The Malta Independent 26 June 2019, Wednesday

What lies behind the sweeping success of soap operas?

Tuesday, 21 May 2019, 14:56 Last update: about 2 months ago

Maria Camilleri

Local drama programmes rank second locally as the most watched programmes genres. More women than men opt to watch drama series. This fact was supported by the Broadcasting Authority's latest audience surveys. L-Għarusa, written by Audrey Brincat Dalli and produced by Sharp Shoot Media was one of the most popular dramas across television stations according to the Broadcasting Authority's latest audience assessments. Juggling a busy life, Audrey, a freelance scriptwriter attempts to find time for writing and family duties. "It's hard to find a balance and I rarely feel I do. Most of the time I struggle but I have been blessed with help."  

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Before her son Leo started school, either her husband or her mother looked after the toddler so that she could complete her work commitments. She is most productive in the morning finding it easier to write at that time than any other time of the day. Audrey started writing when she was 11 years old.

"It happened quite naturally as I felt that writing was a form of therapy for me in those pre-adolescent years." At first, she wrote poems and short stories "which I never finished writing because I always get new ideas and I get bored of my old ones too soon".

In 2010, she moved to script-writing on a televison series Xablott and was one of a group of writers on Il-Klikka and Rajt ma Rajtx. Then she made script-writing a full-time job. Back in 2015, Audrey wrote her first original story Strada Stretta, which went on to net eight awards at The Malta Television Awards in 2017, including Best Script. Two years ago, she started working on a new drama series aired in 2018, called L-Għarusa. The story is set during the 1930s and involves the tragic love story of Bettina Gauci Fontana, an aristocratic girl who was murdered on her wedding day.

Both Strada Stretta and L-Għarusa hit a home run, taking the viewers on a nostalgic trip. "I'm nostalgic as a person and have always loved period dramas and movies. So it was kind of natural for me to explore this genre. Unfortunately, I don't have a time capsule and can't visit past eras, but if it were possible, it would be one of my dreams."

The two series were an emotional roller coaster ride. A combination of a great team backing up the story is the secret behind this success, she said. Week after week, there was a troupe of individuals who sweat and bled to put on their best performance. "Everything from pre- to post-production, crew members and all the cast who interpret the characters are extremely dedicated and passionate about their work." The team put their shoulder to the wheel to provide the highest quality production.

These efforts have undoubtedly borne fruit as the audiences are really engaged. "People are at the forefront to comment and let you know whether they like your work or not." Each day each television station carries at least an episode of a soap opera. Audiences will be bouncing off the walls, eagerly awaiting the developments of the narrative. Audrey said that social media has made it possible for the audience to interact immediately. On such platforms, TV viewers share their opinions and suggestions on how they see the story will develop. The script-writer said she tries to read as many of the comments as possible. "It is my favourite thing to do, right after the show or the morning after. I love the feedback, good or bad. The theories that the audience comes up with shows how loyal they are to our work."

Audrey mentioned that finance is one of "the hardest struggles" for local productions. People "would love to see more high-quality entertainment, however the better the quality the higher the expenses."  The people involved spend long hours to produce high-quality products. The weather can dictate changes to the script, direction as well as locations.

"The story is set during the 1930s and involves the tragic love story of Bettina Gauci Fontana, an aristocratic girl who was murdered on her wedding day."

When asked if she has any plans for the future, Audrey said that she would love to write a short movie in the near future. She would also like to develop in the drama sector as well. 


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