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Berlin: TV Series Gain More Traction as Festival Opens Doors to Small-Screen Fare

Intense industry interest and growing demand for a major TV market early in the year could well lead to a much larger role for small-screen series at the Berlinale and European Film Market in the coming years.

Berlin became one of the first A-list festivals to launch TV sections as part of the main festival and market in 2015. The festival’s Berlinale Series sidebar and the Drama Series Days event (Feb. 19-21), launched jointly by the European Film Market, the Berlinale Co-Production Market and the Berlinale Talents, have made Berlin an increasingly vital platform for international makers of high-end series.

This year marks the first time that all market and festival series activities will take place at one location: the recently restored Zoo Palast, where they are overseen by program manager Solmaz Azizi. In addition to the Drama Series Days market screenings and conference program, the Berlinale Series will present its festival and red carpet public screenings at the theater.

“We know there’s great demand,” Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick told Variety. “To what extent we’ll expand the section, for that we’ll have to wait and see how successful it is at the Berlinale.”

If the massive crowds that lined up outside the Zoo Palast on Monday are anything to go by, the festival may have to find a bigger venue next year.

Noting that France has added three TV festivals in addition to MipTV and Mipcom in Cannes, Kosslick added, “We want to expand our market, but not to compete with Mip, because that is much too big. We are doing something completely different. We are showing these series like films and of course a market will grow out of that, as has always happened in the past. There are three components: We have premieres followed by discussions; we have a market where you can buy and sell; and, thirdly, we have panels, professional get-togethers, where the state of series production can be discussed.

“Will the Berlinale become a TV festival? No, because we have 396 films here made for cinema and there we have the premiere of seven series. Even if we multiplied that tenfold, the balance is still there.”

Nevertheless, it’s becoming clear that the crossover between series and films of writers, directors and actors is very much increasing, he added. “And I think a film festival should care about that.”

One distributor told Variety that a ramped-up TV section would be widely welcomed by the industry.

A larger TV market earlier in the year would make more sense for many distributors who tend to skip MipTV in April due to its proximity to the L.A. Screenings in May. Berlin’s more moderate prices compared to the high costs associated with Cannes is another attractive factor that has TV sales execs excited about an expanded TV content alternative at the EFM.

TV distributors from Rio de Janeiro to Sydney are already eagerly embracing Berlin’s Drama Series Days as a major launchpad. Brazilian powerhouse Globo, for example, will use the event to present 12 of its latest productions on Feb. 20. The company’s first Series Showcase in Berlin will feature a new generation of more innovative, limited-episode shows, such as fantasy comedy “Vade Retro,” which is screening at the Zoo Palast. The showcase is one way Globo is leveraging the event to promote its shows and brand.

The response has been especially strong from down under. Five of the 29 series screening at the event hail from Australia, including Closer Screens’s “F**king Adelaide,” DCD Rights’ “Romper Stomper” and FremantleMedia Intl.’s much anticipated “Picnic at Hanging Rock.”

“What’s fantastic about Berlin is the screenings,” said Sarah Doole, director of global drama at FremantleMedia. “That’s really exciting for us to bring an Australian show and to have a cinema full of people who want to see it. You don’t quite get that opportunity at Mipcom. It’s just a constant merry-go-round of craziness.”

German companies likewise appear enthusiastic about the growing prospects. While Munich-based Beta Cinema has long been a fixture at the EFM, its TV affiliate, Beta Film, now has its entire TV sales team in Berlin and is using Drama Series Days to present “M for Murder,” a contemporary TV series reimagining of Fritz Lang’s 1931 thriller “M,” and screen new Italian crime drama “The Hunter.”

Beta Film managing director Moritz von Kruedener said: “What I think is extremely exciting about Berlin is that you have so much space and time for non-finished product, but product at the same time which is concrete enough to talk about.”

Stewart Clarke, Patrick Frater, John Hopewell and Christopher Vourlias contributed to this report.

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