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Producing for Latin America

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21 January 2014

The growing international reach of British programme makers is nowhere better illustrated than in a Spanish language documentary series made specifically for Latin American audiences called Misterios de la Fe – which is produced in London by UK indie Wag TV.

Commissioned by Discovery Latin America, Misterios de La Fe is a kind of Miracle CSI. The 8x1-hour series follows a Mexican Jesuit priest and female journalist as they investigate the truth behind some of Latin America’s most intriguing miracles.

So why is a British indie, rather than a Latin American outfit, making such a series? The show’s exec producer, Jon Stephens (pictured), says: “The reason they came to us was because we have a reptuation internationally for factual programmes and great storytelling.”

Stephens adds that Latin America is a fast growing, highly competitive market with lots of channels fighting for an audience. “So they need their shows to have compelling stories and formats that stand out and keep viewers hooked.”

Citing Wag’s long-running Discovery series How Did They Do It?, Stephens points out that the indie also has plenty of experience of producing shows for global audiences. Wag could refer to this international reach when it pitched the idea for Misterios to Discovery Latin America, based in Miami.

Discovery liked the concept, so Wag set about casting for the series in Latin America. After a long search, two Mexican lead presenters were found and flown over to the UK for a week of workshops. “Investing early on in the presenters paid dividends in the long term,” says Stephens.

Wag then sourced key crew – APs, producers and directors – in the UK. But they had to be able to speak Spanish, and Discovery insisted on checking that they could. Recruiting a Spanish speaking crew was one of the hardest tasks making the show, says Stephens. “I think I’ve met every Spanish speaking director in the UK.”

The British crew were then paired with local production teams to shoot the stories in Mexico, Argentina, Columbia and Brazil. All the rushes came back to the UK, where they were cut by Spanish speaking editors in Wag’s London office.

A single Mexican cameraman worked on the series, to give it a unifying, aspirational visual style. A key lesson, says Stephens, is that one of the last things Latin American audiences want to see is the “aesthetic of distress” so beloved by Western travellers. “That is not how Latin Americans see themselves – in fact, they are arguably more aspirational than people in the West.” Since Misterios, Wag continues to make content for Latin America.

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