Wow. We’ve only had two days of discussion about production and I already can’t believe the amount of time and effort that goes into the creation of a telenovela. Prior to this class, I probably would have assumed that a telenovela was produced in a similar way that other American television shows are created. I think about shows being produced months ahead of air time and characters having to remain silent about the show even after they’ve finished filming. I think about spoiler alerts and the number of times I’ve had to turn down reading an article about the finale of a season prior to it being aired.
Interestingly though, telenovela production is vastly different.
As we discussed in class, telenovela production is a process. It first begins with the writers who create the story. Quickly following the creation of a story idea however, comes a series of really long, drawn out steps that include the rehearsals, the filming and the editing. What makes this process SO DIFFERENT than that of American television shows though is the speed in which these steps are accomplished. Remember when we talked about the number of episodes in an entire telenovela? Well, there can be over 200 episodes and each episode takes an incredible amount of time to produce. Dr. A described some of the responsibilities of people working on a telenovela and it made me tired just thinking about all they have to think about, worry about, debate and decide on a day-to-day basis.
There are two main ideas that I would like to discuss in regard to time. Obviously, the production crew only has a certain amount of time to get episodes created because there are so many. However, what if instead of cramming the production into a short amount of time they decided to produce the telenovela months, or even a year, ahead of the premiere of the show? This sounds like a great idea, right? The problem that we discussed in class is that giving the production crew lots of time to create the final product means that the issues and ideas discussed in the telenovela may not be as relevant when the episodes do finally air. One might say that relevancy isn’t that big of deal since there are numerous themes present in a telenovela; however, I would beg to differ. What I have found so compelling about telenovelas is the platform they provide for discussing politics, social issues and culture among other topics. Telenovelas are the voice of the citizens living in Latin American countries. Unfortunately, the downside of moving quickly through telenovela production is that mistakes can be made–sequencing could be altered, props could be misplaced or the shadow of the microphone may be noticeable on camera. These are all risks that the production crew must face and overcome by having detail-oriented on the set.
The second idea that fascinates me in regard to time is the speed in which actors and actresses must learn their lines as well as their lack of knowledge about the character they are playing. Because new telenovela episodes are shown all the time, actors aren’t given much time to learn their lines. Dr. A said that during her experiences on the set, she has seen actors holding their scripts and studying them right up until the director says “action!” At the same time, actors don’t really know their character until the end of the telenovela when they are given the final script. Leading up to the finale, the writer reveals more and more of the characters through every episode and every script that is written. According to Dr. A, because the story is being created in tandem with its production, actors never really know the full story of their character until the end. Consequently, many actors and actresses have a great skill for adapting and being flexible. As a person who likes order and plans, it’s difficult for me to understand how anyone could operate under the time crunch and stress that production crews do while making a telenovela.
Telenovela production is unique and like nothing else. It amazes me how much thought goes into a single scene, episode and telenovela. If nothing else, I have gained a new perspective. Now, when watching telenovelas, I will not only enjoy the story but also acknowledge the work that goes on behind the scenes to make it all come together.