When the house lights go down and the stage lights come up and the first note carries across the arena, it’s easy to appreciate the coordination, precision, and planning that go into a single night of The X Factor competition. When the phrase “behind the scenes” is dropped, technicians with headsets and switchboards come to mind, but the work that goes into product placement agreements and crediting the artists who originally made famous the songs performed each night is a beast in itself, and one that often goes unrecognized—except by Cristina Scarano.
“All of a sudden it’s like we’re in overdrive,” says Scarano, director of legal and business affairs for FremantleMedia Latin America, describing the most recent project the international entertainment company has her jet setting around the Americas for. She’s responsible for paying attention to all the details noted above along with counseling the company’s leadership team to mitigate the risks of TV entertainment and even some human resources responsibilities when those skills are called upon.
When we catch her for an interview, she’s in Miami, FremantleMedia Latin America’s headquarters, but soon she’ll be in LA for auditions for the Spanish-language version of The X Factor, the musical performance competition, the US version of which was viewed by 45.1 million people last season. El Factor X, which Fremantle partnered with MundoFox to premiere last July, spotlights young performers ages 8 to 15.
Part of Scarano’s charge as director of legal for the Latin American region is licensing the format rights for Fremantle’s hits including the Idols franchise and the Got Talent franchise (US versions include American Idol and America’s Got Talent). While that can include agreements on everything from production to talent to ancillary rights to vendors, one thing is inherently simple, Scarano says, and that’s the message. “The beauty and essence of these shows is that they’re inherently adaptable,” Scarano says. “These are shows that crosscultural boundaries. At their core, what’s appealing about them is not country-specific, it’s universal. They’re uplifting.”
Fittingly, the natural adaptability of Fremantle’s shows is reflective of Scarano herself. The daughter of Puerto Rican parents, raised in Wisconsin and having studied film in France, Scarano is a multicultural chameleon. Before working for Fremantle, she got her start in media at the Miami Herald. She then interned with NBC Universal and went on to work for Telemundo. When her work takes her across borders, Scarano’s bilingualism helps her communicate in the markets she serves and says her background in writing, also across languages, has been a great asset.
And while her title may suggest Scarano takes a left-brained approach to her work, she says Fremantle has opened her eyes to another side of the entertainment business—the creative side. “Physical production is something I’m more involved with now than I was in the past,” she explains. Law was a natural progression from Scarano’s early interests in political science and writing, but a short stint at a law firm revealed to her that she wanted to apply herself more creatively. She found entertainment to be the nontraditional legal route she was seeking, and the opportunities she’s seized to take part in production provide an even greater outlet. “I want to continue to learn and participate in the creation of our shows on the ground,” she says.
As Fremantle’s brands continue to seek out talent from the corners of the globe, Scarano will be one of the forces quietly, but powerfully working behind the scenes.