ZDF Enterprises, Belladonna Productions Team For ‘Genesis’ (EXCLUSIVE)

Set up at René Bastian’s New York production company, ‘Genesis’ adds to new generation sci-fi

Robert Franke, Rene Bastian (right)
Courtesy: ZDFE

PARIS — Rene Bastian’s New York-based Belladonna Productions, producer of Michael Haneke’s “Funny Games US” and Abel Ferrara’s “Welcome to New York,” is teaming with Germany’s ZDF Enterprises, the expanding commercial arm of the German broadcast network, to develop “Genesis,” an English-language sci-fi thriller.

“Genesis” is created by Narina Jabari, a young Canadian scientist-turned-screenwriter. ZDFE is handling sales rights to the series.

A film company with a distinguished pedigree, Belladonna moved into TV series production with the Sundance Channel-aired “Hap & Leonard,” now in its second season, executive produced by Belladonna principal Linda Moran. For ZDFE, “Genesis” represents one of its earliest series in English and linkup with a U.S. production company as ZDFE acquires world sales rights not only to ZDF drama but third-party productions drawn from Europe and beyond.

“Genesis” also joins a fast-growing cannon of sci-fi drama – think “Stranger Things,” “Westworld,” “Humans” – as the genre returns towards the mainstream, diversifies across a huge range of variations and platforms and questions the human condition. Here, “Genesis” follows the story of Asphodel, ‘El’, a head-strong university student who surrenders her body and mind to an underground, experimental research movement and becomes the first trans-human, Belladonna and ZDF Enterprises said in a statement Friday.

The series watches as she slowly transforms, becoming the face of the Hybrid Generation, one of test subjects for post-human technologies. In parallel, Janus, the host of a popular counter-culture TV show, preaches to create an altogether new subspecies of humanity – one that has the power to not only control its own biology, but the fate of its own existence.

“Genesis”is being driven by Jabari, Bastian, president of Belladonna Productions, and producers Robert Franke and Sebastian Krekeler at ZDF Enterprises.

“I was immediately drawn to Narina’s unique vision for this timely, groundbreaking story about the next phase of human evolution, one in which biology and technology are becoming indiscernible from one other,” Bastian said.

“Our heroine Asphodel, ‘El’, agrees to become a trans-human and is tossed into a world of controversial science and ethical ambiguity with plenty of drama and action,” he added, calling “Genesis” “completely unprecedented on television.”

“‘Genesis’ is an important addition to the ZDFE program lineup since the series not only deals with a topic which defines the future of cultural and civil development of human kind by telling a sophisticated and entertaining story but also because of the players involved in the project,“ said Franke.

ZDFE just recently added “Genesis” to its new development and financing slate. Belladonna and ZDFE are currently busy putting together the writers’ room. It expects to kick off the financing process within the next couple of months, once its full package is market ready, Krekeler said.

Bastian has produced first features by Michael Cuesta (“L.I.E.”), Dito Montiel (“A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints”), Duncan Tucker (“Transamerica”) and Jim Mickle (“Cold In July”).

Belladonna’s current TV development slate takes in historical drama “The White Rhino Hotel,” set in Africa and based on Bartle Bull’s acclaimed novels, the post-apocalyptic sci-fi series “Element Lost,” and “Beat Club,” a political drama about ‘60s/‘70s youth counter-culture in Germany.

“Genesis” sees ZDFE ranging ever farther and wider to tap talent and producer relationships, as it builds a slate that combines ZDF productions and third-party pick-ups, on which it can be involved at a early stage of development.

A presentation at Series Mania of ZDFE’s current line-up served to underscore its current range as well as links to some of Europe’s most dynamic producers.

Current series on ZDFE’S slate include the upcoming “Tabula Rasa,” an intense Flemish psychological thriller starring (and co-written by) Veerie Baetens and produced by Caviar Films (“The Brand New Testament”) about a woman who comes to distrust her own memory, airing in October on Belgium’s VRT. ZDFE is also selling Swedish mega-hit “Before We Die,” a mother-son drama and crime thriller produced by B-Reel Films, in co-production with SVT and ZDF; and “Maltese,” produced by Italy’s Palomar and Germany’s Maze Pictures, set in the ‘70s Sicily, soon to air on RAI, and with Kim Rossi Stuart as a police commissioner in the so-called Golden Age of the mafia.