Cable company HBO Europe has started to shoot cyber-crime thriller series “Hackerville” in Transilvania, a region of Romania, as its first international co-production, building on a string of locally shot productions, including Romania-set detective series “Umbre” (pictured).
“It will put Romania on the map of the international TV drama scene,” says co-creator and executive producer Joerg Winger (“Deutschland 83”), adding he was won over by the location “as a dynamic and colorful place with a vastly unexplored history and present.”
The project was “created in a truly multi-cultural process, with great Romanian talent attached,” Winger adds, with music a key component, as it was in “Deutschland 83,” the Cold War-set spy series for AMC Networks’ SundanceTV and RTL Television.
The original six-part “Hackerville,” about a network of hackers and the investigators tasked with tracking them down, co-produced with TNT Serie, was created by Ralph Martin and Winger for UFA Fiction, and will be produced by Cristian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”) and Tudor Reu through Mobra Films.
“We’re shooting in a very beautiful and not yet discovered Transilvanian city,” says Reu of the Gothic-spired Timisoara, “through the eyes of our very good Polish D.P. (and his drone).”
A strong Romanian-German collaboration runs throughout the process, he adds, including “the writing, the filming, including our locations, directors and actors, right through to post-production.”
“The city of Timisoara in itself is a very cool location, a mix of Austro-Hungarian architecture with communist neighborhoods, industrial sites, the river and its bridges,” Reu says. “Our locations reflect the mix of old and new and include graffiti-painted urban areas, an abandoned village, a functioning refinery, railways and the internet café where our younger characters gather.”
Shooting is underway in Timisoara, which provides the main backdrop, with filming also scheduled for Bucharest and Frankfurt, Germany.
The cast is led by Anna Schumacher (“That Trip We Took with Dad”), Andi Vasluianu (“Of Snails and Men”) and newcomer Voicu Dumitras.
Igor Cobileanski (HBO Europe’s “Shadows”) and Anca Miruna Lazarescu are directing the series with scripts by Laurentiu Rusescu, Daniel Sandu, Ralph Martin and Steve Bailie.
Key characters are also international, says executive producer Johnathan Young, veep of original programming and production for HBO Europe, with cyber cop Lisa Metz written as a German of Romanian origin whose family left Romania 30 years ago.
“So it is both a homecoming story and a culture clash story,” he says.
Schumacher, who is herself a German of Romanian origin, is fluent in both languages and comes from an acting family. Her father, Ovidiu Schumacher, was well known in Romania in the 1980s and plays her father, Walter Metz.
One difference from crime dramas such as “Umbre,” says Young, is the lighter tone of the new series.
“’Hackerville’ has a lot of comedy as well as action and emotional drama. It’s a world of possibility, which is deliberately designed to echo the world of possibility online and in the gaming universe.”
Although “Hackerville” feels wholly distinct from “Umbre,” Young adds, “both shows have the vivid characters and feisty dialogue that is the trademark of Romanian writing.”