In Uruguay, Everything Happens, Every Week
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
With traditional news organizations fumbling to find footing in the digital landscape, Agustín Ferrando has a new take on media.
By Lorena O'Neil
Unless your name is Suri Cruise, people don’t usually care if you drop your ice cream on the floor. However, in Uruguay, Agustín Ferrando is treating seemingly minuscule moments as important news events.
How minuscule? Ferrando thinks that a little girl riding a bike without her training wheels for the first time is just as relevant as a presidential address. You might not expect it, but his gentle tenor voice expressing joy in the mundane can lull viewers into a state of childlike happiness.
One clip on its own is a small bead of a moment, but strung together they make a rosary, Ferrando’s offering to the gods of daily life.
“People here are always saying that nothing ever happens in Uruguay. In these things like a boy learning how to walk or a teenager eating ham, a ton of irrelevant things happen,” said Ferrando via phone. But when he groups them all together in his videos, ”It ends up giving you the sensation that in Uruguay, everything happens, and all in one week.”
A single episode can feature the existence of a rainbow, someone peeling off their plastic laptop protector and a waddle of rescued penguins returning to the ocean. His narration is factual and unadorned: “A young guy missed a goal because he went to the bathroom,” or “A chicken laid a small and strange egg.” One clip on its own is a small bead of a moment, but strung together they make a rosary, Ferrando’s offering to the gods of daily life.
At less than a year old, Tiranos Temblad is still in the early phase, but Ferrando is one to keep a YouTube-trained eye on. His take on media can captivate even the most cynical viewer, joyfully making the irrelevant relevant. There is something appealing in how he transforms seemingly unremarkable events into the stuff of headline news. We’re all jaded about how contrived and scripted the news industry can be, but Ferrando dispels this notion, bringing elements of wonder, innocence and spontaneity to the idea of news.
The show is named after a line in the Uruguayan national anthem. It means “trembling tyrants,” but Ferrando isn’t going for a serious meaning, he just wanted a phrase that spoke to Uruguayan culture and its citizens’ idiosyncrancies and pronounciation, and that was easy to remember.
He developed the idea almost as an afterthought when searching Uruguayan YouTube videos alongside his fiancée Fernanda Montoro. “I said, ‘I would love to see a channel dedicated to things like this.’ Then we realized, it was possible to do.” With a day job as a music video producer/director, Ferrando had the skills to take many of the reasons YouTube, cat pictures, baby follies and the like are popular on the Web and off, and mesh them into one show.
Tiranos Temblad combines assorted YouTube video clips either from Uruguay or referencing the country. Each Sunday night a new episode gets posted, including a “crack” of the week, which he describes as being the “most awesome thing that has happened in the week,” a WTF moment and awkward encounters. He’s posted 30-plus videos since the first chapter on December 30, 2012, and he has yet to receive a complaint from someone featured in one of his videos. “They tell me it’s an honor. People want to be in the videos.”
Skeptics might object that Ferrando’s news sense is too soft and indiscriminate, wondering, “Does anyone really care about a random person’s 80th birthday?” The answer appears to be yes. The channel has more than 1.3 million views on YouTube, not bad for a country with a population of only 3.3 million. Mainstream media in Uruguay has caught on to the popularity of his YouTube show, with some TV channels playing his videos on their stations. One outlet, Subrayado , referred to it as “Uruguayan humor to save the world.” International news site 20 Minutos said, “Tiranos Temblad is a global cry, unconventional and sexy. The soundtrack of the tragi-comedy of our time.”
”I had complained for years about national broadcast news,” Ferrando says. ”I felt it wasn’t reporting on people like me. They didn’t show anything about people’s lives. The popularity of Tiranos Temblad showed me a lot of people felt the same way.” The 31-year-old said watching the nightly news depressed him. “After watching it, I am afraid to leave my house, I think of humanity as horrible, and I feel like I’m fighting against the human race. People are actually doing fascinating things. I want to watch something that makes me feel happiness and love toward humanity.”
His approach is starting to get noticed. Ferrando was invited to give a TEDx Talk in Montevideo about TV of the future, and more YouTube views are coming from countries outside of Uruguay, places like Argentina and Spain. He’s also hired a translator to begin adding English subtitles to his videos.
One outlet referred to it as “Uruguayan humor to save the world.”
Still, Ferrando is taking a business-savvy approach. He has created a logo and a catchy brand name, and he has chosen an unmissable theme song, “Uruguay is the best country ,” which fans sing in different parts of the world. He’s cognizant of social media, creating hashtags, a Twitter account and a Facebook page. He keeps a consistent visual style and weekly features that make his work instantly recognizable. ”I realized I was starting a media company and I had to set rules and then follow them,” he said. Does this make him the next media mogul? Maybe not.
Ferrando’s aspirations are more philosophical than monetary. He wants his work to emphasize the importance of everyday life and to generate positive feelings in people. Brands have recently contacted him to talk about product placement or ads in Tiranos Temblad , but he has turned them all down. “I don’t want to contaminate it with economic interests; that changes the rules of the game. They can say no, I don’t like this, do this shorter or longer. It happens with the rest of my work, but not with Tiranos Temblad . This is my passion.”
Maybe Tiranos Temblad will remain a solely Uruguayan phenomenon, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see his sensibility catch on in many more places. Ferrando has clearly activated a desire in Uruguayans to watch small, quotidian, happy, homemade videos. We ask, Wouldn’t it be nice to see the similiarties and differences in a Tiranos Temblad version of Ghana or Thailand or New Zealand? “I’ll do this as a hobby in Uruguay. To do this for other countries would be a dream come true, it would be beautiful.”
As notes from admirers pour in to let him know they’re watching, Ferrando says, “It’s a YouTube dream, an Internet dream. Sometimes I have a few seconds where I begin to realize what has happened this past year. And then I forget about it and get back to work.”