Angélica Guerra, SVP and general director of Production for Latin America and US Hispanic at Sony Pictures Television

Angélica Guerra from SPT in an exclusive interview: In 2017 we will be making eight fiction series between Colombia and Mexico
25 de octubre de 2016

Angélica Guerra, SVP and General Director of Production for Latin America and US Hispanic at Sony Pictures Television (SPT), offered Richard Izarra, Editor-in-Chief of PRODU, an exclusive interview, in which she spoke about the fiction production they are making in Latin America. 

RI- Would you like to make any comments on the financial performance of your division?
AG- We have grown very much in these four years. I can say for sure that Sony became the biggest independent production company in the region, not only in number of hours, but in amount of clients we are serving and with whom we are making deals in the entire region: in Mexico, in US Hispanic, in Colombia. We are producing diverse genres, for different clients, in different business models, and we have adapted well to the dynamics of the market. I think that is what has made us an ideal partner for the different channels in the region. I must say this has a lot to do with the good moment that original TV production is going through in the region, because now, there isn’t just one client per country, there isn’t just a single genre being produced, but instead there is a boom of new platforms that are producing original content and they want to do it with external production companies. There is a boom of original content for cable, too, that invests a bunch of money in new types of projects, and there is also a boom for open TV channels that are opening their doors to external productions and don´t make everything in-house anymore, but receive the best product regardless of where it comes from. Then, this is the best moment to be producing television in Latin America.

RI- This production boom you describe so well, has to do with quality. Has quality increased, and what about stories? Is production more mature now?
AG- Yes, undoubtedly. There is more sophistication in the type of product TV viewers want to see, and I think that we, executives, the producers of the industry and channels, have begun to help them raise the level of what they watch. Not only because we are producing better, but because they have access to a lot of new platforms that bring them products from all over the world. So, this creates this explosion and also forces us to raise and raise our standards.

RI- Angélica Guerra, in this equation, what is your credit? What was your contribution to all this?
AG- I think I take risks and I am not afraid. That has allowed us to have more stories, more hours, for us not to be afraid in the company and also to guide us with our intuition; when we really like a story, we put all our souls and hearts into it to make it possible. I think this is my personal personal contribution: to take risks when I intuitively feel that a story deserves to be told. Without thinking it over so much.

RI- And you, as chief of that division, when they give you several million dollars and tell you “well, produce,” don´t you feel a bit scared?
AG- Well, it is a big responsibility, but, without the intention of sounding cliché, the team we've built around each of the stories in the creative area, in production, finances, marketing, operations, does minimize the risk, because everyone is alert, very aware of everything. It works like a well-oiled machine that is clear about the audience, the channel, the story, the structure of the characters and we pay attention to every detail. I would say that, this is on what we spend the most: on the story itself, the script. And if we don't feel it's ready, we don´t make it. It doesn't matter if it takes time, if we have to do it again. I think that has minimized the risk, but there is always a risk.

RI- Angélica, and now that you mention the team, wouldn't you like to mention some of the people that we might not know? Who are those invisible, right-hand people of yours?
AG- They aren’t so invisible. All the clients know them and each one has a solid place in their area. Carolina Leconte and Camila Misas are in the creative team; Ángela Vergara, in operations; Juan Pablo Posada, Daniel Ucrós, Andrea Marulanda, Lucho Jiménez are in development and production. In the area of entertainment we have Andrés Barragán. There is a very solid group in each one of the areas. Without including all the back office group, that is also huge help to set up all the projects. I feel very proud to count with a solid team of professional people, who, above all, love what they do.

RI- Do you have studios in Colombia, somewhere else?
AG. No, we are doing everything on locations. A hundred percent out of studios, except entertainment formats, game shows. But the rest is done in locations and outdoors. For several years now, everything has a cinema aspect.

RI- And has the structure in Mexico grown? Is the office getting bigger?
AG- Yes, very much. Three years ago we barely had one person in Mexico and now the aim is to make between seven and eight productions in Mexico. That is huge. To have started three and a half years ago with El Mariachi -that was the first one we did in Mexico- and now make so many hours and of such good quality, is a huge pride. The boom right now is in Mexico, although Colombia continues to be important as well.

RI- Can you tell us about future projects?
AG- I can talk about what we are doing now. We are producing Rosario Tijeras, La Querida del Centauro 2, Blue Demon, we are preparing one with Cadenatres called Paquita la del Barrio, that they already announced. In Colombia we are producing El Comandante and are developing and in pre-production of several projects that will be announced very soon.

RI- All in the same line of big series? 80-60 episodes?
AG- We are more in favor of 60. Yes, That is what we are doing now.

RI- Yesterday, Marcos Santana launched a new studio, but with a miniseries format that has 13 high-quality episodes. Any comments on this new format?
AG- It is an excellent alternative. I think now there is a tendency to explore, take risks, seek new options, and that is good for the audience. Since there is so much access and so many platforms, so many new ways and places to watch television, 13 episodes is an excellent option, 26 is a very good option. We are now making 60-hour products, but divided in 20. Blue Demon has that structure, to place it as seasons, or to place the 60 episodes in a row. Thirteen is also something we are exploring with digital platforms. I think everything goes.

RI- Angélica, a personal question, how do you feel with all your growth and your products that are so successful?
AG- Happy and proud. Happy to contribute a bit to this world that I feel so passionate about and that fascinates me. I couldn’t do anything other than television, so I can’t be more grateful with life and with the company, to be able to do what I like and have a team that helps me do this.

RI- Do you think there is a possible bubble in fiction production or that the moment can take all the content that is being made?
AG- No. I don’t think there is a bubble. I think all the players that are rising now will gradually decant, and business models will shift, according to the types of products and the amount that can be invested. But I think this level, probably for the next few years, can be sustained. A lot is going on in the region right now, too many channels, platforms and good projects, and also production companies. I don't think it is a bubble. I think it is a reality and a trend that is here to stay.

RI- And what is the reason why you have partners like Televisa, TV Azteca, Imagen TV, RCN, Caracol… practically everyone?
AG- Because we are good partners, we are ideal partners. We invest, take risks, we are willing to sit down as co-producers, as peers, to listen to what others have to say, and we have no problem in accepting creative suggestions. We are very good partners, not only in financial terms, which is important, but because we invest and put money into productions in many cases, but also have a team that is very reliable for channels.

RI- As for the business model, isn't it better to produce less and keep the global rights?
AG- We have all kinds of models that can be placed on the table creatively. We have custom-made (per request) products, we have co-productions in which one side puts a part and we put another, we share. We have spec series, which we call that way because we fund them and keep all the rights so we can sell them from country to country, window to window. And that… what does it depend on? On the story.

RI- Cost of the story?
AG- It depends on the story. The number of episodes, where it will be produced, the timing. In other words, it varies completely, but I think that we have the flexibility to do it, and next year we will produce eight fiction series between Colombia and Mexico, around 30 and 60 hours. Between entertainment and fiction we are almost reaching 700 hours.

RI- So you duplicated your production? From 350 hours last year to almost 700 hours. How much of it is fiction?
AG- We duplicated that amount. Out of those 700 hours, 450 are fiction.