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Deutsche Telekom Feasts on ‘Picnic at Hanging Rock’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Lead actress Natalie Dormer promises viewers a ‘surreal ride’

Deutsche Telekom has snagged exclusive German rights to “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” the Australian TV drama that opens this year’s Berlinale Series and that its star, Natalie Dormer, says will take “the audience on a surreal ride.”

German telco DT will run “Picnic” in six weekly installments on its EntertainTV service rather than dropping all episodes simultaneously for binge-watching. “It combines stunning images with a complex narrative and outstanding cast,” Wolfgang Elsaesser, head of DT’s TV business, said of the show. “This is part of our strategy to act as an aggregator of exclusive high-quality content in the German market.”

The series is a re-imagining of Joan Lindsay’s classic Australian novel, which is set in 1900 and tells the story of the disappearance of a group of boarding school girls during an outing. A big-screen version by Peter Weir came out in 1975.

Dormer plays headmistress Hester Appleyard, whom she called “a contradiction” – an independent woman imbued with “old, archaic Victorian values.” The “Game of Thrones” star told Variety that she was wary of appearing in a period piece, but the “Picnic” team, led by Canadian director Larysa Kondracki, won her over.

“In the back of my head I went, ‘Bloody hell, it’s too early to get back into a corset,'” Dormer said. “In certain parts of the world, I’m really associated with ‘corset drama.'” But Kondracki sent her a convincing letter outlining why no one else could play Appleyard.

“This couldn’t be further from a standard costume drama. What they’ve done is sunk into the weirdness and darkness of Joan Lindsay’s novel,” Dormer said. “I realized that [Kondraki] would do everything she could to push the envelope of reality and magical realism, and really take the audience on a surreal ride. And I realized it was something…tonally, stylistically, that I had never been involved with before.”

For FremantleMedia, the German sale is the latest for “Picnic,” which it has also sold to the BBC for the U.K. and to Amazon for the U.S. It was originally ordered by Australian pay-TV platform Foxtel for its Showcase channel.

Besides “Picnic at Hanging Rock,” Deutsche Telekom has also had exclusive rights to such North American dramas as “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Better Things,” and “Cardinal,” and European production “Valkyrien.” The telco is joining the likes of Amazon, Netflix, and Sky Deutschland in competing for high-quality drama. It is also moving into originals, with Franco-German comedy “Germanized” (known in France as “Deutsch-Les Landes”) as its maiden effort.

“Today, 60% of all Germans watch series regularly,” Elsaesser said. “We meet the needs of our growing number of EntertainTV customers by offering a platform that pools the most popular shows – national and international productions.”

Maximilian Bolenius, senior vice president of German-speaking Europe and Israel for FremantleMedia International, added: “We are very impressed by the content strategy, exposure and marketing opportunities that Deutsche Telekom provides with EntertainTV and believe it is the ideal launch platform for this creatively extraordinary series in Germany.”

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