MEXICO CITY With the June 30 bow of telenovela “Juramento,” Telemundo Studios Mexico launches its first 100% made-in-Mexico production, the first of many, studio prexy Patricio Wills says.
The Mexico City-based studio adds a third hub to Telemundo’s international scheme in addition to operations in Colombia and its HQ in Miami.
“We believe that with Mexico, we are closing the circle of what we want to make as our basic foundation of production,” Wills tells Variety.
NBC Universal’s Telemundo is ever a distant bridesmaid to Univision in the U.S. Spanish-language TV market. Univision is bolstered by hit telenovelas produced by Mexican conglom Televisa, while Telemundo is forced to produce much of its own product.
Wills explains that filming in Mexico was a natural move for the U.S. web, as the vast majority of U.S. Hispanic auds hail from there.
“Juramento” (which in Spanish means both “oath” and “curse”) follows a man’s quest for revenge against the woman who drove his brother to suicide. The show is set for 140 hourlong episodes.
He adds that while Telemundo has been slowly easing into Mexican production over the last six years or so, the idea of “Juramento” began only about 18 months ago and went into production at the same time the studios were under construction.
At full production levels, the exec estimates the studios can film two series at a time with a third in production.
The telenovela, which will be broadcast Stateside, comes on the heels of the web’s premier of “Sin senos no hay paraiso” (Without Breasts There Is No Paradise), a reinterpretation of a acclaimed Colombian telenovela based on the Gustavo Bolivar novel, which follows the story of an poor young woman who sees breast augmentation as her only means of escape from the slums. She consequently becomes a narco-“girlfriend” to raise funds, but things unravel when she falls in love with a drug dealer.
The show’s premier on June 16, ranked as Telemundo’s third highest telenovela premiere behind “Tierra de pasiones” and “Victoria,” according to NTI data.
It got a quite respectable 23% rating/17 share, according to ratings tracking service Ibope.
The Telemundo version expands the tale from the original 20 hours of the Colombian version to 60 or 70 hours, says Wills.
Although a lot of the show was filmed in Colombia, it also adds a “Thelma and Louise”-type storyline that takes place in Durango, Mexico.
It drew Telemundo’s top brass to the northern state to attend a gala production kickoff hosted by the governor earlier this month.
Wills said the rugged scenery becomes a character in the telenovela. “We wanted to show a rural Mexico, not urban,” Wills says. “We could film indoor sets in Miami no problem, but here in the countryside, we can use the unique landscape as a star.”
He points out that “Sin Senos” and “Juramento” are filming in the relatively rural Mexican states of Durango, Queretaro and Hidalgo where state governments are often more willing to offer incentives and logistical support than in industry-laden Mexico City.
“We are looking to present a version of Mexico that respects its culture, not a caricature of mariachis, but a Mexico filled with its people and stories, its beauties and talents and resources,” the prexy says.
Noting that these telenovelas will likely be sold to some 30 countries, Telemundo’s corporate communications veep Alfredo Richard adds, “All of these telenovelas are vehicles for showing Mexico to the rest of the world.”