The making of a telenovela

With an industrial production pace and commercial interests, the telenovela is a hybrid piece of work where narrative and creation play a significant role. Although it is a commercial endeavour, the Brazilian telenovela possesses distinctly authorial artistic features. The telenovela is written and produced while being exhibited, providing a dialogue of sorts with the audience. In order to write, the author must watch it and have a sense of its reception, either through research, social networks or his or her own perception. Thus, everyone depends on the author’s rhythm. Whereas an author has less time to write a script, there is no time set aside in the production schedule for any author to be disputed - unless viewing numbers drop.

While describing the telenovela, the terms quality and success will be regarded as synonymous in this book. Since a telenovela is part of commercial television, success and quality both mean significant ratings. The Kantar Ibope Media polling group’s National Television Panel measures audience samples in Brazil’s 15 main cities, thus offering a market description of Brazilian television consumption. Their information serves as a pointer for planning a programming grid. In spite of the presence of specialized Brazilian television and telenovela critics, as well as theorists who push for greater complexity, sophistication or innovation in any given work, ultimately, it is the audience that keeps a telenovela on the air and therefore serves as a compass for this research. There is no precise formula for a telenovela’s success, but there is clearly a construction process to that narrative.

Even though there is a rich theoretical base from the perspective of a script’s construction and production process when it comes to film and television series, few authors concentrate on the development of telenovela scripts or production. Among those are Campos (2007) and Comparato (1996), who both include specific features of the telenovela in their writings concerning texts for the audiovisual market. Not many telenovela writers share their practical experience or the tools they use in writing daily drama. Thus, this chapter takes an empirical approach.

 
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