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Berlin Fetes TV Stars on Opening Night of Drama Series Days

BERLIN — Attendees of Berlinale’s Drama Series Days followed a busy and wide-ranging program on Monday with a packed opening reception, supported by Film- und Medienstiftung NRW, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg, and the Norwegian Film Institute, and with Variety as a media partner.

After a lively day of panel discussions and sessions focused on the future of television, guests partied at the chic Super Concept Space just steps from the red carpet of Zoo Palast. Among those in attendance were Film- und Medienstiftung NRW CEO Petra Müller, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg managing director Kirsten Niehuus, EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol, and Berlinale Series program manager Solmaz Azizi.

The growing excitement around the Berlin Film Festival’s popular TV strand, which moved to Zoo Palast last year to concentrate both screenings and industry activities in a single hub, is part of a natural evolution in the industry, according to Knol.

The EFM topper said that five years ago, during preparations for Drama Series Days’ first edition, organizers had already begun to recognize that TV had formed a significant part of the activity at the usually film-centric EFM.

“I’m glad that we started, and have been closely following, what the developments are in our visitors’ portfolios, in their daily programs, how they were expanding their interests and reacting to that,” said Knol. “It has proven to be something that is not just hype, but is something that’s become quite vital” as part of the Berlinale and the EFM.

The program’s fifth edition kicked off on Monday with an official welcome from Knol and Film- und Medienstiftung NRW’s Müller. That was followed by an exclusive on-stage interview with the “Deutschland 83” and “Patrick Melrose” writer and director Edward Berger, hosted by Ali May.

Among the highlights of a busy slate on day one were a panel discussion on how the international TV drama boom is being fueled by competition between streaming services and broadcasters, and a conversation with TV writers David Farr (“Hanna”) and David Schalko (“M – A City Hunts a Murderer”) about the experience of turning successful movies into hit TV shows.

l-r: Florian Kamhuber, Simon Amberger, Stefan Ruzowitzky, Christiane PaulDrama Series Days Opening Reception - Berlin Film Festival 2019Berlin, GermanyFebruary 11, 2019©Variety/Kurt Krieger
CREDIT: ©Variety/Kurt Krieger

Cast members from Amazon’s highly anticipated “Hanna,” premiering in Drama Series Days, appeared in conversation with Variety’s Henry Chu to discuss their experiences working on prestige international drama series. And German actors Maria Dragus, Luise Heyer, and Fahri Yardim also spoke about the current golden age of German TV drama, as part of a Face to Face With German Films 2019 conversation, hosted by German Films in association with Variety. The day also included a spotlight on upcoming series from Germany, Spain, and Denmark.

Many of the creative teams behind this year’s Berlinale Series selections were on-hand at the opening night reception, including the Austrian writer-director Schalko, and cast and crew from the series “M – A City Hunts A Murderer”; series creator and showrunner Rafael Parente, director Stefan Ruzowitzky, and the cast and crew of German drama “8 Days”; Danish creator and showrunner Jeppe Gjervig Gram with the cast and crew of “Follow the Money III”; and creator and showrunner Maria Feldman with the team of the Israeli series “False Flag 2.”

l-r: John Lueftner, Katharina Theissen, David Schalko, Ali May, Drama Series Days Opening Reception - Berlin Film Festival 2019Berlin, GermanyFebruary 11, 2019©Variety/Kurt Krieger
CREDIT: ©Variety/Kurt Krieger

Other guests in attendance included Sky Germany SVP of film Marcus Ammon and director of drama production Frank Jastfelder; Hauke Bartel, head of fiction at VOX Television GmbH; Constantin Film managing director Christine Rothe; Gaumont Germany head Sabine de Mardt; and writer-director and Drama Series Days keynote speaker Edward Berger.

l-r: Marcus Ammon, Christiane Paul, Frank JastfelderDrama Series Days Opening Reception - Berlin Film Festival 2019Berlin, GermanyFebruary 11, 2019©Variety/Kurt Krieger
CREDIT: ©Variety/Kurt Krieger

Commenting on the increasing popularity of the Berlinale’s TV focus, which features red-carpet premieres and conversations with some of the industry’s top talent, Berlinale Series head Azizi told Variety that audience engagement was crucial to the success of Drama Series Days.

“All of these things are very important to us in Berlin, because we’re an audience festival,” she said. “It’s very important for us to have this connection with the audience.”

l-r: Maria Rich, Søren Balle, Esben Smed, Thomas HwanDrama Series Days Opening Reception - Berlin Film Festival 2019Berlin, GermanyFebruary 11, 2019©Variety/Kurt Krieger
CREDIT: ©Variety/Kurt Krieger

Pictured: From left, Berlinale Series program manager Solmaz Azizi, Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg managing director Kirsten Niehuus, EFM director Matthijs Wouter Knol, and Film- und Medienstiftung NRW CEO Petra Müller.

Then top to bottom: 

German producer Florian Kamhuber (l.) was joined by Berlinale Series selection “8 Days” executive producer Simon Amberger, director Stefan Ruzowitzky, and actress Christiane Pau.  

Writer-director David Schalko (second from r.), whose “M – A City Hunts A Murderer” world premieres in Berlinale Series, was joined by, from left, producers Katharina Theissen and John Lueftner, and presenter Ali May. 

 Actress Christiane Paul, center, flanked by Sky Germany SVP of film Marcus Ammon (l.) and director of drama production Frank Jastfelder. 

Director Søren Balle, second from left, and stars Maria Rich, Esben Smed, and Thomas Hwan toast the Berlinale Series world premiere of Danish thriller “Follow the Money III.”

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