Peruvian network América Televisión sent TV fans a love letter with "Beto y Elena," the story of a renowned TV character and his beloved fan.
Created by Circus Grey, the short film uses Elena as a stand-in viewer. In Twilight language, we'd call her a Bella to sparkly Edward, a nondescript person who exists mostly so people can pour themselves into her. For Elena is a symbol of normalcy: She lives with her family, goes to school, and spends way too much time in front of a screen. ("Elena" is even among the top 100 Peruvian girl names, though it's No. 96.)
Beto, meanwhile, is an actual character from De Vuelta al Barrio ("Back to the Neighborhood"), a comedy telenovela that's the top series on Peruvian TV. While it's no surprise that Elena, like many serial TV addicts, falls hopelessly in love with Beto, he reciprocates, breaking the fourth wall to make eye contact with her.
A touchingly weird long-distance relationship begins.
Directed by Manuel Oxenford with production by Rebeca, the spot rolls forward with an Arianne Fernandez cover of '80s hit "Fantasy." In classic telenovela style, drama breaks when Elena races out of class to "meet" Beto for their prime-time date, only to fall down a flight of stairs and get hospitalized. It's during her conspicuous absence, and the discovery of her injury, that Beto discovers how much he truly loves her.
In the last scene, they touch hands across their invisible barrier, forever separated by the same medium that made it possible for them to find each other.
"TV brings us together. Let's get closer," the piece concludes.
It probably isn't necessary to explain the impact of telenovelas on their audiences; Jane the Virgin's successful leap to mainstream western TV, from its origins in Venezuela, is proof that their strange continuity, plot twists and slow drips of satisfaction grips something inside us that's hard to shake off. This isn't just about addiction; telenovelas have even helped contribute to social change. Maybe we love them because they evolve alongside us, as seemingly stable as another tomorrow.
"The emotional reason why we go to TV every day, at the same time and on the same channel, is because of that close relationship generated between us and the endearing characters of the series," says Charlie Tolmos, executive creative director at Circus Grey. "This idea lives at the exact crossroads of entertainment and pop culture in the country."
It's poetic to illustrate the spellbinding force of a great TV program by suggesting that, in some universe, your love for a fictional character is reciprocated, the screen acting as a magical veil between two dimensions.
This is a line that can get creepy, even threatening, if walked too far right or left. The people we see on TV are not real, even if they're played by people who are. The latter have felt inaccessible to the majority of fans for most of TV's history, and even then, the idolatry thrust upon them still sometimes freaks them out.
But social media has made all this even more complicated. Online, people can groom themselves into stars far more accessible than Brad Pitt. They say hi to you directly when you show up on their Twitch streams, whisper ephemeral video confessions on the toilet, and blow hearts in the comments when strangers say "I love you."
Thus it becomes even easier for someone to delude themselves into thinking a relationship exists when all they're really relating to is the marketing, not the person. Suggesting a TV heartthrob can love you back, and that this love can be made evident in gestures open to your interpretation, triggers a desire to flag all that.
But if we pull away from this "world is ending" stuff and hold "Beto y Elena" to the standard of a metaphor, it conveys something less grave but equally worthy: A symbiotic relationship does exist between fans and the content they cherish, so much of which is about how actors manifest those stories in blood and bone. And they do need their communities as much as they themselves are needed, even if they don't necessarily know the people by name.
It's not an anodyne thing to say "I love my fans." They are the pillar on which an actor stands; learning to balance their affections, while negotiating one's own creative and personal evolution, becomes the biggest job a star must do. Sounds like a relationship to us!
América Televisión's CMO, Jacques Aragonés, elaborated on the brand's desire to make stories that fuel a sense of connection. "We want to see better ideas, better realization and a much more emotional pattern, and we hope to be contributing to this," he says. "These types of pieces can cause very deep and long-term effects on brands, and to do so there is no better medium than TV."
"Beto y Elena" has been online for about two weeks, and has surpassed a million views, according to Circus Grey. On YouTube alone, it's enjoyed a comfortable 600,000 views, with 14,000 upvotes and just 946 downvotes. No shame there.
Client: América Television
CMO: Jacques Aragonés
Brand Manager: Ana Paola Mazuelos
In-house Art Director: Mauricio Torres
PR Manager: Mariana Ibarcena
Agency: Circus Grey
CEO: Pedro José de Zavala
CCO: José Luis Rivera y Piérola
Executive Creative Director: Charlie Tolmos
Creative Director: Yasu Arakaki / Rodrigo Melgar
Head Account Manager: Zinka Mendoza
Account Director: Jackeline Sztrancman
Account Supervisor: Vanessa Ortega
Account Executive: Alejandra Cardenal
Head of Production: Renzo Talavera
Group Executive Producer: Claudia Alvarez
Assistant Producer: Ximena Rojas
Production Company: Rebeca
Director: Manuel Oxenford
Executive Producer: Alejandro Noriega
Production Manager: Karen Nolte
Assistant Producer: Maria Fernanda Mendoza
1st Assistant Director : Eduardo Bezerra
2nd Assistant Director: Renato Arestegui
DOP: Julian Amaru Estrada
Gaffer: Lander Torres
Focus Assistant: Nicolas Lastschenko
Camara Assistant: Carlos Ezeta
Video Assistant: Sergio Peña
Data Manager: GianCarlo Segovia
Art Director: Coco Miranda
Productora de Campo: Oh Margot
Art Producer: Cecilia Herrera
Custome Designer: Claudia Mansillas
Make up Artist: Nery Romero
Off Line/ Editing: Rossana Samanamud/Makaco
On Line / Color: Makako
Sound and Music Designer: Zumba
Cover Lead Singer: Arianna Fernández
Original Music: Fantasy by Autocontrol
Production America Television
Head of production Estela Redhead
General Manager and Series Scriptwriter: Gigio Aranda
Executive Producer: Cristian Rocha
Director of Photography: Carlos de la Cadena
Art Producer: Elena Ibarra
Costume Designer: Mónica Passapera
Make-up Artist: Edith Ávila
Make-up assistant: Erika Alata
Make-up assistant: Andrea Escobedo
Other Credits: Carlos Wilson, Rómulo Peralta, Bruno Fernández, Marcos Pilco