An American clairvoyant arrives on tour in Berlin at a time when the Nazi party is on the rise. Against the turbulent backdrop of Germany between the wars, he has visions of a series of brutal murders before they’ve occurred, forcing him to attempt to do the impossible: change the future.
“The Seer of Berlin” is a genre-bending blend of historical drama, fantasy, and psychological thriller. The 10 x 50’ TV series was created by A.A. Burk and is produced by Marco Gilles and Lutz Heineking, Jr., of Germany’s eitelsonnenschein, and Gail Mutrux and Tore Schmidt of L.A.-based Pretty Pictures, in association with MMC Movies. The show was selected to take part in the drama series pitching competition at the Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivo (MIA) this week in Rome.
Burk has scripted a number of films and TV series inspired by real-life historical events, and said he was drawn to the uniquely charged atmosphere of Berlin in the early-1930s, at a time when populism—much like today—was increasingly casting its shadow over Europe. “I live in the contemporary world, and when I feel interested in some historical topic, I can feel that there is something that anchors me or hooks me,” he said.
Though set against the backdrop of fascism’s rise in Germany, Burk said “The Seer of Berlin” is more than a historical drama. “It’s not just political. It’s very personal,” he said. The clairvoyant, Zach Magnus, arrives in Berlin—a free-wheeling city flush with sex, drugs, and violence—bent on self-destruction, deadening himself with alcohol and opium. But when he meets a beautiful young socialite with a dark past, his life starts to change. Their love story, said Burk, “carries” the series.
The fantastical elements tap into an energy that Burk believes lurks inside all of us and can occasionally manifest in the physical world, likening it to an unborn child kicking in her mother’s womb. “It’s not that I’m a believer,” he said. Nor is he not a believer. “I think this kind of energy does exist. It just hasn’t been discovered yet.”
The showrunner has a vision beyond “Berlin,” with a second season, “The Seer of Leningrad,” poised to pick up where the first leaves off.
Gilles, of eitelsonnenschein, said that “this specific period hasn’t been told very often in Germany,” noting that “Seer” is set several years closer to the rise of the Nazi regime than in the hit historical drama “Babylon Berlin.”
Gilles and his producing partners are looking to meet streaming services and broadcasters this week in Rome. “I’m looking for the right combination. It could be a 100 percent streamer deal, or a combination of international broadcasters in co-production,” said Gilles. Sundance TV has shown interest in partnering with German or other European broadcasters, but Gilles said he’s “trying to drive both models until I’m ready to make a decision.”