BERLIN — A 12-program Globo Series Show at Berlin Tuesday served to underscore the ongoing revolution in artistic ambition, production methods and distribution outlets at Latin America’s biggest broadcaster.
Also, hosted by Globo’s Content Development Manager, Gustavo Gontijo, the Feb. 20 Showcase was an explicit calling card for Globo’s desire and production capabilities to become an international co-production partner.
From the 12-series shown, that revolution cuts various ways. Most of the shows are co-produced with Brazil’s top and biggest movie production houses, five with Fernando Meirelles’ o2 Filmes (“Happily Ever After?” “Vade Retro,” “”City of Men,” “Thirteen Days Away from the Sun,” “The Wise Ones,” “Happily Ever After”), one with Conspiracao (“Under Pressure”) and another from Gullane (“Jailers”). These companies have been responsible for many of Brazil’s biggest upscale international breakouts from “City of God” to “The Second Mother.” They are now part of its international-standard TV revolution.
The series shown at Berlin ran a huge gamut: From cooky rejuvenation romcom “The Formula,” to favela-set social drama “City of Men,” “Under Pressure,” an ER drama, “Jailers,” a penitentiary-set drama thriller, “Happily Ever After?,” a corruption thriller-come erotic drama directed by Fernando Meirelles sums the cost of a hell-bent pursuit for personal happiness. Most unusual of all, “The Wise Ones” is a second-chance drama whose protagonists are 70 years-old or more.
Globo has also driven hard into genre, whether serial killer case “Merciless,” penitentiary set horror thriller “Supermax,” disaster series “Thirteen Days Away from the Sun,” or Sao Paulo-set suspense comedy “Vade Retro,” about a guileless young woman lawyer who takes on the Devil as a client, which draws on the giallo aesthetics of Mario Bava, director Mauro Mendonça Filho said in Berlin.
Globo used to produce around four-to-six series of 26-42 episodes a year . From 2014, with the entry of Carlos Henrique Schroder, and the launch of a Globo weekly series department under Gael Arraes, Globo produces 12-16, said Gontijo.
“Series are [still] a very new format for Brazilians,” he added.
To make them, Globo is also enrolling and training a new generation of screenwriters, some brought back from the U.S., U.K. or Cuba. Of the show promos shown at Berlin, no series’ dialogues hit home harder than “Under Pressure.” “This is a war zone!” shouts an ER surgeon, surveying the patients, and lack of resources, at a Rio public hospital. Lucas Paraizo, one of the series’ lead writers, is a thirty-something professor in Cuba.
There’s a clear effort to up the pace, vigor and pulsating punch of Globo series, whether the soundtrack of the teaser for “’Under Pressure,’ accompanied by Brukeheimer-ish whooshes, ” or multiple long tracking shoots or aerial takes seen in many of the shows. At he same time, many return whether tongue-in-cheek (“Vade Retro”), indirectly (“The Wise Ones”) or on-the-nose (“Jailers,” “Under Pressure,” “City of Men”) to the roiling problems assaulting Brazil: Corruption, public service cuts, grinding poverty. “With series, we have an important tool to educate audiences from a broader perspective, about the elderly, for example, in ‘The Wise Ones,’” said o2 Filmes Carol Alckmin. The social relevance of many Globo series may indeed be one reason for their success in Brazil and abroad. “Under Pressure” scooped four FIPA prizes last month: Series, Actor, Actress, Script; “Jailers,” won the MipDrama Screenings Grand Jury Prize last year. As Globo pushes out into international a new generation of series, Variety talked to Carlos Henrique Schroder, Globo TV CEO, about its international ambitions and fiction series makeover just before Berlin’s Drama Series Days:
Globo is making a presentation of very recent Globo series at the Berlin Drama Series Days. This I think serves to underscore that Globo is open to reach out to international partners to co-produce content. Would that include your boarding projects as a minority co-producer. And could these be English or Spanish-language projects?
Yes, we are open to co-productions in different formats and already studying new projects in English and Spanish with major international players. We shot Supermax entirely in Spanish in our Rio de Janeiro studios, co-produced with Oficina Burman, Mediaset (Spain), TV Azteca (Mexico) and TVP (Argentina), in strategic partnership with Teledoce (Uruguay), and it has already been licensed to several countries. It was a very successful learning process, which we intend to apply to new productions, also taking advantage of the expertise acquired from our history of international co-productions, which began in 2009 when we made ‘The Clone’ with Telemundo. Since then, we have co-produced ‘My Dear Handyman’, also with Telemundo; ‘Between Love and Desire’ (2010), with Azteca, and in partnership with SIC in Portugal, we released ‘Blood Ties’ (2010), winner of the International Emmy Award for Best Telenovela, in 2011, ‘Dancing Days’ (2012) and ‘Mar Salgado’ (2014), all broadcast on prime-time Portuguese television. Not to mention the successful co-productions made in Brazil, such as ‘Under Pressure’, ‘Jailers’ and ‘13 Days Away from the Sun’, among others.
What could be noteworthy about the presentation?
We have been performing major restructuring over the last few years to prepare ourselves for new challenges, for the future. I guess what sets us apart at the moment is the investments we have made to upscale the creation of new projects. Today, we are a production house and studio, creating, developing and producing telenovelas, series and original formats, open to new and strong production and distribution partnerships. We have been ramping up for this in a number of ways. We created the Writer’s Room a year ago, a space inspired by the American writers’ rooms, where a team of authors gathers in 12 different rooms, dedicating themselves to creating and developing projects and new seasons. This has been a very successful format. Over the course of only one year, we developed 28 new projects that are ready to be produced, whether for network TV, for our OTT, or as international co-productions. The strategy behind this entire movement is interesting to watch: we have taken on new forms of creation, management, talent management, production and distribution – and this has been key to our evolution from a broadcast television network to a creator and producer of multiplatform quality content. These processes originated from our connection and alignment with society and increasingly strengthen our performance in the Brazilian and international markets. Globo is in constant motion. We must be able to keep up with the changes to the market, business and the audience, always in tune with our viewers and the world.
Both “Vade Retro” and “13 Days Away from the Sun,” which you recently screened, are produced with o2 Filmes. When did they screen in Brazil and what was their audience ratings or share?
‘Vade Retro’ aired in Brazil in 2017 and reached more than 88 million people while it was broadcast. ‘13 Days Away from the Sun’, in turn, was released for binge watching last year on Globo Play. It was also aired on network TV at the beginning of this year, with excellent ratings. It had a total impact of more than 107 million people during its exhibition.
Who oversaw the production at Globo on “Vade Retro?”
The series was written by Fernanda Young and Alexandre Machado, with artistic direction by Mauro Mendonça Filho and directed by André Felipe Binder and Rodrigo Meirelles. Guel Arraes is responsible for overseeing the company’s weekly productions, and this is now being done from the Writer’s Room. We opened the space last year, in line with our new creation and production processes, and it has been key to leveraging new ideas and encouraging creative exchange.
‘Vade Retro’ is about a cooky lawyer confronting typical life crisis who suddenly gets an atypical client: a man who could be the Devil. Has Globo made any series like this before?
‘Vade Retro’ is quite innovative in terms of its storyline and this has been emphasized in the production of our series in recent years. We have been investing in experimentation, new genres, different writers, and an increased production volume. The series have been an important laboratory for innovations and narrative, aesthetic, gender, language and format experiments. That is why we are able to showcase 12 very different series at an event like the Berlinale, yet with the same quality that has always set us apart.
‘Vade Retro’ is a genre-blender take on U.S. formats, I think – the horror comedy, mixed with Brazilian TV tropes – the mother-in-law figure in “Vade” – and social critique. This gives the series more international reach. Would you agree, and do you have any evidence from international sales?
I agree that the series will be very well received internationally, not only for its storyline, but also for the quality its production and cast. ‘Vade Retro’ is a mix of comedy and suspense, with ironic aesthetics and a sarcastic humor pitch, but it also raises universal ethical questions. And it is starred by Tony Ramos, who is our Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, or Robert De Niro. We have no sales numbers yet, since ‘Vade Retro’ will be shown to the international market for the first time at the Berlinale, and is not yet included in our catalog.
Vade Retro also marks a diversification into more “international” style of series of limited length, maybe repeat seasons, with international influence. It is, like “Jailers” and “Under Pressure,” a calling card for Globo as a partner on international series. Could you comment?
Yes, we are sure that we are creative and equipped with facilities and talents that enable us to explore the international market as a relevant player. Series production has been diversifying and gaining new momentum over the last four years, also encouraged by the share in global consumption that the format has achieved. By strongly investing in series, we realize our potential to explore new partnership formats and consolidate our performance as a global content-producing house. Whether telenovelas, series and/or original formats, all of them have and will have their share. Our bet is that Globo Studios will be able to develop several new creation and production formats, either in partnership with independent producers for the national market or in co-productions with international partners for the global market.