Conecta Fiction: ‘Skam’ Initiates International Rollout

Conference panel analyzes differences between three reversions of cult shot-format series ‘Skam’ (Shame)

Conecta Fiction: ’Skam’ Initiates International Rollout
ZDF/Bantry Bay/Gordon Muehle

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA, Spain — With remakes already launched in the U.S., France, Germany and Italy since early 2018, the international rollout of “Skam” (Shame) may be far from over.

Germany’s Beta Film and Norwegian public broadcaster NRK, which handle international sales on the original cult short-format drama hit, have received “strong” expressions of interest in “Skam” remakes from The Balkans, Russia, India, Japan, Brazil and Colombia, Christian Gockel, Beta Film EVP international sales and acquisitions, commented at a Conecta Fiction round table.

Little wonder. Remakes released or in production involve three European public broadcasters – France Televisions, which produces the French retread with Banijay Studio France; Germany’s ZDF/Funk, teaming on the German makeover with Bantry Bay; and NTR, producing a Dutch reversion for the Netherlands’ NRT/NPO.

Two telecom arms – Spain’s Movistar +, the pay TV division of Telefonica, and Timvision, the VOD service of Italia Telecom, teaming with Cross Productions – are behind the Spanish and Italian versions.

Traditional TV networks have seen teen audiences slump worryingly. “We all have the same trouble of rebuilding young audiences in the free TV space. ‘Skam’ is a perfect program to launch on digital then go to free TV,” said Nathalie Biancolli, France Televisions’ director of acquisitions and co-production,  which released the first segment of Skam on web platform France TV Slash on Feb. 11. It began airing the series on France 4, its kids’/youth channel, from Feb. 25.

The German version was put out March 23, Italy’s March 29; “Skam Austin,” produced by Simon Fuller for Facebook, bowed its first short clip on Facebook Watch on April 24, its first full episode on the same outlet from April 27.

Some “Skam” elements vary little from one market to another: Storylines are broadly the same; the German version repeats NRK version characters one by one.

“Details of reality” may change, said Fran Araujo, But “deep down,” the Spanish reversion’s core issues remain the same: Teens are under pressure to always be O.K.”

For a show whose original trumpets its portrayal of “real life stories,” drawn from months of research, reversions must vary in detail. The Conecta Fiction round table spent much of its time drilling down on these inflections, prefaced by a five-minute of trailers from the NRK original and French, German.

Immigration, for instance, is a hot button issue in Germany, Berlin a multi-cultural society. So the treatment of the Muslim girl character Amira Thalia Mahmood is central to the series, fore-fronted from the get-go.

In contrary to the Norwegian original, the German teens openly use cannabis and even deal the drug. Many more young Italians life at their parents until well into adulthood, So the series features far more their families. The sex in early segs of “Skam Italia” sparked complaints, was toned down.

But the reversions reflect not only cultural differences but also operators’ strategic needs and habits.

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One of the biggest differences to date has been in marketing. Launching in 2015, NRK famously let teens discover the show for themselves. “Skam Italia” in contrast is TIMVision’s first original show. That message had to be gotten out to potential telco subscribers, so there was a big advertising push. That seems to have worked. The first “Skam Italia” clips collapsed the site’s server. Symptomatically, its girls’ problems were a larger trending topic than Italy’s dire problems in forming a new government.

France Trelevisions used professional actors, Movistar + ordinary “teenagers,” whose personal life stories feed into the characters they represent, said Araujo.

Germany has had a multi-channel TV universe for years. “Competition is so strong that [the producers] wanted to suggest a difference from what was known about the series,” said Beta’s Glockel. Also, “Skam” didn’t make sense in German. So the title was changed to “Druck,” “pressure” in German.

Versions’ biggest obvious differences are in the music, however, ranging from the thudding disco beat of the original and French version to “Druck’s” edgier electronic laid-back hip hop and Italy’s celebratory Italian pop song, such as “The Best Years of Our Lives,” belted out by the characters. The series might question that message, however. But, challenged by Netflix and other international platforms, TIM must play up its status as a national new entertainment pioneer whenever it can.

Some things, however, stay the same. The plot-lines are near identical, followed beat for beat. In a new internationally competitive TV environment, many were far too good not to use. Such as a  catty put-down one girl delivers to another at a party. “I’d skip that eyeliner if I were you,” she says in NRK’s original. “It makes you look like slut.” Stunned, then aghast, the victim wipes away the liner.

“In case you’re asking whether you have too much makeup on, yes, you look like a slut,” the exchange goes in “Druck.”

“This journey have shown me that we are very much more alike than we think, and that these kind of stories work, become relevant to all kinds of people,” said “Skam” producer Marianne Furevold. Seen from a girls’ point of view, capturing teenage angst as the survival of the coolest, “Skam” is a telling portrait of growing up in the social media age.