Regional unit to produce 20 docus a year

BUDAPEST — HBO Central Europe will beef up its production output, focusing on documentaries with local and global appeal.

The production and broadcast shingle, which came fully under HBO’s ownership in January, will make 20 docs this year, up from the 12 it made last year, HBO CE CEO Linda Jensen said.

The productions will be overseen by U.S. producer Mark Lorber, appointed senior VP of original programming and production late last year.

“To maintain a robust and interesting service, we need to anchor ourselves in exclusive content,” Jensen told Daily Variety.

Jensen said this content has been focused on keeping subscribers of HBO CE’s 11 territories tuned in, but the programming’s success outside the region has generated new momentum for the network.

HBO CE’s 2009 “The World According to Ion B” — about the rise of Romanian artist Ion Barladeanu, who until three years ago was a tramp living in a Bucharest dump — is an example of the sort of docs being produced.

It created a stir in France when the film and artist came to the attention of Angelina Jolie, who invited director Alexander Nanau and Barladeanu to the Paris set of “The Tourist” so she could meet them.

Next week “The World According to Ion B” is up for a Gopo Award, Romania’s national film awards.

HBO CE is succeeding with documentaries by making relatively low-cost programming that is compelling, dramatic and personality focused.

“We are working constantly with local filmmakers to help them understand what an HBO documentary is,” said Jensen. “I think 50 years from now, our documentaries are likely to be one of the most interesting insights about what Central Europe was in the early 2000s.”

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