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The School for Amor

When Don Browne became Telemundo's president last April, one of the first things he asked was where the next generation of telenovela writers would be nurtured. After all, Telemundo is second only to Televisa as a televnovela factory; its dramas air in more than 50 nations.

So it decided to grow its own talent. Teaming up with Miami-Dade College, the network created a one-year program to train telenovela scriptwriters. More than 4,400 applicants from 36 states and 26 countries wanted a chance. The 10-month course, called Taller Telemundo: Escritores (Telemundo Workshop: Writers), attracted everybody from journalists, housewives and waiters to truck drivers and clergypeople.

The workshop tapped industry pros as instructors. Among them was Fernando Calzadilla, the famed Venezuela scribe with 30 years of telenovela and theater scriptwriting experience.

Last month, the network graduated its first class of 14, seven of whom are already employed as apprentices to Telemundo writers.

At least one of the graduates has seen his work heading for TV screens. A script proposal for the network's prime time dramatic series Decisiones (Decisions) landed on the desk of the network's head of production, Patricio Wills. “He really loved it, and it turned out to be from one of the students of the workshop,” says Ramón Escobar, Telemundo's senior executive VP of network programming. “We ended up producing it.”

Telemundo will repeat the class, but it will most likely be offered next in the Los Angeles area.

Escobar says: “It was a lot more successful than anybody anticipated.”