The experience of the late transmedia narrative: Passione
Passione (2010) was a telenovela written by Silvio de Abreu for the 9pm slot. Bete Gouveia, played by Fernanda Montenegro, was pregnant when she met Eugenio, portrayed by Mauro Mendoi^a. Even so, the young man fell in love with her. Beth always believed that her son died in childbirth. She will discover the truth - that her son is indeed alive - when Eugenio, on his deathbed, asks for forgiveness; this is the cliffhanger of the first chapter and the basis for the first transmedia narrative of a 9pm telenovela.
At the invitation of one of the directors, Luiz Henrique Rios, I created transmedia narrative content for Passione. As early as 2010, TV Globo was investing in content extension experiences without a plan for immediate financial return. At the same time, the first portal dedicated to TV Globo’s entertainment content, Gshow, was being implemented under the supervision of executive Ana Bueno and needed content and new proposals.
The first transmedia producer hired by TV Globo was Rafael Miranda, now one of the company’s directors. He was responsible for continuing the experiences we implemented during this first month. From this experience onwards, the process of creating transmedia narratives changed: a transmedia producer joined the telenovela team from the beginning. This lasted for approximately ten years, as will be seen shortly. The main difference between the scope of work of the transmedia producer and other professionals linked to the internet and social media of a telenovela was that the transmedia producer could create fictional content from the universe of the narrative. In contrast, the other professionals mainly produced the making of the production, news connected to themes of the telenovela and interviews.
Our first proposal was to extend at least one scene of each chapter onto the internet. The strongest scene in a chapter is the cliffhanger. Therefore, after finishing this scene, one of the actors looked directly at the camera and spoke what the character was thinking. The first extended scene was precisely the one in which Bete Gouveia discovers that her son is alive in the first chapter. The choice to start with this scene was strategic. The extended content for the internet had to be shot with the original scene that would air on television. In order to do this, the commitment of the crew as well as the actors was vital. As it was the first transmedia narrative experience involving actors in the 9pm telenovela, none of this was detailed in the contract, nor was there a production practice in place. The directors agreed to fit the extra scenes into the filming plan; however, they requested that the scenes always be within the eight hours of studio time, to have greater agility. Additionally, the actress who interpreted Bete Gouveia, Fernanda Montenegro, with a recognized and prestigious career, immediately adhered to the experience, making all other actors interested in participating. Silvio de Abreu, the author of the telenovela, not only authorized the proposal but also supervised the texts.
In addition to this initiative, three other experiences of transmedia narratives deserve attention in this telenovela for its novelty at the time. The first is the profile of some characters on social networks. The person responsible for the posts was Rafael Miranda, who, in addition to creating the extended scenes after my departure, also took care of all other transmedia actions of the telenovela.
One of the main problems that Rafael Miranda faced was that the unofficial profiles of the characters in social media - and there were many - had greater freedom. While fan profiles could publish false information, profanity and
Figure 6.1 Bete Ciouvea, played by Fernanda Montenegro, in the first episode cliff- hanger scene.
Figure 6.2 Bete Gouvea, played by Fernanda Montenegro, in the transmedia narrative scene.
attack other profiles, thus making them somehow popular (and fun), Rafael Miranda was forced to keep profiles consistent with the characters without revealing spoilers of the plot to the public. Consequently, the profiles he delivered were less attractive and had fewer followers than the “fake” profiles of the same characters. Borelli (2011) observed that without the movement and dynamics inherent to social networks, these official profiles contributed little to promoting the discussions around the telenovela. This role ended up being performed more effectively by the communities created by the internet viewers themselves. Rafael Miranda, representing the author of the telenovela and, consequently, corporate television on social networks, could not have the same control over the narrative that exists on television on a platform that is built by participation through social tools. Social networks are not platforms controlled by TV Globo.
During Totalmente Demais/Total Dreamer (2016), which I co-wrote, I personally contacted some of the fans on Twitter behind character’s profiles. They were surprised, as they wrote to other fans with no expectation that someone from the telenovela would ever contact them and were happy to talk about their experience. They all met through social networks, as fans of telenovelas in general, and some because of this specific one. They consider the character profile a hobby but take it very seriously, mixing dialogues from the telenovela with their own. They see themselves interpreting the characters, like actors, and as such feel ready to improvise too. These profiles comment on the telenovela using the hashtag #TotalmenteDemais and interact with one another. One of them (@JojoDeAlcantara) said she started creating character profiles on social networks as a hobby for the series Bones (Fox). According to her, the official profiles would not answer simple questions such as “what is your favourite book or food?” or interact “as humans” with fans, they would only answer questions that had to do with the main narrative and nothing else. She then chose a character she related with and started talking like him on a fan board that later was taken down by the station. The group then found another platform in order to produce content: www.tapatalk.com/groups/bonesology/.
Shirky (2009, 2010), while answering how fans have time to produce so much content, writes about affection and how collaborating becomes a way for them to feel part of the work. Rafael Miranda could not compete with the number of fans acting in the native environment of these viewers: social networks. Fechine and Figueiroa (2015) consider that these viewers- producers work willingly and spontaneously for TV Globo. “That is, the one for whom the product is intended becomes a producer himself, blurring the boundaries of the old chain between producer/consumer” (p. 353).
Another transmedia experience of the telenovela Passione involved a character’s blog related to fashion. The initiative aimed to associate the blog with a company, seeking a new business model for the internet. Although the C&A clothing chain participated in specific actions related to the telenovela, the blog did not obtain the company’s adherence as an isolated product. The aesthetics of the blog, coordinated in partnership with the telenovela’s costume team, followed the concept of blogs and vlogs linked to fashion and behaviour, already on the rise on the internet at the time.
Passione’s last transmedia narrative initiative that deserves to be mentioned happened in the last weeks of the telenovela. A mysterious murderer started killing characters, giving the narrative a suspenseful quality. A game was proposed as an extension of the plot on the internet, and the author of the telenovela, Silvio de Abreu, became the game’s main character. Throughout the week, Silvio de Abreu supplied clues on the website. Besides, the website had photos of 12 characters who were possible future victims of the mysterious killer. Each week the author “saved” a character, who would no longer be killed in the plot. The game ended with the last chapter.
In analyzing all of Passione’s transmedia actions, Borelli (2011) concluded that, from this experience, TV Globo’s telenovelas would offer viewers new places and ways to watch television, despite observing a “conflicting articulation between models - ‘old’ and ‘new’ media - within TV Globo” (Borelli, 2011). In the author’s opinion, this conflict does not assume the substitution/exclusion of one pattern for the other; they may even be complementary. However, contrary to what the author assumed would occur, there was no continuity in the transmedia experiences of the station, concerning both the volume and characteristics of the experiences, with an interruption of learning that comes from epistemological experience. In 2017 there were eight transmedia producers for telenovelas and a hundred professionals dedicated to the internet content of the station’s entertainment products. However, in that same year, the transmedia producers and part of the professionals connected to social media and content for the internet were relocated or dismissed.
It is possible to assume that the budget cut was caused by the lack of financial return of these initiatives. However, these productions add substance to the work, enrich the viewer’s experience and operate towards the convergence of media. These transmedia narratives already anticipated the sliding of telenovelas to digital platforms.
In television networks, even taking into account pioneering initiatives, the business model prevails. As already noted, Mittell (2015) considers that the production of a transmedia narrative may not be interesting for a broadcaster since most viewers may prefer to consume only the primary text. However, this does not mean that transmedia narrative content does not occur when promoting a telenovela, because the plot demands it or because there is an opportunity for financial return, as will be seen later.
Another critical point that Passione’s transmedia actions have in common is the commitment to control viewer participation. Fechine and Figueiroa (2015) argue that, because they are free individually or collectively, fans producing content have several possibilities of conduct before them: reactions and behaviours. Due to this freedom, power cannot act directly on them, even though the station may try to influence their conduct and to be involved in their actions.