The Zagreb Film Festival dedicates a special focus to TV series production
by Paraskevi Karageorgu
- The Croatian Screenwriters and Playwrights Guild, in association with the 14th Zagreb Film Festival, organised three events zooming in on TV screenwriting
With the established trend of high-quality TV series production in Europe, and HBO Adria moving into the region, the 14th Zagreb Film Festival has introduced a “television is the new cinema” approach in its industry section. The Croatian Screenwriters and Playwrights Guild (SPID) worked with the festival to organise three events focusing on TV screenwriting: a round-table discussing the concept of the writers’ room in the context of South-East Europe, a conversation with HBO representatives, and a master class with Tony Grisoni, who discussed his writing role on the new TV series The Young Pope, as well as the Yorkshire noir series Red Riding, and Southcliffe.
The round-table, entitled “The Rise of the Writers’ Room in the Region”, brought film professionals from South-East Europe with TV series in development to share their experiences: they included Srđan Koljević (screenwriter and director, Serbia), Matevž Luzar (writer and director, Slovenia), Stevan Filipović (writer and director, Serbia), Sanja Kovačević (teacher of screenwriting and TV production, Croatia) and moderator Dr Jasmina Kallay, one of the founders of SPID.
Several topics came to be the centre of discussion: what are the differences between the approaches of the US and the European writers’ rooms? How sustainable are these approaches? And what needs to be done in the future? The American model was discussed as a good example to follow, and know-how is indeed being extracted from it. In addition, it is worth bearing in mind that the number of writers in a writers’ room is a lot higher in the States than it is in Europe. The speakers also mentioned their main challenges, such as a change of government that then replaces key decision-makers in the TV industry, thus slowing down the development process, the issue of distributing a developed project, and the question of rights ownership. When asked what needs to happen in the future, the speakers pointed out that it is necessary for at least one successful drama to make it big in the region in order for other TV stations to follow. “That’s what happened in Slovenia two years ago,” said Luzar. There is also a need to increase the budget for development, as “paradoxically for development, the money is the least plentiful, while in America it is exactly the opposite. This is the key to success, which in this region is hard to explain,” stressed Koljević.
The panellists also agreed that at the moment, the environment is such that any country can produce content and sell it abroad if it is of high quality, pointing out the example of the successful export of HBO series from Central Europe. “The very fact that there is such an event at the festival and that the venue was full is already a very positive sign, even though we don’t have any series produced based on a writers’ room yet,” Jasmina Kallay explained to Cineuropa.
The next day, the writers’ room event was followed by a conversation with Steve Matthews, executive producer at HBO Europe, and Gabor Krigler, creative executive at HBO Hungary. HBO Adria arrived in the region announcing that in 2017, it would produce TV series via the writers’ room model, and it has launched an ongoing call for scripts. The guests shared their best-practice experience from the Eastern Europe territories in which they already operate (Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic and Romania), stressing the importance of nurturing young talents and localising content by telling a story about the region.