Deutsche Telekom’s first major original, “Wild Republic,” is set to bow April 15 on the telco giant’s OTT service MagentaTV after production was postponed last year due to the ongoing pandemic.
The eight-part adventure series follows a group of young offenders who end up fending for themselves high in the Alps after a mysterious death disrupts the experiential educational program in which they are taking part.
Created by Jan Martin Scharf, Arne Nolting and Klaus Wolfertstetter, the series is produced by Lailaps Pictures, X Filme Creative Pool and Handwritten Pictures in co-production with Deutsche Telekom, Arte and ARD broadcasters WDR, SWR and One.
“Wild Republic” was initially inspired by Erwin S. Strauss’ 1979 book “How to Start Your Own Country,” which explored the micronation movement of the 1960s, according to Lailaps CEO Nils Dünker. Eric Bouley, now managing partner at Handwritten Pictures, helped develop the original premise while working at Lailaps. In discussing the idea of people establishing a new social order, the producers thought, “What if a bunch of misfits disappeared in the wilderness and, if not a republic or state, start their own society,” Dünker recalls.
The initial idea was to make a feature film, along the lines of John Boorman’s “Deliverance,” but the project soon evolved into a series. “That was the nucleus, the initial spark to what became this eight-part series that we have today.”
Dünker then approached Scharf and Nolting, noting their experience in writing young adult characters in shows like Vox’s “Red Bracelets.” “They immediately fell in love with it,” he says. Scharf and Nolting’s credits also include Netflix’s historical action series “Barbarians” and Vox’s “Rampensau,” an adaptation of Israeli crime drama “Dumb.”
“Wild Republic” very much reflects the modern zeitgeist, the growing distrust of authority and government, Dünker notes. While the initial intention was to have something commercial, a gripping, edge-of-your-seat thriller with relatable characters, city kids who find themselves out of their depth in the wilderness, “there is also a philosophical and social element to it,” he adds.
“How do millennials feel these days? What happened to the Fridays for Future movement and Black Lives Matter? There’s a lot in flux these days. There’s a lot of distrust and also disappointment, and rightfully so — they have a point. We’re handing over a world that is completely out of balance, and we tried to incorporate that as well.” Political divisions within the group likewise mirror today’s increasingly fractured society.
MagentaTV expressed interest in the project, which became the streaming service’s first major original, although the company had previously partnered on the German-French comedy series “Deutsch-Les-Landes” with Amazon, Bavaria Fiction and France’s Telfrance. With MagentaTV taking the first window, there was an opportunity for WDR, SWR, One and Arte to come on board as second-window partners, Dünker says, adding that there would still be “a true second life circle” for the show on free-to-air TV.
The producers secured financing for the show’s €13 million ($15.8 million) budget from regional and federal funders, including Filmstiftung NRW, FFF Bayern, the German Motion Picture Fund, Italy’s IDM Südtirol, which supports film and TV productions shot in South Tyrol, and the Italian tax rebate.
The picturesque Dolomites in the Eastern Alps provided the ideal location for the series’ mountainous setting, although the areas fast-changing weather often posed challenges.
Production on the show began in February 2020 at MMC Studios in Cologne, where renowned set designer Claus Rudolf Amler (“The Dark Valley,” “4 Blocks”) built a vast cave system that serves as a key location in the series. The onset of the pandemic forced work to shut down in March, however. Shooting in Cologne re-started in May and the production later moved to Italy, where work continued until November.
Directed by Markus Goller (“25 km/h,” “Friendship!”) and Lennart Ruff (“The Titan”), “Wild Republic” stars Emma Drogunova (“The Tobacconist,” “Tatort”), Merlin Rose (“Das Boot,” “As We Were Dreaming”), Aaron Altaras (“Unorthdox,” “Mario”), Béla Gabor Lenz (“Das Boot,” “Dark”) and Maria Dragus (“Mary Queen of Scots,” “The German Lesson”).
Beta Film is handling world sales for the show, which is also featured in the Upcoming Series from Germany showcase at the Berlinale Series Market & Conference.