The only Latin American entry at Sunday’s Cannes MipDrama Screenings, Wood Producciones‘ Chilean drama “Ramona,” is the new series (12 x 42’) from helmer-producer Andres Wood, who after Chilean Oscar submission “Violeta Went to Heaven,” a World Cinema Jury Prize winner at 2012’s Sundance 2012, has turned his talents to TV production. Lead-written by Guillermo Calderón (“Violeta,” plus Pablo Larraín’s “The Club” and “Neruda”) and produced by Wood’s long-term collaborator Patricio Pereira (“Machuca,” “The Good Life”) “Ramona” is co-directed by Julio Jorquera, who helmed a Chilean remake of “The Red Band Society,” and Marcos Sánchez. Per Wood, it is “yet another cog in a chain that we’ve been developing as a film and television production company: Chile’s recent history told through the eyes of people who are not the official characters.”
Giannina Fruttero, Belén Herrera and Paola Lattus play the main roles at “Ramona,” which is sold internationally by Miami-based Fly Content. Variety talked with producer María Elena Wood.
What are the main distinguishing features of ‘Ramona’ if compared with other TV series?
Its originality, its universal appeal and the endearing appeal of its main and secondary characters. It’s a series focused on women and set in the ’60s. It’s a story of immigrants, about all that people fleeing from medieval submission in the countryside and facing the loneliness and toughness of the city. “Ramona” tells the story of three women that become a family in a social environment that was –and still is nowadays—very real for millions of people all over the world.
What are standard production and broadcasting practices for creating a TV drama in Chile?
In most cases, Chilean fiction series can only be produced if they receive government funds. “Ramona” tapped financing from Chile’s National TV Commission (CNTV). Local TV channels came on board, as co-producers or broadcasters, but with a small amount of money. We firmly believe that the way to make quality fiction TV is through international co-production.
What are the reasons why Chile produces a considerable number of TV series that combine production values and significant social, political concerns?
There is talent for storytelling in Chile, production ability and also an open perspective on the world. There’s a generation of creators –inheritors of Latin American traditions — that has built a sharply critical perspective toward both local and global socio-political processes. Summing up: talent, a lot of work and attitude.
In the teaser, “Ramona” mixes humor with a portrait of rural working classes during the time of late ’60s agricultural reform in Chile. What is the series’ tone?
“Ramona” is a drama that follows three main characters who are not antiheroes — so common in many contemporary series. They are heroines that conquer our sympathy. We follow them through a learning process and growing political involvement. Also, “Ramona” depicts a hallmark of Chile’s poorer classes – a particular sense of humor that avoids moaning.
What are the ingredients a Chilean series needs to sell abroad?
High production values, and a combination of the best of Latin American content tradition with a sense of spectacle more identified with the English-speaking world. That should be recognizable, distancing the series from traditional Latin American soap operas.
What are your expectations in Cannes?
We hope that industry will welcome the series with open arms! “Ramona” can be seen worldwide, and in addition it’s a format that is suitable for a remake.
What’s the best way for Chile’s TV content industry to grow, expand?
We have to pay more attention to international markets, always keeping local audiences in mind. Co-productions will become vitally important.
After “Violeta,” Andrés Wood began a TV production career in “a very natural way” — according to his own words. What do you think was the key in his move over into TV production?
Our aim is to make TV with the same responsibility and devotion that is needed in cinema, Differences between quality TV and cinema are vanishing. For many filmmakers, TV is an important way to tackle topics we are interested in. Quality TV series represent the big novels of the 21st century.