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Dipping into the past

German TV 2012

The Teuton appetite for historical drama is immense and Teamworx, one of the country’s leading TV production companies, is intent on satisfying that craving.

By plundering the country’s rich history, from real-life Nazi-era stories and tragic events of the recent past to medieval adventure and Renaissance romance, Teamworx serves up smart smorgasbords of telepics and miniseries that draw stellar ratings.

“For Germany, historical themes will continue to remain in focus in the next few years,” says Teamworx topper Nico Hofmann. “We achieve the highest ratings with them.”

Indeed, “Hindenburg,” Teamworx’s $13 million, two-part production for RTL about the fateful final voyage of the airship, and ZDF’s “Shades of Happiness,” about a widow and her children trying to survive in post-WWII Germany, were among last year’s top-rated movies, with each premiering to 8 million viewers.

Hofmann is expecting strong ratings from two other historical works this year.

ARD’s “Rommel,” starring Ulrich Tukur (“John Rabe”), focuses on the German field marshal’s efforts to fortify defenses in France in anticipation of the Allied invasion in WWII while dealing with his conflicting feelings about Adolf Hitler.

Looking at more recent historical events, ZDF’s “Munich ’72” — directed by Israeli-born Dror Zahavi — chronicles the Palestinian attack at the 1972 Summer Olympics that killed 11 Israeli athletes and coaches.

Hofmann is prepping “1914,” a three-part miniseries on events leading up to the outbreak of WWI. Stefan Kolditz, who penned Teamworx’s 2006 hit mini “Dresden,” is writing the project.

Kolditz also wrote the upcoming “Unsere muetter, unsere vaeter,” which follows five friends in Germany from 1941 to 1945. Teamworx produced the pic for ZDF with Munich-based Beta Film, which is handling international sales for “Rommel” and “Munich ’72.”

Hofmann is likewise working with writer-director Niki Stein (“Rommel”) on a three-part series tracing Hitler’s rise to power and descent into madness.

The company is re-visiting the fanciful tales of Germany’s most imaginative nobleman with “Baron Munchhausen.” The miniseries, which stars Jan Josef Liefers, will air on ARD in December.

It’s partnering with Jan Mojto, CEO of Beta Film parent company EOS Entertainment, on an adaptation of Peter Prange’s bestseller “Die principessa,” about a young English woman who, bedazzled by the grandeur and opulence of 17th-century Rome, falls in love with two brilliant architects whose competing love for her turns them into bitter enemies.

Teamworx and EOS are also developing an adaptation of “Die pilgerin” — the bestseller by Iny Klocke and Elmar Wohlrath, who write under the joint nom de plume Iny Lorentz. It follows a 14th-century woman who escapes a forced marriage and, disguised as a man, goes to Santiago de Compostela to fulfill her father’s final wish.

While Teamworx is concentrating on epic historical dramas, Hofmann says works based on current events and modern social topics are also attracting attention.

Kilian Riedhof’s critically acclaimed ARD drama “Homevideo” examines “cyber-bullying” with a story of a teen who is victimized after a private video he took of himself masturbating falls into the wrong hands.

The group is producing “Robin Hood,” set in the near future, in which a former cop goes after the high-placed financial crooks responsible for the collapse of the German economy.

Looking at the international market, Hofmann says “Hindenburg” and ARD’s “The Sinking of the Laconia,” the fact-based WWII tale of a British ocean liner sunk by a German U-boat which then rescued the passengers, sold especially well overseas.

The company is eager to increase English-language and European co-productions. Hofmann is in negotiations with Klaus Zimmermann, general manager of Lagardere Entertainment’s Atlantique Prods. in Paris to co-produce “Liberation” about freeing Paris from German occupation. The German-French co-production is budgeted at $10.5 million.

“These are the paths we want to follow as we look to increase European co-productions,” says Hofmann.

At the same time, Teamworx is turning its attention to the growing demand for local TV series. “German series are in high demand, especially on RTL and Sat.1.”

Teuton giant spins web online | Dipping into the past | German TV offers mixed bag

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