One episode of “El Jardín de Bronce” begins with the camera creeping out from between two white stone buildings at huge height, looking down on a teeming ant-like Buenos Aires below. Then an intimate conversation between two ex-lovers in a park is shot with a long-range focal lens. Both set-ups create an air of conspiracy.
In hospital procedural “Under Pressure,” the camera dances around an ER operating table, cutting in whiplash fashion as it adopts multiple angles to cover both the operation and the emotions on the faces of the doctors doing the operating.
Both series are the work of filmmakers — Pablo Fendrik and Hernán Goldfrid on “Jardin” and Andrucha Waddington and Mini Kerti on “Pressure” — who are pushing the envelope on TV’s stylistic potential.
“Local creatives are breaking the paradigms of what storytelling has traditionally looked like in Latin America,” says Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer.
As production standards on series rise, traditional borders between cinema and TV are evaporating. “We’ve made a cinema product,” says Juan Parodi of music bio “Sandro de America,” noting that the whole team, from director Israel Adrián Caetano to below-the-line players are from the film industry. “Sandro” was only shot with one camera, he adds.
Globo’s sibling rivalry drama “The Brothers” piles on shot-after-shot of crowd scenes and sensual decor, used to underscore the sumptuous magnificence of a near magic-realist period in the Amazonian city Manaus.
In addition to grander production values, the new age of series comes with shorter lengths that ramp up story and more closely mimic a cinematic experience, as well.
Caracol Intl. sales head Lisette Osorio of the 60-segment “One Way Out” says this is because “there are different tastes now. People don’t have time to wait two episodes for the first kiss.”
“For the first time in 70 years, the industry is repositioning. The classic telenovela is transforming. 300-400 episode telenovelas are now rare. Also, the number of telenovelas is down from 100 last year to 60,” says Marcos Santana, at Telemundo Intl. Studios.
Pay TV format programming, on the other hand, is increasing its episode count, says Edgar Spielmann, COO, Fox Networks Group, Latin America. “People want to consume faster. Pay-TV operators like Fox Networks Group are thinking of formats beyond the scope of eight to 13 episodes to engage with audiences longer,” he says, noting some of his shows may be up to as many as 40 episodes.
New production partnerships between free, pay TV and streaming platforms demand multi-outlet content, says Manuel Martí at Argentina’s Po-lka. That means series with stars and a free TV audience lure, plus narrative drive, a facet of premium TV, and multi-episode arcs, which encourage binging.
“ ‘Under Pressure’ found a balance between episodes with independent secondary plots, and a longer story line connecting them,” says Guel Arraes, Globo chief content officer for series. It also introduced a Brazilian hero “during a time when the country is desperate for good role models,” Arraes notes.
Program types are also evolving. “Some romantic comedies are doing quite well,” says Bertrand Villegas at TV and digital content research agency the Wit, citing Artear’s “Las Estrellas” in Argentina and Televisa’s “My Husband Got a Family,” as examples.
“It’s a different world. The content people are watching is more contemporary,” Osorio says, pointing to “Surviving Pablo Escobar.”
But, he adds, the genre that’s “really progressing” is bio-novelas.
Bios allow viewers to “rediscover a person they think they know, see how they really are,” whether that’s boxer Julio César Chavez, who puts a gold-plated revolver to his head at the beginning of Disney’s “El Cesar,” or series of people facing up to and often triumphing over adversity, Osorio says.