Sonia Blangiardo is a two-time Emmy winner from her work as a producer/director on All My Children, One Life to Live, and As The World Turns. She is also the creator and Executive Producer of Tainted Dreams (debuting in 2014) and was supervising producer of AMC 2.0 in Stamford, CT this year.
There are many, many people who care deeply about AMC and OLTL and wanted them to succeed online, and Sonia is one of them. So, let’s go to the source.
Carolyn: Why do you think the Internet reboot of AMC didn’t make it to Season Two?
Sonia: All I can say is that every effort was made to make this show a success, but there were obstacles that could not be overcome.
Carolyn: What obstacles?
Sonia: In my opinion, the IATSE union dispute and the lawsuit with ABC. I think both of those discouraged potential investors. The union dispute also stopped our momentum because we had to halt production.
Carolyn: Tell me about that day – June 5th I think?
Sonia: It came out of the blue. We were rolling tape on OLTL, and I was in my office working on [the next round of] AMC. At about 7:45 pm they called everybody to the floor and said, “We have to stop filming.” They had to call the AMC actors at home and say we couldn’t resume filming. Nobody knew what was going on. The fans thought we were jerking them around, but honestly we didn’t know when – or if – this was going to be resolved. Everything was good, and then everything wasn’t good. We hit a dead stop midstream and never went back into production.
Carolyn: Was it a money issue?
Sonia: I don’t know anything about the details of the money.
Carolyn: Did poor ratings have anything to do with investors losing faith?
Sonia: Maybe. We had anticipated higher numbers. We did really well for Hulu, but no one knew how many total people were watching. To this day I don’t know. Maybe they couldn’t get accurate numbers.
Carolyn: Union dispute, ABC lawsuit, low ratings… what else?
Sonia: Eventually, actors getting other jobs. The delay also created a wrinkle with two major actresses because Eden Riegel [Bianca], and Paula Garces, [Lea] are both pregnant, but their characters are not. If we had come back in August, that wouldn’t have been a problem. If we had come back in October, we had like a three-day window to shoot Eden and Alicia [Minshew, Kendall].
Carolyn: Was Alicia confirmed to come back?
Sonia: We never got to that stage because we never got the green light. We had great story lined up for Alicia.
Carolyn: Why was there so little information coming from Prospect Park through this whole process?
Sonia: The PR people they hired were not from daytime. They were not familiar with how passionate daytime fans are. They were reluctant to put out information unless everyone had approved it and, frankly, they were very hard to get on the phone.
Carolyn: Uh, yeah. It took Digest months to get synopsis information – as you know because you’re the one who finally got it for us. They were much more concerned about splashy photo shoots, Here’s me: Put your actors on the phone with reporters and give fans delicious, tease-y storylines to entice them to watch their soaps on these newfangled things called computers.
Sonia: I agree. There was a learning curve for everyone. I don’t think they understood what the fans were hungry for.
Carolyn: Or magazine deadlines…
Sonia: …or how important a magazine like Digest was to the overall success of their shows. This was a new medium for viewers, and we needed to bring them on board from the beginning.
Carolyn: Why do you think AMC did better than OLTL?
Sonia: [AMC execs] inherited a show that – unlike OLTL which ended at its peak – had been torn apart in its last years on ABC. No one understood who these characters were. They went back and found the core of each character and reestablished them. AMC had been only plot-driven for a long time, which is the biggest mistake you can make. The reboot brought people home to the old AMC that they loved.
Carolyn: Even though you jumped ahead five years?
Sonia: That was a big risk, because we aged the kids into major Pine Valley characters. It worked because they were part of our core families, so fans embraced them. People cared about Miranda because Bianca was her mother. My biggest fear was that we had to create five years of story that fans weren’t a part of. David got out of jail, J.R. was in a coma, where were Tad and Kendall? There were a lot of unanswered questions. We took a chance creating history fans weren’t privy to, but ultimately I think it worked.
Carolyn: Unlike OLTL, half of which was unrecognizable to me.
Sonia: Give them credit for trying to come out of the starting gate with a big splash at the club. They worked very hard. Their biggest flaw was concentrating too much on the “Wow Factor” for events. Sometimes, they lost track of why the event was happening in first place.
Carolyn: What was the biggest challenge on AMC?
Sonia: Honestly? Getting up and running. We started literally from scratch. We did not have pens. We got the green light in February and started taping in March. We had a few weeks to build sets, get wardrobe, create a system, build a control room. They asked me, “From a director’s perspective, where do you think the monitors should be?” Once we were up and running we knew what we were doing.
Carolyn: Is that where a lot of the money went?
Sonia: Oh, sure. Like with any start-up. I’m not exaggerating – I had to bring my own pens from home. We had to rent copiers. No one had mailboxes. It took us two days to figure out who got what dressing room. We had to staff hair and makeup for two shows.
Carolyn: What did you learn from working on the reboot?
Sonia: I learned how to create things I had previously taken for granted. On every show I worked on, I inherited a well-oiled machine. I could take an empty airplane hangar now and turn it into a soap opera set.
Carolyn: Like you did with Tainted Dreams?
Sonia: Exactly. Props, locations, studio space, flying people in, coordinating their hotels and their cars, it’s all a big puzzle and you put the pieces together.
Carolyn: You brought your own pens for TD?
Sonia: Pretty much!
Carolyn: Now that AMC and OLTL are over, will you be able to use those actors, costume designers, etc. on Season Two of TD?
Sonia: Yes, and I could not be more thrilled about that. Those casts are full of amazing talent and, frankly, personal friends.
Carolyn: Have you cleaned out your office in Stamford?
Carolyn: What’s your message to soap fans?
Sonia: Don’t give up. AMC and OLTL will not be filming in 2013, but you never know what’s going to happen in 2014. And I am going to keep doing everything I can to keep this genre alive. I am going to make sure TD is a fun romp that combines the best of what fans love about soaps with new elements that will make it even more enjoyable. I’ve got a great cast of fan favorites, plus some interesting, different talent like you, Carolyn [laughs].
Carolyn: So, no teenagers doing drugs on TD?
Sonia: No. I only wrote what I know – thank God!