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NEM Zagreb 2022

Industry Report: Series

NEM Zagreb provides some crucial insights into writing successful CEE TV and streaming content


The “TV Writing – How to Bring out the Best from CEE?” panel offered advice to creators in order to help content from Central and Eastern Europe become more visible globally

NEM Zagreb provides some crucial insights into writing successful CEE TV and streaming content
l-r: Hayley McKenzie, Denis Karam, Danna Stern, Leonid Godik and Rahela Štefanović during the panel

NEM Zagreb was originally envisioned as a meeting place, a get-together for regional and global creators and decision makers specialising in TV and streaming content. So it should come as no surprise that one of the event’s highlights has been the recent panel titled “TV Writing – How to Bring out the Best from CEE?”. Although the panel did not directly answer the question posed in its title, it did provide the audience with some interesting insights and pieces of advice. The panellists were Leonid Godik, vice-president of Beta Film, in charge of international sales and acquisitions; global content executive Danna Stern; Denis Karam, archive producer at Zig Zag Productions; and Rahela Štefanović, editor-in-chief of the Television department (HTV) of Croatian Radiotelevision (HRT). Hayley McKenzie, founder and CEO of Script Angel, took on the role of the moderator.

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Besides sharing different tips and tricks from her position as a decision maker – such as being a good viewer and learner, which leads to becoming a creator and developing one’s voice, the necessity for a creative team to define their target audiences, and the fact that a script should always come solicited when an industry powerhouse is involved – Stern pointed out how valuable events like this are. “Great stories are all around us, but the industry is not a level playing field. Having opportunities like this, talking to anyone who can help you move your project forward, is crucial,” she opined. She also reminded the creators in the audience that creativity is important, but the content-creation business is still a business nonetheless, while the relationship between the producer and the writer “resembles a marriage”, as it can be just as complicated. She also put an emphasis on the authenticity of the stories over the value of some imaginary, universal relatability.

Godik, however, pointed to some of the particularities inherent in scripted content coming from Eastern Europe, such as the creation of different versions of the same show for the domestic and the international market, and the trouble that Eastern European productions have with pilot episodes. “I work mostly in Eastern Europe, and what I have found to often be problematic is the pilot episode. Creators have brilliant ideas, but often they are not good at selling the show. We are not just talking about the pitching, but the pilot, too. If the pilot doesn’t work, the buyers won’t be interested,” he added. He also pointed out that the product has to “look international” and that a good idea should be laid out in three sentences.

“Try to be confident in your ideas, listen to other people from the industry, and take 10% from each conversation,” explained Karam, addressing the subject of the learning process in the content-creation business, which often has to contend with typical excuses, such as a lack of money. He also said that the attention span of the audiences is declining, so the rule that one has ten minutes to grab the viewer’s attention does not apply any more – it is now merely four minutes, and sometimes the title itself is crucial for such attention-grabbing.

Finally, Štefanović explained the decision-making process at Croatian Television and how the projects are developed and monitored, with a commissioning editor being in charge of the commissioned project throughout the different processes. Pointing out that suggestions usually work better than direct interference, she also singled out the challenge of knowing the taste of the target audience (especially when it comes to children’s programmes, which constitute one of the three public calls at HTV) and finding the best way to reach said audience.

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