TV series professionals gather at Series Lab Hamburg
by Birgit Heidsiek
- The first ever edition of the event, which included a presentation on the writers' room approach to series creation, brought together 20 producers from all over Europe
Due to the growing demand for series, the Creative Europe Desk Hamburg, Letterbox Filmproduktion and Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein launched the first Series Lab Hamburg, which gave twenty European producers the possibility to present their projects to producers, film fund representatives, commissioning editors, sales agents and further potential financiers. “We are delighted to act as matchmakers between high-quality experts and dedicated financiers”, Christiane Siemen, the managing director of Creative Europe Desk Hamburg, stated.
The three-day event, which took place during Filmfest Hamburg, was supported by ZDF Enterprises, European Film Promotion, Erich Pommer Institut, IDM Südtirol as well as the Creative Europe Desks across Europe. A highlight of the Series Lab was the simulation of a writers’ room, which was introduced by US writer/ producer James V Hart (Hook, Bram Stoker’s Dracula) and Ben Harris, the head writer for a number of series. The successful writers provided an insight into the collective method of scriptwriting.
This approach has already been practised by Brazilian-American writer Juliana Lima Dehne (Over Lunch, Occupied), development producer Torsten Götz (Letterbox Filmproduktion) and producer Margherita Murolo (Palomar) at the Racconti Workshop. With Christiana Wertz, the managing director of IDM, the creatives discussed their experiences with a writers’ room for European TV series.
A case study of a high-concept series was presented by French producer Olivier Bibas, whose Atlantique Production teamed up with Nice Drama in Sweden for the co-production of the crime series Midnight Sun. “Canal+ paid 50 per cent of the development costs,” the producer reported. Budgeted at €1.4 million each, all eight episodes were shot in eleven days in Kiruna, a small mining community in northern Sweden. “There won’t be a second season, because the story is quite original,” Bibas underlined.
For German producer Stefan Arndt, who is producing the TV seriesBabylon Berlin with Berlin-based X Filme Creative Pool, epic storytelling is very important. “How can the story be told in a way that convinces audiences nowadays”, the producer outlined. Instead of producing ten Babylon Berlin episodes, his initial vision was to develop 40 episodes for Babylon Rome and Babylon Paris. “It didn’t work out because there was not enough time.” For this high-quality series, German broadcaster ARD hooked up with the pay TV giant, Sky. “Babylon Berlin is our first project”, Marcus Ammon, senior vice president for film at Sky Germany. “Sky is set up now. We have the flexibility to pitch a project to Sky UK and Italy or produce it locally.”
In Germany, high-budget productions can receive a cash injection from the new German Motion Picture Fund (GMPF) which has a yearly budget of €10 million. “We want to give money to projects that will be developed in Germany”, Christine Berg, deputy of the management board of the Filmförderungsanstalt, which is administrating the incentive scheme, said. The fund supports series with a minimum budget of €1.2 million per episode and feature films with at least €25 million production costs. So far, only series are applying for the incentive.
“We increased the production support for drama series to €1 million”, Matteo Solaro, head of TV programming, Creative Europe MEDIA said. “In 2016, we did not have a single big-budget request.”
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