Pablo Culell is Vice President, Production and Development, Underground – NBCUniversal Telemundo Global Studios. UNDERGROUND PRODUCCIONES, acquired by NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises in 2019, is a division of Telemundo Global Studios.
He began his professional career in 1993, and later became Executive Producer for Canal 13 TV in Buenos Aires. Since then, his work has extended into teaching as a university professor at the Insituto TEA, Argentina, and serving as Artistic Management Advisor to América TV and as the Producer of many successful Argentinean fiction programs for different channels and radio stations.
In this edition of Content POV, he shares backstory on the major hit 100 Dias Para Enamorarnos"and the positive effect narrative content can have on society.
New York Festivals: 2020 was a year of all kinds of disruptions, including production schedules and audience viewing patterns. Looking ahead to the next cycle, what forms of narrative content do you think will attract the most audiences?
Pablo Culell: I believe that there’s an audience that will be reluctant to consume any type of content related to the pandemic; they will not want to hear or view anything reflecting the events that generated so much anguish and distress during the past year. This audience will opt for content without any ties to what they’ve experienced, seeking distraction, as well as life stories that convey hope –comedies and dramas without violence, avoiding topics that cause suffering, as they’ve been consumed by it for too long.
Then there is another type of audience. One, which, on the contrary, wants content that identifies with what they’re living, and isn’t turned off by extreme situations.
It all depends on the psychology of the viewer.
Without a doubt, both types of content can coexist. And it may become more commonplace, beyond a period of transition, in which perhaps, the public can come to accept and/or see situations related to the pandemic – such as characters with masks— and start to feel that the content is current, and reflective of what is happening in the world. Until then there could seem to be a saturation of this, and for a while it will not be interesting to the general public. In another sense, in a few years from now, looking back at these times with a hindsight perspective, this type of content can come to be seen as historically valuable. From that perspective – after having already overcome its adversity, but not before that— some audiences will want to look back at this kind of story as a reference of the atypical times we had to live through. Be that as it may, in the short and mid-terms the public will seek distraction and content that is entertaining and hopeful.
New York Festivals: Looking to the near future, what trends and themes do you anticipate for local coverage of stories, international markets, and Latin American markets as a result of audience preferences after the pandemic?
Pablo Culell: I consider that all types of genres are always welcome, as long as they are entertaining and powerful. I think that anyhow, the so-called "Dramedy", a combination of comedy and drama, which identifies with audience from the point of its sentimental and romantic stories, will garner a strong preference. I also think that thriller and suspense dramas will never go out of style; it is one of the genres that attracts audiences most. Youth series for adolescents with components related to terror, I also believe, will continue to be sought after. A little bit of this is also related to that stated in the previous point, from the point of view of the pandemic.
Comedy can work really well too, but humor doesn't always translate the same into different markets, nor do people laugh at the same things. At this point, there will be a more local look at each region, at its type of humor, where some dramas will transcend borders and others not so much. But as discussed before, a Dramedy or romantic comedy could generate the most empathy.
New York Festivals: Telemundo International Studios has a strong production volume that includes thought-provoking programs with high production value. Could you share the backstory of some of these great hit series?
Pablo Culell: 100 Dias Para Enamorarnos from Telemundo Global Studios has been a great success on the Netflix platform, and is an adaptation of 100 Días Para Enamorarse, created by Sebastián Ortega and Argentina’s Underground production company. Once the company was acquired by NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises, Telemundo Global Studios’ President Marcos Santana found in its story a modern, effective and powerful dialogue for a long fiction, with several episodes, in which audiences could feel identified. It is a testament to its times – current, in terms of the dynamics of couples and new families. It is a story that reflects the diversity and inclusion of different people and themes, and that represents in some way, the issues that are at the foreground today. It seemed interesting to us to develop this story from the point of view of two life-long friends –empowered females over the age of 40— who make the decision not to lead a routine life when it comes to matters of love, rather than from the perspective of a couple that takes 100 days to see if they want to recommit to each other. It gave us the ability to talk about many topics related to love, friendship, children, new families, sexual diversity and gender identity. This generated an impressive success in Argentina, and allowed the story to cross borders, thanks to the support and initiative of Marcos Santana and Telemundo, who developed its wonderful adaptation, in the United States, with a Latin American cast including renowned Mexican talent. The series is currently a hit on Netflix in Latam.
New York Festivals: How important is the creative team to the success of the new Telemundo International Studios shows?
Pablo Culell: It's fundamental. We work with a very important creative team of authors, producers, directors, from different parts of Latin America, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, and Argentina. Under the direction of Marcos Santana and Sebastián Ortega, I am a part of the development and production committee involved in the creation of premium and short series for Telemundo International Studios. Aside from abiding by a set of guidelines and standards in level of quality and narrative –as well as production value— we give great importance to the impact that our series may have on society and on
different markets. In any type of fiction –entertainment, romantic comedy, thriller, dramedy, action, etc.— we try to generate themes that, in addition to entertaining the public, help them reflect, think, and create empathy. This is why each individual’s contributions in work and in life are of great importance in this process.