BEHIND THE CAMERAS: THE USE OF PLAYBACKS

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):
GUILLE (SONRIENTE)
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?

GUILLE (PLAYBACK)
Ah, pues. Y encima no la puedo rascar para acelerar el procedimiento.

GUILLE
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."


We live times in which the line between content producers and consumers is blurred. YouTube, message boards and blogs are samples of this. They're also examples of social media, in which communities are created around a certain definition of friendship and/or a common interest. 


Telenovelas are present in these communities. For instance, in Facebook, there are more than 500 groups related to telenovelas. Most of them boast membership numbers in the hundreds:
(NOTE: TO ENLARGE PICTURES, PLEASE CLICK ON THEM)




In particular, the telenovela I'm currently studying, LA VIDA ENTERA, has a Facebook group  with a discussion board in which participants post topics, in addition to the traditional "wall" comments, pictures and press reports:



Outside Facebook there are other communities dedicated to telenovelas. One of my favorites is: Comunidad todotnv, which is an offspin of wonderful webpage Todotnv:


And even though we will never leave completely behind the days in which telenovelas were discussed at our study and work places, these virtual communities definitely extend the conversation as they minimize geographic distance and blur the line between public and private.

Do you participate in any of these communities?
What has been your experience in them? 

TELEVISA V. UNIVISION

Jan 10, 2009


The semester began, and with it my lack of time for writing in my blog. However, I don't want to let one more day pass by without mentioning that in this beginning of the new year, the telenovela world is watching intently the developments of a real-life telenovela. Namely, the one being played out in the California-based trial of Televisa v. Univision