Editorial

VI World summit of the
telenovela and fiction
industry


 

“Australians would love to work with South America”
The Australian director and producer talked about his desire to coproduce with the region. “Our industry is really interested in finding new ways of participating internationally,” he maintained.


Fascinated with the “incredible success” Latin American telenovelas have; that is the way Ron Victor Saunders described his feelings at the beginning of his meaty summit presentation where he expounded on “the reality of opportunities for fiction in the Australian market.” The experienced film and television director and producer for Beyond Productions travelled from the Indian Ocean and set foot in Buenos Aires with the aim of letting the expectant people in the big summit auditorium know what works for producers and channels in Australia and Asia Pacific territories.Australia has a population estimated at a little more than 20 million people. There, television makes a “small, traditional” and, in particular, “strictly regulated” market, where regulations usually establish time slots to give impetus to profitable contents that also reinforce the country's idiosyncratic and cultural aspects. Out of the seven local channels competing for the universe of viewers, five are free, and two of them, ABC -“the hungry boy”- and SBS, are financed by the state. “Half of the contents in free TV are produced locally and the rest is from Latin America, plus a small amount of British material,” explained the producer. As regards pay TV, it is controlled by the slots and the associations with cable suppliers, where Foxtel (owned by Rupert Murdoch) “has the monopoly”.

Recipe for success: drama series
Drama series is the genre that presently attracts Australian viewers the most, especially when it has a good dose of love. Saunders turns to the ratings measurement to exemplify: “Among the top ten programs, there were three drama series.” The first place was taken by Back to the Roof, a simple story with a touch of comedy which “the audience loves.” The other two programs are All Saints and Haime in Hawai. Another successful drama show was McClair's daughters. Results are really good if we consider these shows have to compete with great foreign productions as successful as House, Lost and Ugly Betty, among other American series.

The aim: coproducing with Latin America
In Australian television, coproduction is not a new resource. Among their partners we can find Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Poland, Hungary, China and Singapore. But, in this regard, there is a market they have never
been in contact with: “We'd love to work with South America,” Saunders pointed out. In that connection, he viewed the Argentinean creation of the Buenos Aires Film Commission favorably, an organization thatwill assist and advise national
and international production companies willing to produce in the country. “It is good that our Australian agency will have somebody here to talk to,” he affirmed. In his opinion, the opportunities that open up are huge, though he maintains that “the difficult part is to find a story that works, as it must be attractive to the broadcasters' audience in both countries.” Another difficulty could be language, “though SBS broadcasts subtitled or dubbed contents,” he clarified. Before closing his presentation, Saunders affirmed that “Australian television is very interested in finding new ways of participating in the international sphere,” and rounded off: “We'd like to watch Latin American telenovelas that have worked everywhere.”

Private and state funding
Part of his presentation in one of the conference rooms at Hilton Hotel in Buenos Aires was devoted to enlarging on the funding methods for fiction in Australia. According to Saunders, the three private channels operating in the country
work with seven local production companies and “hardly ever” work with independent ones. There is state funding, though less than previous years. “We hope the state is willing to carry out local productions and turns to independent producers for that,” he emphasized, adding that “regulations dealing with this topic must improve”. There are many successful experiences in the country. Products such as Sea patrol and the gangsters series Underbelly were sold to more than 70 countries.For administration of state funding, the agency Screen Australia was created with the objective of giving impetus to ambitious and high quality miniseries and dramas, independent of financial return. Even though funding is limited and there is much competence, “it is particularly useful for providing funding to develop productions in the initial steps, before having an opportunity in broadcasters.”

The aim: coproducing with Latin America
In Australian television, coproduction is not a new resource. Among their partners we can find Germany, Canada, United Kingdom, France, Poland, Hungary, China and Singapore. But, in this regard, there is a market they have never been in contact with: “We'd love to work with South America,” Saunders pointed out. In that connection, he viewed the Argentinean creation of the Buenos Aires Film Commission favorably, which will assist and advise national and international production companies willing to produce in the country. “It is good that the Australian agency will have somebody to talk to here,” he affirmed. In his opinion, the opportunities that open up are huge, though he maintains that “the difficult part is to find a story that works, as it must be attractive to the broadcasters' audience in both countries.” Another difficulty could be language,“though SBS broadcasts subtitled or dubbed contents,” he clarified. 0Before closing his presentation, Saunders affirmed that“Australian television is very interested in finding new ways of participating in the international sphere,” and concluded: “We'd like to watch Latin American telenovelas that have worked everywhere.”