Mercedes Reincke, VP of Content Development at VIS, opens the doors of the company's development area and explains the process to turn a simple idea into a great television project.
Bringing an idea to the screen is never a simple task. In the particular case of Viacom International Studios, the company has a development unit that is specifically dedicated to bringing to life the thousands of ideas that arise within the study or that come from third parties.
“We develop for all those who give us a brief or who dare to listen to what we have. Our team is made up of creative people who come from advertising, the theater or even the cinema. It is a fairly alternative and varied group that develops programs, tracks content that is about to enter in production, analyzes trends, works closely with BI (Business Intelligence) and is, in short, the one that says what the trends are. In addition, it identifies those ‘blue oceans,’ which are those spaces that are not fully travelled yet and contain opportunities,” said Mercedes Reincke, who leads that team in its role as VP of Content Development at VIS.
Reincke knows well that nowadays the content is installed in the lives of human beings, and even compares the habit of visualization with everyday activities such as "taking a shower, brushing your teeth or going out with friends". And she adds: “I do not know if it is because there is enough loneliness or because access is getting easier, but it is a deep-rooted habit. Before going to sleep, we all do some kind of zapping in some platform”.
Going deeper into that concept, she analysed: “Since I started, there have been multiple changes in the way of consumption, and that is amazing. There is so much space, so much demand. Stories, fiction and imagination are now installed in a very strong way in humanity, and I see that with a lot of admiration. What disconnects you from other things connects you with other worlds and realities, and that is spectacular. There is also the possibility to vary, to change the era, to include trends, to choose what you want. To those of us who create content that presents an incredible challenge”.
When it comes to thinking about a concept, all types of genre or format seduces and challenges Viacom International Studios. "Obviously, fiction is the 'pretty girl' of our work, but we are also very fond of unscripted, entertainment, and recently we are putting a lot of speed on the factual, the documentary, and this kind of genre that stays halfway between fiction, entertainment and reality. The interesting thing about the contents is that with all their locality they find universality,” said the executive.
Thanks to its global reach, the company is in a perfect position both to generate ideas and to receive them. “A lot of content come to us. It is very difficult to focus on everything. Sometimes ideas can be two-page concepts or scripts already developed. Doing that pre-selection is a very complicated task that we have," admitted the VP of Content Development of VIS.
The multiplicity of windows available to spread a project offers a multiplatform environment full of opportunities, but also challenges. In that context, there are no generalist formulas and each content should be treated in a particular way, analyzing whether it has a digital side, a television side or if it perhaps allows a 360-degree model.
“Some contents invite to a 360 or make the strategy very clear from the beginning. Obviously, we try that what we are developing has the best possible authors, and that has to do with the proper name of each author but also with that mixture that is done between pens, bringing authors from different parts. This is going well for us and they are interesting bets,” Reincke indicated. "It is also good to have a person in the cast who was born on the social media along with another one who may come from the TV," she added.
For her, the conception of a fiction project has different points of view and a certain madness in the process, but when it comes to other genres, sometimes it is more about "walking through the darkness and discovering". As an example, she talked about the co-developments that VIS made with other companies such as Televisa, Mega, América, Keshet, Fremantle or Fuji, among others. “That type of relationship with other people, which come from another culture and even have other schedules, is very rich. We believe that there is something about developing and letting it flow, that things find their own way. We have been working like this and we have been enjoying it a lot,” she expresed.
The associations with other channels or platforms suppose, in addition to a mere commercial agreement, a great pride for those who saw that idea born and then were able to turn it into reality. "Our great desire is that a country from abroad buys a novel we did, a program is adapted into a series or someone from another place in the world wants to do something with the content we develop," Reincke admitted.
After a very successful 2019, Viacom International Studios’ lab of ideas has no intention of slowing down in the new decade, and that is why it remains in the constant search for new trends. For example, Reincke believes that environmental awareness and health care are two issues that are becoming increasingly relevant.
As for formats, the short or limited series is presented as the most attractive option to produce, and within that model, there is a trend that for the Viacom’s executive needs to be exploited: the biographical series about a fact and not about a character. “We saw ‘Sandro,’ ‘Monzón,’ ‘Celia’ and so on, but the concept of making a story about an important situation for the world -and not just the tragic ones- is something nice to explore. Something like what was already done in ‘Titanic’: a spectacular love story was put together in the context of a great event. Another case, much closer, is ‘Chernobyl,’” she exemplified.
In that search for “content that catches you to a point that does not let you breathe but ends relatively quickly,” Viacom has already bought the rights to “38 estrellas,” a book by Josefina Licitra about a spectacular escape from a women’s prison, and “Entre mi hijo y yo, la luna,” Carlos Páez Vilaró's book about the desperate search for his son during the tragedy of the Andes in 1972. “It's about catching an accident, a World Cup, a concert or even an amusement park and write a story about it with interesting characters,” Reincke concluded.
By Federico Marzullo