After a successful and long-lasting professional career, world-renowned screenwriter Enrique Torres comments on his perceptions about the global trend of producing formats to be broadcast the world over. He revises his
experience in Argentina, the United States, Mexico and Rumania and comes down to the conclusion that “there are no strict rules; absolute requirements to adapt a story, there are only good stories or bad stories. And we
must make our best to come up with the good ones.” As the creator of many successes such as
Muñeca Brava, Celeste and Perla Negra (to name but a few) he feels confident to comment on his opinion about the increasingly growing international market.
The role of the screenwriter
When a company trade a canned telenovela or a format, there are many interests revolving around the business: who should get the money that results of the transaction?
At the VI worldwide summit of telenovela and fiction industry, there were many intense debates on who is entitled to collect the earnings (the producers or screenwriters?) and a heated discussion took place. In order to clear the misunderstanding, Torres suggests a way out of this dilemma: “we work as part of the same team. Both producers and screenwriters have to play the same game we ought not to act as if we were part of different groups.”
He resorts to a metaphor to illustrate his idea: “Who do you purchase?
Do you purchase the goal or the goal scorer? We buy the goal scorer, who is the one that allows us to actually make goals. Here, we tend to buy goals and we forget about the player.”
What are the tasks involved in the screenwriting?
“All I know is that I write scripts, like the others screenwriters we begin with a synopsis, the depiction of the characters, his route map and then we come up with the dialogues, a bit of ornament here and there and that's it.
And we make a living out of this job.” Torres, the same as his colleagues, stood up for their work, giving reasons why it is so necessary for the remakes. “The first episode of a telenovela might be well-written by a lot of people whereas the seventeenth chapter, not so much, and the fortieth episode is really difficult to be written. But the ones who remain, the ones who resist in this career, do well.” He went on to say that: that “Writers should be benefited from the sell of their productions, of their work, but it is not like that. Over the past few years, I had the experience
of selling some formats by myself.” He has sold Antonella and Perla Negra to Televisa Mexican production company. “I owned the rights, because at that time, the screenwriter had to assign the rights for five years or ten years to the production company but I was an exception to the rule. In general, the rights do not belong to the screenwriters
and hardly ever do they get an economical bonus for the sell of a format,” he explains.
Market research: magic solution, efficient tool or nonsense?
Nowadays, market research has spread the world over and television companies are eager to find out what the audience is all about. These kind of studies are carried out to confirm who the most remember character is, to check if the story is gripping and to get to know more about the viewers' profile. “Some people simply ignore the market
research and the results of the focus groups whereas others, instead, considered the reports as of absolute importance and are compared to the Bible's sentence.” In the former, market research results are doomed to failure, are
nothing to write home about and should be dismissed by its inner nature. In the latter, they provide useful tools and miracle-like consequences to take into account if we are looking forward to achieve a great success.
Torres happened to experience both cases: “I had the chance to work in Romania, where they work with a lot of research to find out about our mistakes. There is some information that the writer should handle but there is an
unforgettable learning we must get from the following anecdote: when Ford launched on the market his first car it was an outstanding event and he was asked whether he had spotted people's likings. He replied that if he had
asked the people in the street if they fancied cars, they would have responded they would like stronger horses.”
How to create a new invention from scratch? Is it possible to create something out of creativity without considering market researches? “It is hard that from a focus group they can come up with an innovation in the genre or any interesting initiative for the future. Of course, there is some data that the writer should bare in mind.” aware that many housewives in Mexico did not know how much money their husbands earned. So, a character was growing in popularity because she wanted to know her spouse income. We stressed that, it was a valid information
so we paid more attention to it.” On the whole, he believes that sometimes asking a focus group about his favourite kind of telenovela is a mistake. “Inquiring whether how people would like a story to finish or which story likes is imprudence.”
A well-written telenovela, the core of the matter
Leaving market trends behind, forgetting about the eternal struggle between screenwriters and producers, Torres reflects on some key aspects of telenovelas. “Fortunately, a telenovela is still a developed idea, a producer who trusts in the idea and a team of professionals who do their best for this idea and make it hit the screens with as much credibility as possible.”
Nowadays, a growing tendency is that countries have stopped purchasing canned telenovelas to give way to formats. “The reason of this change is quite simple: the highest ratings belong to the locally produced telenovelas.”