Jun 15, 2009


Everyone who works in a telenovela always emphasizes that telenovelas are team work. In my research, however, I continuously find that the audience doesn't perceive or understand it that way. People tend to personalize when they attribute a telenovela's "success" or "failure." For instance, in Venezuela "success" and "failure" are attributed to the head writer and/or the protagonists. In Mexico, "success" and "failure" are placed on the shoulders of the executive producer and the protagonists. These trends aren't exclusive to the public, since we can observe them in the entertainment press as well. 

For years I've been observing how telenovelas are "made." And, yes, the final product depends on the team work of writers, actors, producers, directors, wardrobe, art, set design, edition and post-production. I've also witnessed that everything happens very quickly. In the end, what we see on the TV screen is really a version of what was written in the script. 

Today I bring an example in which there were significant efforts from the director, cast and production team so that the scenes would be taped as close to what was written in the script as possible. But, due to sloppy/rushed editing what was broadcast ended up not reflecting the writer's intention or everyone else's hard work.

Context: These scenes constitute the end of Chapter 116 and the beginning of  Chapter 117 of Venezuelan telenovela La Vida Entera which had a total of 120 episodes. The scenes are previous to the much anticipated confrontation between Olimpia Duque (Beatriz Valdés) and her husband Napoleón (Gustavo Rodríguez), after he publicly humiliated her by revealing that she has a long standing affair with his professional rival,  Facundo Montoya (Carlos Mata). Olimpia is already home when Napoleón arrives with son Salvador (Jorge Reyes).

If you can read Spanish, you can see for yourself  how the scenes were written so that both the end of chapter 116 and  the beginning of chapter 117 tell us the same dramatic happenings, but from two different points of view. (Notice the fragments I've highlighted in yellow).

Last May I spent many hours on a Saturday observing how these scenes were shot from different angles and perspectives, so that the story would be told according to the script. Moreover, given the rushed nature of the last days of a telenovela, director Luis Alberto Lamata decided to tape the different shots in the same order that they would be seen. In this way he tried to facilitate the assemblage and editing of the material, and avoid any confusion by the editor regarding the two points of view that were written in the script. 

Following are two videos I took of the taping of two of the shots: 

Despite the amounts of time and effort that were dedicated to the taping of these scenes, the editor did not use most of the material and altered the order in which the shots were presented. The end result: the cinematographic quality and dramatic intensity that were present in the script were lost. What a pity! 

End  Chapter 116 (if you can read and understand Spanish, compare with the script):

Beginning Chapter 117 (again, if you can read and understand Spanish, compare with the script):

Conclusion: telenovelas are team work and the probability of imperfection is pretty high when you consider the industrial pace and quality of their production process.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for making this letter available to all of us. It was very evident the script was a labor of love. The letter confirms it. I did not become a "Barbarita" nor was I a "Mariselita," I enjoyed the play between both tendencies. I have been watching novelas for 20 years and I think this had one of the best, most coherent, most authentic scripts of any I ever have seen. And it still told a wonderful story.

Abbi J.E. said...

I admire her transparency about the struggle of writing a script that people were so avidly for or against, with little in between. I love her honesty and no-excuses, no-regrets attitude.