Elizabeth Bowen-Tombari, editor of TV Latina, moderated a keynote at MIP CANCUN with Carlos Quintanilla, VP of original content for Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market at Sony Pictures Television (SPT), discussing creativity, establishing new content synergies and harnessing big ideas.
With a background that includes roles at Lemon Studios, Televisa and Telemundo, Quintanilla began the conversation by discussing his role at SPT and what he brings to the table in terms of production. “I am a creator turned executive, and I am trying to build relevant stories that can make it to the screen and ideally become successful and authentic products that meet the needs of the audience,” he said. “It seems simple, but it is very complicated to try to anticipate the future and see what the audience needs.”
One of the productions highlighted at MIP CANCUN is Playa Soledad for Claro video. “It’s a heartwarming story with complex characters that bring a smile to your face. It’s feel-good content. Developing this type of content is complex. That’s what we are currently striving for at Sony, working on entertaining projects that also include a meaningful message. Our role as content creators is to convey that message through entertainment. We’re very happy with Playa Soledad. Additionally, on the unscripted content side, we have several projects that are more emblematic of the Sony brand, and we are excited to deliver them.”
The conversation then focused on Quintanilla’s work with showrunners and the dynamics of this evolving relationship. “We are at a point where teamwork is crucial, as television has always been a collaborative effort,” he said. “Now more than ever, to enhance the quality of products, we need to ensure that the triangle functions seamlessly: Production, direction and the script need to work well together. The writer can no longer stay at home; they must be on set, get involved and support the direction. The director cannot ignore the scripts; it is important to delve into them and work closely with the creators. Actors also need to put in deep effort to understand these two perspectives, and production must leverage the budget to make it visible on screen. This triangle has to constantly function well to stand out, and that’s what we are working on at Sony to elevate the quality of our productions.”
Bowen-Tombari then asked about talent and the challenges of finding and booking it, given such high demand. She also asked about the efforts made to nurture such talent. “There is recognized and renowned talent that everyone wants to work with,” he said. “So, it’s a matter of trying to convince them that your project is relevant and that you want to invite them to come on board. What I like to do with writers is seek out these talents that the market already recognizes and team up with emerging talent. I believe that’s the only way for emerging talent to become relevant—by building teams and trust. It’s important for those of us in certain positions to help the new generations continue building personal and collective aspirations that can be relevant to everyone.”
He added, “I think we are at a point where it’s okay to collaborate with young talent. That’s one of the ways [we can nurture it]. The other is education. [We work to] find directors, producers and writers who enhance that trio. It sounds easy, but it’s quite complex for a writer to understand budgets and for a producer to understand directing. That is crucial for the challenge we face today of being showrunners of something that seems easy but requires a lot of talent and effort to achieve results that are interesting to everyone.”
Regarding new IP, Quintanilla said that SPT is always open to exploring new ideas and proposals. “Just as we produce content from major IPs that come from other regions or our own, we are constantly looking for new stories and ideas. The markets are one of the most important spaces for discovering new talent and stories.”
The dynamics between the U.S. Hispanic market and Latin America were another point of conversation. Bowen-Tombari asked how SPT seeks stories that are universal for audiences in both markets while maintaining the unique characteristics of each.
“What we are doing is going directly to the regions—to writers in Colombia, Argentina, Mexico, the U.S. Hispanic market—and find that essence that allows us to discover stories from those groups that have commonalities, making them relevant in their community and then impacting the world.”
In terms of what makes a production successful, Quintanilla commented, “Success is something very relative because there are successful projects that may not achieve the expected levels of viewership. But the projects that quickly become very relevant, and of which one can be proud, have excellent performances, a solid script, direction that enhances that script and production that carefully manages the budget to ensure that the money is visible on screen. However, there are also other examples that have many problems and are still successful. So, there really is a relative element that makes our storytelling very interesting.”
He explained that they look for creative content labs regionally that can have a local impact, and then “we seek for it to be relevant to the rest of the world. We are thinking about both Latin America and the U.S. Hispanic market, although in the case of content for the U.S., we have to consider an audience that is proudly American, feels American and belongs to that community but is also proud of its Latin roots. So, it becomes increasingly complex. We have to understand our audience and look for texts that are relevant to all regions. That’s why we are looking for the famous ‘glocal’ concept, which is easy to say, but implementing it is complicated.”
The conversation concluded with Quintanilla discussing current projects, stating that “we are very happy with Casados con hijos (Married with Children). We are developing a significant comedy line, trying to recover major Sony IPs that can be relevant today and see how we can generate original content based on past experiences.”