Jan 29, 2009


It's relatively common to be able to listen to characters' thoughts in telenovelas. This is done via playbacks: pre-recorded dialogue that is then played in the scene as if the character is "thinking" it. Playbacks can add dramatic texture or humor to a scene.

Following is an inside look at a telenovela scene that uses playbacks. It's from the telenovela that is my current case study,  La Vida Entera.

Context: Guille (Luis Gerónimo Abreu), whose main objective is to take to bed as many pretty women as he possibly can, is at a bar with Clarita (Yina Vélez). Her conversation is not exactly an intelligent one. Guille's thoughts and attempts at distracting himself while she talks make for a humorous scene in which playbacks are a key element. 

Here are the texts of the three playbacks, as they appear in the original script (I apologize to non-Spanish speakers. The gist is that Guille laments Clarita's lack of brains and then decides to sing in his head a kids' tune to distract himself):
Espantoso. La guerra de Bosnia y tú, pa’ lo que salga. (PLAYBACK, CON LA MISMA SONRISA) Clarita es tan bella como tan bruta, de pana. Pero, bueno, Guille: aguanta, que el premio es gordo. (FIN DE PLAYBACK) ¿No quieres otro trago?

Ah, pues. Y encima no la puedo rascar para acelerar el procedimiento.

Soy todo oídos, mi reina. (PLAYBACK, CANTA) Había una vez un barquito chiquitico, había una vez un barquito chiquitico, HABIA UNA VEEEEEZ un barquito chiquitiiico…
Here's the taping of the first and third playbacks (increase volumen in the first one):

And, finally, the scene as it aired on television:

It's always interesting to see the unavoidable distance between the script and mise-en-scene. For instance, the scene was written so that Clarita would talk nonstop through Guille's "thoughts." That's not how it was done.

The scene was taped in the morning hours in a closed bar with only the actors, extras and technical crew. However, the scene's establishing shot (Caracas at night), plus the illumination and placement of extras make the bar night scene believable.

The telenovela production process is always interesting because it has all the paradoxes that are part and parcel of this genre: it has artistic elements, but it's industrial. It involves a lot of hard work, but it's still plagued with imperfections. And this mix keeps me interested, even after all these years observing how telenovelas are "made."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, this past Christmas my cousins and I from Mexico made a telenovela spoof as an homage to all telenovelas. Hope you enjoy!