Berlinale Series Market Sets Spotlight on Central and Eastern Europe

It boasts one of the fastest-growing TV industries on the planet, but that hasn’t cleared up misconceptions when it comes to Central and Eastern Europe. “I would like to kill some stereotypes about the region,” said Kamila Zlatušková, founder of the Serial Killer TV Festival in Brno, Czech Republic, during a showcase of regional series at the Berlinale Series Market on Tuesday.

Zlatušková said that her travels around TV festivals and markets in recent years had led her to believe that she was living in “an invisible region. There were no panels, no topics from Central and Eastern European drama.”

After years of working in the industry, including at a regional pubcaster, Zlatušková launched the Serial Killer TV Festival to change that. The week-long event, which this year takes place from Sept. 22-27, offers a platform for rising talents and hot new series to get exposure to industry players from across the globe.

“The idea of the festival is to explore and to promote the best series and talents to the West, and to educate and to import unique personalities, concepts and know-how to our creators, producers, and decision-makers,” said the fest founder.

Speaking in Berlin on Tuesday, Zlatušková painted a portrait of a largely untapped region extending from the Baltics to the Balkans, from Czech Republic to the Russian Federation—a market of some 350 million consumers hungry for high-end content. “This region is very promising,” she said. “It’s like a [blank] page in a book.”

Recent years have proven that series from Central and Eastern Europe are poised for a breakthrough, thanks to such breakout hits as HBO Adria’s first Croatian drama, “Success,” and its Czech spy drama “The Sleepers” (pictured), as well as the Polish cyber-sleuth series “Ultraviolet”—a show that screened at the Serial Killer TV Festival in 2018 just two months before being picked up by Netflix.

Storytellers are experimenting with genres and pushing boundaries. Czech Television had a surprise hit last year with the comedy series “Most!”, a show that pushed back against stereotypes by featuring minority characters and a transgender lead. In a region that Zlatušková said still suffers from a lack of representation and a glass ceiling for women, Ukraine’s first crime noir drama, “Hide and Seek,” is a female-led series with a woman at the helm. Another anticipated series from Ukraine, “Alive,” marks the country’s first TV foray into science fiction.

The market for international co-productions is ripe, with Zlatušková pointing to the excitement over the new Czech Television series “Rats,” a Polish co-pro being released across Europe this week by Warner Bros. Germany.

She also highlighted the rich and largely untapped talent pool in the region, including Czech showrunner Tomáš Hrubý (“Burning Bush,” “Wasteland”), Slovak actor and director Tereza Nvotová (“Conviction”), Estonian writer Lauri Lippmaa (“The Deep”), and Ukrainian director Iryna Gromozda and DoP Sergey Krutko (“Hide and Seek”).

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