Berlinale 2023 – EFM
Rapporto industria: Serie
Creativi e showrunner delineano il futuro della TV al Berlinale Series Market
BERLINALE 2023: Un gruppo di innovatori provenienti da diverse società ha condiviso le proprie esperienze e prospettive sul futuro del business televisivo
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As the television industry continues to evolve, creatives and showrunners are taking the reins by establishing their own companies. A panel discussion at the Berlinale Series Market, moderated by Max Goldbart, international TV co-editor for Deadline, provided an insight into the structural shift happening in the industry.
The discussion began with the participants sharing the history of their companies. Bennett McGhee, co-founder of and producer at Home Team, talked about his co-founder, Dominic Buchanan, and their shared mission to represent talent that doesn't get enough exposure. Jono Bergmann and his brother founded Babka Productions to create their own films and develop non-fiction intellectual property (IP) in house. They put a lot of effort into development to create the best products possible. André Zoch, co-founder of Dog Haus, started his label with Erol Yesilkaya and Sebastian Marka in order to produce their IPs without having to follow any regulations from stations or streamers. And Adi Hasak, showrunner on The Box, a one-location thriller series for Viaplay, began his career as a scriptwriter, and then decided to generate his IP and be a “one-stop shop”, from logline to post.
Bergmann then discussed the challenges of acquiring IP for TV and film projects. He said that high costs are a significant obstacle for production companies, especially in today's climate, where IP is a buzzword. To overcome this, Babka Productions has developed its own IP by working with journalists to develop stories from the ground up, giving them a say in how the project is constructed and providing them with a sense of ownership. McGhee shared the fact that their strategy from the beginning has been to focus on original material and not invest time, money or effort in acquiring expensive IP. However, now that they are partnering with Universal Studios, they need to acquire IP to work with the talent they want.
Hasak criticised the trend towards remakes and reboots in the entertainment industry, saying that executives are more interested in IP than original content. He believes this is a "scam" to sell upwards and avoid blame if a show fails. He also revealed that Netflix encourages producers to find a journalist to write an article about an original idea, then present it to the streaming service as IP. Zoch added that the German market for books and entertainment differs from the US one in that there are fewer big sellers to compete with, so original content is highly valued. European audiences are also more open to original content than Americans, who tend to be more invested in IP.
He also explains how they landed the opportunity to develop the adaptation of the cult novel The Gryphon by Wolfgang Hohlbein, which became an upcoming series from Amazon. They were able to connect with the author and develop the project, which was well received by Amazon Germany's head. The experience of making the show was positive, although the small studio had to find a partner with a bigger budget to help with production. Feedback from test screenings has been excellent, suggesting a successful launch ahead.
Bergmann then discussed the breaking down of barriers between scripted and non-scripted shows, using their documentary about a secret military installation that smuggled Nazi scientists into the USA as an example. He found 600 hours of audio material and discovered two survivors, which prompted them to make a documentary first, and then a fictional work. He believes that interesting stories can be told in many ways, and there is no cannibalisation between scripted and non-scripted shows.
Hasak noted that the showrunner system and writers' rooms have been established in the USA for over 40 years, whereas Europe is still evolving in this area, but at a fast pace. He underlined that the US system is based on the showrunner having creative control, whereas in Europe, it is often the director or production company. Currently, the US TV industry is experiencing significant shifts and layoffs, leading to the bursting of the streaming bubble, but there will be a realignment. In the end, good content will always win, and he encouraged aspiring writers to embrace rejection and keep pushing through, citing the example of his show Shades of Blue, which was passed on for four years before being picked up by NBC.
As for the potential of US writers to work in Europe, Zoch mentioned that they are not actively seeking them. Some agents have approached European companies with offers from high-profile US writers, but continental firms may face challenges in working with them owing to the differences in the tradition of showrunning. Additionally, US writers may have to take a pay cut to work in Europe, which could cause pushback from their agents.
McGhee expressed his firm’s commitment to providing a platform for underrepresented voices, although it is too early to predict how it will develop. He and his team have financed various TV and film projects, and intend to begin producing them. The US-style showrunner model, where the showrunner has full control, is not prevalent in Europe. Nevertheless, Home Team aims to empower its talents to take charge of their show while still retaining some control.
Regarding female leadership, funding and creative agency in the TV series industry, the panellists noted that while there are female-led teams and financial support for women, there is still a lack of diversity in leadership roles. Middle-aged, white, Jewish men continue to dominate. Efforts to promote diversity have not yielded the desired outcomes, and a mentoring system is necessary to uplift diverse voices in the industry. Fortunately, the new generation boasts remarkable female writers, directors and showrunners.
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