacker drama Mr Robot and Carlton Cuse-produced series Colony. Earlier this week, it also announced another new drama called Falling Water. This series centres on three strangers who realise they are dreaming separate parts of the same dream that has major implications for problems in each of their lives.
“Today’s world demands shows that challenge and reward the audience in spectacular ways,” said Jeff Wachtel, president and chief content officer at USA Network’s parent company NBCUniversal Cable Entertainment. “Falling Water is the type of show that can move the needle of popular culture with its thrilling exploration of the dark side of the mind.”
Meanwhile, Netflix, now up to 75 million subscribers worldwide, continues to commission new shows. Its latest addition is a 10-part sci-fi series based on Richard K Morgan’s book Altered Carbon. Set in the 25th century, Morgan’s novel imagines a world where the human mind has been digitised and the soul is transferrable from one body to the next. The series is being produced by Skydance Television and written by Laeta Kalogridis. Kalogridis’s previous credits include the screenplays for the movies Shutter Island and Terminator Genisys.
Elsewhere, there have been rumours circulating in the last few days that Fox in the US would love to commission a follow-up to its six-part X-Files reboot, which debuted last night in the US. However, the big obstacle to that appears to be scheduling the talent.
In an interview with Variety, male lead David Duchovny said: “Gillian (Anderson, co-star) and I have talked about (doing more episodes), and then we just stop because we get to 2023 and we still haven’t found a date we can do it. It’s like, ‘Let’s just wait and see what happens after this,’ and then we can start to talk seriously about whether we can make it work again.” Possibly, if the ratings are good enough to justify it, there might be room to squeeze in another short run of six or eight episodes.
Finally, the big story on the drama acquisition front is that pay TV platform Sky has done a deal with CBS that means its Sky Atlantic channel will become the exclusive home to Showtime’s original drama series across the UK, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy. The agreement covers all new and future series including Billions, which premiered strongly in the US this week, and the forthcoming revival of cult drama Twin Peaks.
Commenting on the deal, Sky content MD Gary Davey said: “This is one of the most important content deals Sky has ever agreed, cementing Sky’s position as the market leader in Europe for world-class drama. The agreement means our customers can enjoy an incredible slate of upcoming new dramas and can also explore hundreds of hours of amazing series such as Dexter, Californication, The Affair and House of Lies on demand from the back catalogue.”
There’s a lot of excitement in the world of telenovela right now following the news that Brazilian TV giant Globo has started production on A Regar do Jogo (The Rule of the Game).
Due to air in August, the show is from Joao Emanuel Carneiro, the creator of global hit Avenida Brasil (Brazil Avenue). It tells the story of a much-loved politician whose life is more complex than it appears on the surface. The cast is led by Alexandre Nero (Empire) and also features Giovanna Antonelli (The Clone) and Caua Reymond (Brazil Avenue), among others.
Expectations for The Rule of the Game are high after the success of Avenida Brasil. Not only did Carneiro’s previous show secure massive ratings in its domestic market (the final episode secured an 84% share), it was sold into 130 territories worldwide. Business magazine Forbes called the show the most successful telenovela ever, estimating that it generated more than US$1bn in ad revenue (against a US$45m production budget). Let’s hope Carneiro has secured himself a favourable contract for the new project.
As discussed in a recent column, San Diego’s Comic-Con has become a key event in the calendar for US broadcasters. At this year’s edition, for example, there were numerous trailers, sneak previews and exclusive premieres on show for upcoming series. There was even some renewal news, notably MTV’s announcement that it has greenlit a sixth season of Teen Wolf and WGN America’s revelation that Salem will have a third run.
One other major topic was the upcoming array of zombie shows set to hit the market. AMC, for example, announced that The Walking Dead season six will premiere on Sunday October 11 at 21.00 with an extended 90-minute episode (preceded by a Zombie Apocalypse week, running from October 5-11). As in previous seasons, the show’s sixth run of 16 episodes will air in two parts, with the second eight hitting screens in February 2016.
AMC also revealed that its brand new companion series Fear The Walking Dead will premiere on Sunday August 23 at 21.00. Significantly, the show will also debut on AMC Global channels around the world simultaneously with the US premiere. “Anticipation for Fear the Walking Dead is reaching a crescendo and we are ecstatic about delivering the series to worldwide fans at the exact same time as the US,” says Bruce Tuchman, president of AMC and Sundance Channel Global. “Whether you’re in Hong Kong, Madrid or São Paulo, AMC viewers will be able to experience the start of the zombie apocalypse together.”
If all of that doesn’t satiate your thirst for dead flesh, then this autumn also sees the launch of Ash vs Evil Dead, a series from Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert and Bruce Campbell. Greenlit by Starz, this particular zombiefest will launch on Saturday, October 31 at 21.00, wisely avoiding a confrontation with AMC’s megahit.
Currently in production in New Zealand, the 10-part Starz series is a follow-up to classic horror film franchise The Evil Dead. The cast is led by Bruce Campbell, who reprises his role as Ash, and Lucy Lawless (Salem, Spartacus). The first episode was directed by Raimi, creator of the original Evil Dead series as well as director of Darkman, Drag Me To Hell and the Spider-Man trilogy. Raimi’s involvement should ensure that this is more than just an attempt to cash in on the current fascination with the undead genre.
In Europe, pay TV broadcaster Sky has been flexing its muscles in recent years by investing in original programming. This week, its UK-based entertainment channel Sky 1 announced an autumn schedule that it says is underpinned by “a 20% increase in spend on new programmes.” In addition, it said that, for the first time, there will be brand new UK drama and comedy all year round, with drama on Wednesdays.
“I’m so excited we can offer absolutely top-quality drama all year round and I love how brilliantly unique our comedies feel,” said Adam MacDonald, director of Sky 1. “The range of original programming we have reflects what Sky 1 stands for: the very best of modern Britain and Ireland, and all the eclecticism, diversity and joy that implies. We know that some of the best family moments come from sitting around the TV and enjoying that time together, and we hope with this new line-up to create more of those moments.”
From September, Sky 1 will ramp up its commitment to drama with You, Me & The Apocalypse, starring Rob Lowe, Pauline Quirke, Mathew Baynton, Paterson Joseph and Joel Fry in an “adrenaline-fuelled, continent-spanning tale about the final days before a comet collides with the earth.” For the festive season there will be four-part drama Fungus the Bogeyman, based on the book by Raymond Briggs. This stars Victoria Wood, Keeley Hawes, Joanna Scanlan and, as Fungus, Timothy Spall.
Following a 2014 one-off, Ashley Jensen will return as Agatha Raisin, with eight mysteries based on the bestselling novels of MC Beaton. Acclaimed thriller writer Harlan Coben has also created his first original story for TV with The Five. A taut mystery about the consequences of a terrible childhood incident for a group of friends, the cast includes Tom Cullen, O-T Fagbenle, Lee Ingleby and Sarah Solemani.
Separately, comic-book legend Stan Lee has co-created his first UK TV drama, alongside writer Neil Biswas. Called Lucky Man, it stars James Nesbitt as a down-on-his-luck police officer whose fortunes mysteriously change.
Back in the US, HBO has renewed its series Ballers for a second season. From creator Stephen Levinson (Entourage, Boardwalk Empire), the show looks at the lives of former and current football players, focusing on former superstar Spencer Strasmore (Dwayne Johnson), who is trying to reinvent himself as a financial manager for current players in Miami. “We are thrilled with the overwhelming response the series has received,” says Michael Lombardo, president of HBO Programming. “The charismatic and hugely talented Dwayne Johnson, along with the rest of the Ballers cast, has struck a chord with the HBO audience.”
The first episode of Ballers season one aired on June 21 and has so far gathered 8.9 million viewers across HBO’s branded platforms, making it HBO’s most watched first episode of a half-hour series since 2009. Furthermore, the episode has also tallied a staggering 5.6 million views on Dwayne Johnson’s Facebook page. Aside from all the fan love, the show has also received critical acclaim, with Entertainment Weekly describing it as “funny” and “fast-moving,” and the Hollywood Reporter calling Dwayne Johnson “magnetic,” hailing his “star performance.”
Elsewhere, Broadcast reports that discussions are underway between Channel 4 and Kudos over a second season of Humans, which is currently in the middle of its first run. Broadcast quotes C4’s head of international drama Simon Maxwell as saying a second run is “very much under consideration. We’ve got a story that is told over a great many episodes and is designed to return.”
Finally, this week also sees the launch of the Heroes Reborn App, described by NBC as “a portal to the past, present and future of the Heroes universe.” According to NBC, the app provides fans with a simple, intuitive way to quickly catch up on the saga, with curated clips from all four seasons of the original Heroes series. The Heroes Reborn App also offers access to a six-episode prequel Dark Matters and special content from Heroes Reborn, which will be rolled out ahead of the series launch on September 24.
The App is an interesting insight into the way digital can be used to build a supporting mythology for scripted franchises. “We want fans to have a place where they can speed binge – either by season or by character – and experience all the excitement of Heroes and, at the same time, look into the future to see how Heroes Reborn continues this compelling franchise,” says Robert Hayes, executive VP for digital at NBC Entertainment. “This one-of-a-kind app is a one-stop shop for any Heroes aficionado.”
According to NBC and Tim Kring (creator of Heroes/Heroes Reborn), digital prequel Dark Matters will bridge the gap between the original series and Heroes Reborn, reintroducing viewers to the Heroes universe and unveiling a new generation of characters. “Anyone who watches Dark Matters will find the ton of clues, backstory and Easter eggs that we’ve layered in,” says Kring, who is executive producing Heroes Reborn. “Watching it before seeing Heroes Reborn completes the entire saga, and guarantees a deeper, more rewarding experience for the fans.”
US cable channel Syfy is developing a new horror series with Universal Cable Productions called Channel Zero. Scripted by Nick Antosca (Hannibal), it tells the story of a mysterious children’s TV show from the 1980s and its role in a series of murders.
As interesting as that concept is, Channel Zero is an anthology series, meaning season one will tell a self-enclosed story. If the show is commissioned for a second season, it will keep its overall series brand – but tell an entirely new tale.
This anthology approach is not new, having been utilised by classic US shows such as The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. However, it is certainly on its way back. Current examples of scripted anthology series include True Detective, Fargo, American Horror Story and the upcoming Scream Queens. The implication from the above titles is that the anthology approach works best with horror and crime, but it will be interesting to see if this style catches on in other genres, and in other territories. Series two of British drama The Missing will, for example, go down a similar route – keeping the title but exploring a new setup.
The big renewal news of the week is that USA Networks has greenlit a 16-episode sixth season of Suits. Also produced by Universal Cable Productions, the show is an extremely slick drama that centres on a fast-paced Manhattan corporate law firm led by super-sharp lawyer Harvey Specter. Season five of the show has only just premiered – but with an audience of 3.4 million it continues to be a stalwart performer for USA. Commenting, USA Network president Chris McCumber said: “Suits has set the bar high in every way and continues to be a strong performer and marquee property for USA. From incredible on-screen performances and brilliant writing to the aspirational lifestyle portrayed, we look forward to continuing to bring viewers into the world of Suits.”
NBC, meanwhile, has cancelled Mark Burnett and Roma Downey’s AD: The Bible Continues, a decision that has been on the cards for some time. With an average audience of around 6.5 million viewers, it fell well short of the ratings achieved by its predecessor The Bible (which brought in higher numbers despite being aired on cable TV).
Why, you may ask, are we discussing a cancellation in a Greenlight column? Well, the answer is that the show may yet continue. Echoing the discussion around another recently cancelled NBC show, Hannibal, Burnett and Downey have said they would like to continue the franchise on a new OTT channel they are planning to launch via United Artists Media Group, a partnership with MGM.
Although details are sketchy at present, the idea is for the online channel to be a hub for faith-based content. As such, it would be an ideal platform for AD – if Burnett and Downey can devise a viable business model for what is, after all, a big-budget show.
One of the biggest stories in US TV over recent years has been the increasingly high profile of black talent. Following on from Shonda Rhimes’s groundbreaking work with ABC (most notably with Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder), and the astute multi-ethnic casting of The Walking Dead and Orange is the New Black, we’ve seen recent success for Empire and Power.
The latest project to try to take advantage of this trend is Atlanta, a comedy pilot for FX that revolves around two cousins trying to make their way up through the Atlanta rap scene. The pilot was created and written by Donald Glover (Community, 30 Rock), who will also star in the show. Named this week, the rest of the cast includes Brian Tyree Henry, Lakeith Lee Stanfield and Zazie Beetz. Tyree Henry’s TV credits include The Knick, Boardwalk Empire, The Good Wife and Law & Order. (Click here for a good article on black TV from Vanity Fair.)
Meanwhile, continuing another increasingly widespread trend, US premium pay TV channel Showtime has announced that it is giving US viewers the opportunity to sample the third seasons of drama series Ray Donovan and Masters of Sex via non-standard platforms ahead of their official TV launches. While both shows launch on Sunday July 12, they can currently be viewed for free via YouTube, Kindle Fire, Roku, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Xbox, Apple TV, various mobile platforms and several Showtime-branded digital platforms (such as SHO.com).
In terms of content acquisitions, there was good news for Endemol Shine International this week, with the sale of The Frankenstein Chronicles to French pay TV platform Canal+. The 6×60’ show is being produced for ITV in the UK by Rainmark Films in association with Far Moor. Starring Sean Bean and set in London in the 1820s, the show was created by Benjamin Ross (The Young Poisoner’s Handbook) and Barry Langford (Torte Bluma).
There was also an important breakthrough for Brazil’s Globo, which licensed its latest hit telenovela Helena’s Shadow to EPG in Korea last week. The 75-episode show was launched at Natpe 2015, having hit a 55% share (44 million viewers) in its home market. Although it has previously sold to broadcasters in Mongolia and Vietnam, the Korea deal will significantly boost the show’s profile in Asia. The agreement with EPG also includes other recent Globo telenovela hits, including Precious Pearl and Avenida Brasil.
Finally, there were some sobering statistics from UK media regulator Ofcom this week, showing that spend on UK-originated drama by public service broadcasters (defined by Ofcom as the BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5) has dropped by 44% in the last six years. In cash terms, this represents a drop from £484m investment in 2008 to £278m in 2014.
Interestingly, this coincides with the global drama boom, suggesting that this severe downward trend must have been offset by increased dependence on international coproduction and greater investment by pay TV and, latterly, SVoD platforms (with perhaps some upside from production efficiencies). The question going forward is whether this paradigm shift away from traditional broadcasters towards a kind of globalised, subscription-supported business model will be sufficient to sustain the current boom in scripted production (as well as its creative diversity).