Analyzing the salient features of a telenovela almost every night is one thing. Having the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to actually sit down and talk with the people who have participated in a telenovela is another, completely rewarding experience. This last example is precisely what occurred yesterday in class when I and many of my colleagues had begun a series of Skype conversations with several telenovela actors and authors. I had particularly been anticipating the second conversation with Writer and Telemundo executive Perla Farías Lombardini at 11:40 a.m. that day. Because I had been studying her latest telenovela Bajo el mismo cielo (2015) extensively (as several of my previous blogs and projects can attest), I grew curious about her creative process behind this specific telenovela.
The day before class I wrote and typed these three questions for Farías in advance:
- I read online that the telenovela Bajo el mismo cielo (2015) is based on the 2011 movie A Better Life and the screenplay El jardinero. How often did you follow these sources when creating the telenovela?
- Are there are characters on this program who reflect real people, or do you aim more for Symbolism?
- Considering that Bajo el mismo cielo concentrates on immigration in the United States, did you encounter any obstacles when dealing with this particular theme?
Out of the three questions, I had chosen the first one because it interested me the most. Her response revealed that, when working on the plot for Bajo el mismo cielo, Farías did not own the rights to the movie A Better Life. She did, however, have access to the screenplay for El jardinero and worked from there. The characters on Bajo el mismo cielo mostly retain the same attributes as in El jardinero. However, Farías had mentioned that she had made the protagonist Carlos Martínez more of concerned father-figure rather than as a mostly depressed character (as demonstrated by the screenplay to El jardinero).
With regards to the overall consumption of Bajo el mismo cielo, as another student asked, Farías expressed both surprise and happiness that the “18-34 year-old” age demographic had encompassed the majority of viewers for the show. She noted that this audience largely included those living in the Western part of the United States. This statistic had demonstrated that the consumption landscape for telenovelas (or, at least, for Bajo el mismo cielo) is changing.
Perhaps the most significant aspect of the conversation with Perla Farías Lombardini lay in how she described her approach to writing telenovelas. She explained that she would often collaborate with both male and female Executive Producers in order to discuss how to successfully apply different telenovela genre. In discussing this aspect of the writing process, Farias briefly compared the female-oriented “Rosa” genre with the action-packed, male-oriented drama of the narconovela. Some of the points that she had mentioned or implied brought back memories for me about the previous discussions last Tuesday on Globalization. Among other things, Farías had discussed the necessity of taking risks, the uncertainty of remakes and the need for competition. These crucial elements, for the most part, determine the success or failure of a telenovela. Overall, I was delighted to take part in the class discussion with Farías because her input enabled me to gain a better appreciation for telenovelas.