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Industry Report: Television

Harold Apter • Showrunner

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Harold Apter  • Showrunner

- At the sixth edition of Série Series in Fontainebleau, Cineuropa sat down with veteran American writer-producer Harold Apter, who has worked on such shows as Star Trek: The Next GenerationThe Golden Girls and Walker, Texas Ranger. Now he’s bringing his expertise to Czech TV’s The Lynching – and training the next generation of European screenwriters in the process.

Cineuropa: How did you become involved in The Lynching?
Harold Apter: I was asked by FAMU, the Czech National Film School, to teach a module on American television, and was introduced to Jan Maxa at Czech Television. The goal was to train more television writers, and we came up with an idea for a joint project between the Czech National Film Schools and Czech Television. As result, we developed 10 pilot scripts, and 5 were accepted by Czech Television as potential projects. The Lynching was the winning project, and it was developed into a full season. My role changed and I became I a show-runner. So over the course of the last year, we’ve written all the episodes, and we’re now scheduled for production in January of next year. The Lynching will air either at the end of next year or the beginning of 2019. One of the young writers is going to direct, and there’s another director, a young woman from the United States, who’s been studying at FAMU and she will make her debut on The Lynching.

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You have extensive experience working in television in the USA. How do you find that the process differs in Europe?
It is the same, as I got to invent the process. Partly I’m here to demonstrate what the American process is. The Lynching is unique because we’re actually teaching at the same time as we’re making the show. The biggest difference is that we’re going to shoot sequentially-we’re not going to shoot it like a movie. Usually in Czech Television, they’ll shoot it like a film in that they’ll shoot the whole series out of continuity. We’re going to shoot episode to episode.  I’m basically working in the style of American television. European style tends to be very director-centric, like European films, where you have one director, and everybody answers to the director. What works very well in American television is that you have one executive producer/show-runner who can keep an overview of everything that’s going on, which is vital in television because we’re telling an extended story.

Is the series in Czech?
Yes. We’re writing everything in English, and translate to Czech. This is a difficult task because the Czech language is very different.  One of our writers is also going to be our head translator as he’s intimate with the material. 

How do you think the rise of new distribution platforms is changing the landscape of television?
What it seems to be doing right now is that there’s too much to watch. On the one hand it’s good, because it means endless opportunity for different points of view, different styles. It means that it isn’t just going to be driven by the network commercial agenda. The one fear I have is that one of the things that has always been important about television and movies has been finding a universal core that a wide audience could tap into, but now everything is becoming fractural.

Do you think these new platforms are increasing or decreasing the quality of series being produced?
They’re doing both. It’s about how you define quality. Quality of storytelling is always the most important thing, and I think the quality might diminishing in certain orders, due to the desire to create as much product as possible. 

What is the budget for The Lynching?
Well, that’s a question for Czech TV. However, what is fascinating to me personally is that we can get a lot more for a lot less producing in the Czech Republic.

What is the storyline of the show?
It’s about a small town where people keep secrets from themselves and each other. What sets it off is the beating and death of a young Roma man. It has to do with prejudice against the Roma, but more so about how people lie to themselves about reality. It is about a personal vendetta. We think it’s racism, but it really is about people who looked away, and now it’s affected everyone.

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