Berlinale 2023 – EFM
Industry Report: Series
The Sarajevo Film Festival “Breaks Borders with TV Series” at the Berlinale Series Market
BERLINALE 2023: A panel discussion was organised by the Bosnian gathering during the EFM and aimed to shed light on the current trends in the regional TV industry
The session “Breaking Borders with TV Series” was opened by Jovan Marjanović, the director of the Sarajevo Film Festival, who provided an overview of how the festival has shifted towards TV series. The gathering features an industry programme called CineLink Drama, which presents six new TV show projects from the region every year to potential partners and co-producers. The festival also showcases new series from the region through an avant-premiere programme and rewards TV shows with the Hearts of Sarajevo awards.
The discussion, which took place as part of the EFM’s Berlinale Series Market, was moderated by Matija Dragojević, of the Series Market, who presented the trailer for The Last Socialist Artefact [+see also:
series profile] by Dalibor Matanić. Ankica Jurić Tilić, the Croatian producer of the series, shared her experience of turning the project into a full-blooded European co-production. The show gained international recognition at festivals and was based on a book that had already been published in multiple countries. She emphasised the importance of the European convention on audiovisual works and its provision for co-productions, which provides a clear set of rules that allow for shared rights and the protection of smaller production companies. The project was a challenge, with a budget of around €2.5 million, but the team was able to create a high production standard that allowed the universal story to cross borders and speak to many audiences.
Amra Bakšić Čamo, executive producer and head of development at SCCA/pro.ba, shared her experience of how to approach co-productions while securing funding domestically. She noted that the production of series in Bosnia started long after it did in the rest of the region, and domestic broadcasters were not investing. She underlined the importance of creative partnerships, financing and finding ways to reach new audiences. She hopes to explore more international co-productions to reach broader audiences, especially those in the same language region. She also expressed the need for more knowledge sharing within the industry to help emerging producers navigate the market and engage with audiences.
Furthermore, Čamo offered an overview of producing the detective drama Kotlina, directed by Danis Tanović and Aida Begić, which started off as an idea several years ago. Despite difficulties in securing domestic funding, the project gained traction when a call opened supported by BH Telecom. The series has recently been broadcast in Bosnia, and a contract for international distribution is being signed. She expressed her excitement about producing a Bosnian detective series, as the country has not had any so far in its literary or media history. Ultimately, the goal is to reach a wider audience and explore international co-productions, while staying true to the Bosnian identity of the series. Creating authentic stories in the ex-Yugoslavia region is crucial to the success of the project. While there are established genres, reinventing them is necessary to create something new and authentic.
Boban Jevtić, head of content strategy and development at Firefly Productions, noted that the team never knows how audiences will react, but for their show The Family, which details the last days of Serbian dictator Slobodan Milošević before his fall in October 2000, they aimed to create a social debate about a crucial time in Serbia and the entire region. They try to find new genres and approaches to subjects, including horror, sci-fi, mystery, drama, thriller and comedy. Thanks to their partnership with Telecom Serbia, their experimental projects are being supported, and they are creating something new on the market, locally and even potentially globally. He also suggested using a writers' room to create screenplays, as it can produce faster results and higher quality. However, he advises adjusting the technique to the local environment and selecting screenwriters who are interested in and knowledgeable about the subject. It’s also useful to involve the director at an early stage so as to avoid having to make changes to the screenplay later on.
Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Žbanić referred to her transition from arthouse cinema to directing TV series, emphasising the importance of creating domestic content for local audiences. Her new series, I Know How You Breathe, is a Bosnian detective-thriller that delves into significant societal issues. The show follows a prosecutor whose private life is impacted by a suicide case, and the six episodes aim to demonstrate her transformation as she investigates. The series is currently in production and slated for release in August or September. While the show has a local focus, Žbanić notes that it also possesses a universal quality that could appeal to foreign audiences. She shared her experience of co-producing her film Quo Vadis, Aida? [+see also:
interview: Jasmila Žbanić
film profile] with nine European countries, detailing the bureaucratic challenges that came with it. She also stated that there is a demand for quality domestic shows among Bosnian audiences who have not grown up with domestic content or subject matter.
Tilić discussed the issue of rights ownership when collaborating with broadcasters, and the potential for later selling and adapting a series. For their show, the national broadcaster owns the rights for Croatia for seven years, while they hold the rights for the remainder of the world. She indicated that the co-production model benefits broadcasters by offering a larger pool of talent and a higher production value at a lower cost. Nevertheless, the slow implementation of new practices within major television systems, such as co-productions, hinders their widespread adoption. Tilić underlined the significance of co-production in accessing national funds and expanding distribution territory. However, she cautioned against engaging in co-production solely for the sake of it and stressed the need for added value in such cases.
The members of the panel also expressed concerns about reaching audiences, particularly those with preconceived notions about the region and language barriers. Co-productions can help break down prejudices by creating content that can be accessed and viewed by as many people as possible.
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