Closing the first edition of TTV+Live, Karen Barroeta and Miguel Varoni from Telemundo Global Studios shared their experience of producing content in the midst of the pandemic, the big projects that were completed this year and what’s in store for the studio in 2021.
After 10 consecutive days, the first edition of TTV+Live, the live event organized by TTV Media Group as part of the launch of its TTV+ networking platform and market place, came to an end this Friday, December 18.
And the last day’s program focused on Telemundo Global Studios, with a panel led by Karen Barroeta, Executive Vice President of Production and Development, and Miguel Varoni, Vice President and Creative Director, in dialogue with Sebastián Lateulade, founder and CEO of TTV Media Group.
To start the conversation, Karen Barroeta shared the experience of having grown together with Telemundo Global Studios to become one of the main figures at the head of the studio, and the challenges she faces in that leadership role.
“I really feel that I am a blessed woman. I was in the right place at the right time, being able to work with Telemundo. And for having had the leadership and support of many, including my main mentor, Marcos Santana,” the executive began.
“Thanks to them, I have a 360 strategic vision of the business. I was able to understand what the life of a production meant, from its development to its distribution. The important thing is that it can be a title that not only works in the market where it is produced, but it can travel and be a success in different countries in terms of culture and language, with characters and stories that break down barriers. Being able to learn that was very enriching.”
“Also working in pay TV, programming and marketing. All of this prepared me to face this beautiful challenge today that means continuing the work that many have done, and that particularly Marcos Santana has, in the last three years, taken to a new level, where our productions are on par with the main markets.”
“I love challenges and I am facing this with a lot of responsibility. In the development area, I am concentrating very strongly on developing stories with which the audience connects and feels that they enter a world from which they cannot escape; attract writers and stories to be developed by our teams and to have a pipeline of stories for the next two or three years. We are already developing for 2023 and will soon start for 2024,” she explained.
It is this strategic vision of the business that members of her team like Miguel Varoni appreciate so much when working in production. “Karen clearly understands where we are going,” Varoni said. “She has a clear had from having been in so many areas, and knows which audience we are trying to reach. It is a delight to know where we are going so clearly.”
“I feel very comfortable,” continued the creative director. “I’ve been in this area for a long time. Marcos Santana and Karen have given me the opportunity to direct and have a more creative voice, as a showrunner, to get into the style manual for productions, direct and have this creative responsibility for the products. It is a great responsibility but also a pleasure, they have let me fly and I am proud to belong to the team and fulfill my creative dreams.”
And when it comes to producing content, the key for Telemundo is working as a team, with a dynamic forged through years of hard work and learning in the industry. “We are paying attention to development, to how we handle the choice of the content that we are going to bring to the screen. It is a process that was created with rigor and dedication, to assemble dynamic and varied teams that bring different perspectives to the table,” Barroeta explained.
“Having the creative minds of writers, producers and different areas, and being able to put together that group, and that it is the group who makes the decisions, which helps us share responsibility and creation. We have emphasized that, who participates and how. It’s a process. There is a well-drawn model and we work in a way in which everyone shares their opinions. There are times when you bet on something because of your gut feeling, but we also run tests and focus groups for pilots and projects.”
“We want to be able to understand the way the audience sees us, as well keeping in mind that the world is changing, and today, above all, that we are experiencing something unprecedented, we must listen to the audience and know what they want to see. Today they are looking for lighter themes, which make them smile and allow them to forget a little about the pandemic and the tragedy that surrounds us. That process is very thorough.”
It is through this process that Telemundo Global Studios has found stories and productions of international quality, such as La suerte de Loli, a project both executives are very proud of.
“When Karen came into the studio, her strength and her focus was on fulfilling that goal of entertaining people. Her big first job as studio head was La suerte de Loli, and I was able to be a part of the project,” Varoni began.
“La suerte de Loli is a clear result of what people are looking for as a result of this situation that we have to live through. Going back to directing comedy is a pleasure, a gift of life. I must also say that having Karen, who had the vision that it should be Silvia Navarro, and I thank God that she did that. That woman is a pleasure to watch. And of course also the entire cast that surrounds her. The story is beautiful, it is divine, I am very happy and proud. I think it will be very good and that people will love it. I am blessed to have been in this project. It will be a fantastic success,” predicted the director.
“Listening when people internally tell you ‘I saw the first two episodes’ and they have moments when they laugh and get excited, that possibility of creating emotions that take you to a place where you feel good is very nice,” Barroeta added.
“This story is wonderful, it is a special gift that Marcos gave us. It is a particular story, a woman who looks like today’s executives, workers, who put family and children aside. And it turns out that one day her best friend, the super mom, passes away and leaves her with two children, turning her into a mother from one day to the next. How this woman faces this situation is exciting. What happens to a woman, how to maintain her personality and learn to be a mom, with all the other wonderful characters and a love story where she transforms, and how the love of children and the man in her life transforms her. It is a wonderful family love story.”
Executives also highlighted the production of La reina del sur 3, which “needs no introduction,” Miguel said. “With Kate and Humberto, and a great script and a great development work. They’re doing something really amazing and beautiful. It’s going to blow everyone away.”
“We also have Buscando a Frida,” he added, “a bet from Karen. And I find it charming to go back to the thriller, to suspense, to these stories that leave you in suspense. It seems fantastic to me. We did it for a while. with Dónde está Elisa or La casa de al lado, and now we returned to this genre after eight years. It seems to me a fantastic story that they have developed”.
Producing these stories, especially in a year like 2020, became an unprecedented challenge for everyone in the audiovisual industry, one that Telemundo Global Studios was able to overcome.
“The main is to be brave, have courage, and at the same time be very organized. We spent three months preparing the protocols. Because we started in March, we stopped production and we worked from day one until we returned, we did not know when it was going to be. We work on the protocols and I thank the entire Telemundo team that supported us,” explained the VP.
“We started in Miami and then a week later in Mexico, driven by the passion of being able to produce. It has not been easy but we have put in place strict, very strict security protocols. It is about knowing the importance of content and being responsible when it comes to knowing how to return, to take care of human resources, directors, producers, talent and all who work are protected and no one’s health is at risk.”
“The most spectacular thing we have had is the courage,” added the director. “The courage of Karen and Marcos to say, ok, go. They could have said stop, and it wouldn’t have happened. And they managed to make it happen. You have to see the happiness of the actors and the people to be able to work. Obviously they have appeared positive and when it happens, there is a very serious protocol about how to continue. Nothing stops us.”
Finally, the executives shared their advice for new producers and studios starting to take their first steps in the industry and what they hope 2021 brings.
“My advice for new producers is definitely to put a lot of emphasis, work, head and analysis to the development of the story,” Barroeta summarized. “You can have the best casting or the best bill, but if the story doesn’t catch you, you don’t see it. The main thing for any producer or person who wants to start in this industry is to develop a story and be clear about the market. to whom it is directed. You must be very clear who your audience is and know where you are going. ”
“This year has been one of great lessons. Of great pain for some, of learning for others. The important thing is to take what we all learned and move on. I am very happy with what happened on a personal and professional level, always knowing that it has been a very hard year to carry out everything we have done from home,” she added.
“I agree. Turning the page is going to be difficult. This year it marked us all. But I also think that the most beautiful thing about all this is that Telemundo did not stop. We employ many people. Each unit has more than 50 people. We are talking about 150 people working every day, grateful to Telemundo for being able to continue working and producing. That is something that is a blessing for many people and I am proud to be part of that”, Miguel Varoni concluded.
The full panel can be viewed here: https://ttv.live/ttvplus/en/virtual/stage/42169