Conecta Fiction Analyzes Latino Scripted Format Business – Variety
For the worldâ€™s TV business, fiction makeovers are relatively rare, repping just 2% of exported scripted drama in 2016, according to statistics presented by Eurodata TV at Series Mania. That said, redos have indirectly yielded some of Spainâ€™s greatest ratings hits in international: RAI1â€™s â€œBraccialetti Rossi,â€ an Italian reversion of Spainâ€™s hospital-set â€œPolseres Vermelles,â€ a teen friendship drama produced by Filmax and first aired on Cataloniaâ€™s TV3; Franceâ€™s â€œDisparue,â€ which made over Spainâ€™s groundbreaking missing daughter mystery â€œDesaparecida,â€ punching 20%-plus ratings on France 2 from its debut in April 2015; M6â€™s evergreen ratings phenomenon â€œEscÃ¨nes de menage,â€ inspired by Jose Luis Morenoâ€™s â€œEscenas de Matrimonio,â€ made up of comic sketches of marriage, charting its small miseries and even smaller joys.
In 2015, Spain was cited by The Wit, a Switzerland-based TV content analysis company, as the No. 1 country in the world for scripted format reversions, thanks to â€œLos Misterios de Laura,â€ from pubcaster RTVE, with four remakes to its name, and â€œPolseres Vermelles,â€ with seven, one on Fox in the U.S, another on Germanyâ€™s Vox.
International revenues are now ever more important to free-to-air broadcasters as their budgets come under increasing pressure.
â€œSpanish networks didnâ€™t use to think about export when developing series,â€ Fernando Javier Lopez Puig, RTVE head of cinema and fiction, said at the Conecta Fiction round table. Now, however, he added, given â€œfinancing needs and market evolution,â€ â€œthere is a need to look for products that can be co-productions or local product that has the capacity to adapt to other cultures.â€
Moderated by Geraldine Gonard, CEO of Inside Content, the organizer of Conecta Fictionâ€™s, the Series Mania round table focused on giving practical advice about adaptations as it charted the considerable road bumps on the way to a successful Latino scripted series re-version.
Latino format remakes face multiple challenges, Gonard said.
One is the originalsâ€™ running time. Free-to-air Spanish series come in at around 70 minutes. That allows them, with breaks, to play across the whole of peak primetime, said Lopez Puig,
allowing broadcasters to pack a two-hour slot with just one show. Saving sensibly on program costs, that is unlikely to change, he added.
Adapting abroad to around 45-minute standard international formats, the solution, is â€œnot to be arrogant, not change everything, but leave aside the less interesting and slower parts, take the great and really great and join the latter together,â€ Iris Bucher, CEO-producer of â€œDisparueâ€ at Paris-based Quad TV, said at the Conecta Fiction panel.
Especially for traditional Latin America telenovelas, another headache can be their number of episodes, â€œ80 or more, a huge difference from the 10-13 part European productions. Gonard pointed out. Long-format, one-season daily soaps are still made in many countries in Europe, such as Portugal, however. Portuguese writer Artur Ribeiro, another Conecta Fiction speaker, adapted the 131-part Chilean telenovela â€œHijos del Monteâ€ into â€œBelmonte,â€ produced by Portuguese TV network TVI and aired from 2013. It ended up having 259 episodes in Portugal.
The panelâ€™s largest focus, however, was by far on cultural and industrial differences which mark the constant challenge â€“ and interest for creatives â€“ of adaptations. Their analysis made for an entertaining panel.
Latino characters emote far more, Gonard said. That may seem cultural stereotyping but is born out by an extract from Spainâ€™s â€œDesaparecida,â€ showrun for RTVE by a then 31-year-old Ramon Campos who, rolling off its ratings success, founded Bambu Productions. The company has gone on to make â€œLas chicas de cable,â€ Netflixâ€™s first series in Spain.
â€œDesaparecidaâ€ turned on a cute 18-year-old girl who never returns from a night out. A rare 2007 fall hit in Spain, it was remade as â€œDisparuâ€ (â€œDisappearanceâ€) in France by Quad TV, the TV division of â€œThe Intouchablesâ€ producer. A big hit for France 2 in 2015, the French version also drew robust audiences on BBC4.
The virtue of the Spanish version is that of the French: A constantly twisting crime investigation which drops clues, plowing multiple false trails. But its characters had to change for the French version, Bucher recalled at the Conecta Fiction panel.
â€œIn the Spanish version, the mother of the girl who disappears is a very Spanish mother: Her job is to take care of the family. But the remake was for a modern French pubic: In France, more than 80%Â of mothers work,â€ Bucher said.
So in â€œDisparu,â€ played by Alix Poisson (â€œLes Revenantsâ€), the French mother is given a profession, working in local government. She does take to beaujolais and prescription pills after her daughter disappears. But in Spainâ€™s â€œDesaparecida,â€ in its opening scene, the mother is far more smothering, working herself into a frenzy of worry even before her daughter goes missing and is just getting ready to go out.
â€œWe created a whole new character for the mother, but kept to the story line,â€ Bucher remembered.
U.S. shows are far more star-driven than Spainâ€™s: Hollywood has far more ratings-driving stars.
Running from 2009 to 2014 on RTVE, â€œLos misterios de Lauraâ€ (pictured) turned on a ill-dressed divorcee (Maria Pujalte), who despite her hallmark old gabardine dress-sense, manages to dovetail motherhood of two twins with work as a police detective and solves cased by intuition rather than scientific proof â€“ factors which served to set the series apart from many U.S. procedural
When NBC remade â€œLos misterios de Lauraâ€ as â€œthe Mysteries of Laura,â€ attaching Debra Lessing (â€œWill & Graceâ€) as Laura, it was almost inevitable that Laura ended up as more glamorous than her Spanish original, Lopez commented.
U.S. networks also have far higher budgets, Lopez added. That has inevitable consequences.Â In Sonyâ€™s â€œTimeless,â€ its heroes time travel via a shuttle, Gonard pointed out. In RTVEâ€™s equivalent, â€œThe Department of Time,â€ another time-travel drama, they just step through an ornate door.
â€œIn Poland, the main theme for audiences is the family,â€ said TVN head of series Oriana Kujawska, talking audiences through the adaptation by the Polish commercial channel of Argentine original â€œCita a ciegasâ€ (Blind Date).
â€œSo, we had to create a strong family unit to give our character as much life [defining context] as she needed,â€ Kujawska added. One example: A cleaning lady who plays a key role in the original was transformed into the girlâ€™s grandmother.
In the final analysis, â€œnobody makes adaptations slavishly following the original script,â€ Ribeiro concluded.
But adapters shouldnâ€™t be prejudiced either, he warned. When he first saw Chileâ€™s â€œHijos del monte,â€ â€œI thought there was no way to translate this universe to Portugal,â€ he recalled. â€œWe had this joke about the first episode that in Latin America people donâ€™t use contraception because in the first episode everyone was having kids with the wrong partners.â€
But, talking with the originalâ€™s producers, he was able to drive through to the showâ€™s premise, and think of what differences had to be introduced into â€œBelmonte,â€ the Portuguese version. His makeover went on to win an Intl. Emmy nomination.
To take place in Santiago de Compostela,Â at the end of the St. James Way in Galicia, North Spain, Conecta Fiction runs June 20-23.
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