Friday, November 13, 2015

A Conversation with Telenovela Author Perla Farías

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.


  1. I share your excitement about being able to talk to professionals who work with telenovelas everyday. I'm particularly excited about this week's conversation with Roberto Stopello because he adapted the telenovela that I'm studying (Relaciones Peligrosas).

    Both of our telenovelas are from Telemundo, as we know from our consumption presentation, so I also thought it was interesting when she discussed the popularity of Bajo el mismo cielo in 18-34 year olds in the western US. I think that trend probably carries over to many of Telemundo's novelas in recent seasons. Although Relaciones peligrosas isn't centered on immigration, like your novela is, it nonetheless includes storylines based on this topic. This reflects the audience of Telemundo's novelas.

    Univision may not be able to tap into this specific aspect of the bicultural audience's life since they still import telenovelas more than they create their own.

  2. One more thing - I also agree that it was really interesting to hear her talk about how she adapted her story from an existing screenplay! Relaciones peligrosas is also an adaptation (like yours, not a remake of a telenovela but a new version of a Spanish once-a-week series). I'll have to ask Roberto Stopello about his opinion on remakes when we speak with him on Tuesday so we can compare his answers to those of Ms. Farías.

  3. I also LOVED having the ability to talk with these professionals in the field of telenovelas. They were all so insightful. Primarily I'm proud of you for being able to even ask her a question (I'll admit that I was quite nervous). One thing I find interesting about her response is of the age demographic. Her surprise and happiness. I wonder why the age demographic for telenovelas is changing and how hard it is for them to adapt to the change. As someone who has been in the industry for awhile I'm sure she has seen a lot of change. I'd love to be able to talk with someone from the production of la reina del sur, but everyone was so informative I'm happy with who we spoke with.

    It is obvious telenovelas have had to make many changes and adapt with the changing times. While not all US television programs have been able to come out on top, I think telenovelas have a great opportunity to become extremely successful. They provide a diverse and unique cultural experience and I believe that is why the demographics are changing. I am interested to know if she would agree!