German regional film fund Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg last year launched a financing program aimed at high-end television series production, providing independent producers with much-needed financial support for ambitious new scripted shows.
Kirsten Niehuus, managing director of the Medienboard film funding department, says the funding category has made production possible for a number of new series that otherwise would not have been made, among them Tom Tykwer’s €40 million ($44.4 million) historical crime drama “Babylon Berlin.”
While other regional funders in Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia have supported series production, Medienboard was the first to launch a development funding program for TV series in 2014 and the production-financing scheme last year.
The organization, which has an annual budget of €30 million ($33.3 million), provides soft loans to producers that must be repaid if the series is economically successful.
Niehuus says the new program has definitely boosted series production in the Berlin-Brandenburg region.
“We are receiving many more applications and we’re seeing a lot more feature film producers as well as directors interested in high-end drama series.”
According to Niehuus, the growing interest among filmmakers in TV production is a trend that began in the U.S., particularly with HBO.
“These high-end series that have a cinematic quality and an epic look are really attractive for film directors and producers,” Niehuus says.
In addition, the increasing number of VOD platforms also offers greater distribution possibilities, particularly for younger viewers who enjoy binge-watching the kinds of high-profile shows that Medienboard is looking to support, she adds.
With its new series funding program, the Medienboard is especially looking to strengthen independent producers by giving them the opportunity to break into the TV business. “It’s important for us that the producer is able to retain rights that he can exploit in order to pay back the loan we give him,” Niehuus says.
The Medienboard has so far backed 10 series, seven with development funding and three with production coin, including “Babylon Berlin” and Showtime’s “Homeland,” which shot its fifth season in the German capital last year.
Filmmaker Hans-Christian Schmid (“Requiem,” “Home for the Weekend”) secured development funding for his series project, “The Disappearance,” as did Berlin-based Connor Film’s Stefan Aretz and Michael Merschmeier for “Sorry Guys,” a planned gay family series (a first for Germany) about a boy growing up with his two dads.