TELEMUNDO HASN'T RESORTED to classified ads yet, but it has done the next best thing. Starting this week, in conjunction with a local community college, the giant, Miami-based Spanish-language TV network is offering a college course to train new writers of telenovelas. Those prime-time soaps, with their stories of love lost and love found, are immensely popular in Latin America and increasingly so among the U.S. Hispanic audience. Telemundo, which produces all its own soaps, has four of them on the air each weekday evening, accounting for 40% of the network's total ad revenues. But with success has come a problem: a shortage of writers.
Telemundo's solution? "We're growing our own," says chief operating officer Don Browne. The network has contracted with Miami Dade College, which was giving English courses to Telemundo's Spanish-speaking employees, to offer a free year of telenovela-scriptwriting classes. Of nearly 4,400 applicants from 26 countries, including Lithuania and Japan, 36 students were selected. They will develop, write and produce segments with actors, and when the course is over, they will have a good shot at a network job. Telenovelas typically last only six months, so there will be plenty of potential job openings. And training writers is only the first step. Browne envisions classes that will teach producing and directing as well: "We are creating opportunities in the industry for the next generation of artists." --By Jeanne DeQuine