Alexis von Wittgenstein’s Munich-based production shingle Violet Pictures is expanding its TV series pipeline with a slew of new projects, among them a historical drama about the role of women in the creation of modern Europe, the story of a mother of three who became one of the Soviet Union’s most successful spies, and a 1970s-set anti-nuclear activist romance.
The company, whose credits include “Oktoberfest: Beer & Blood,” which premiered last year on ARD and currently streams on Netflix, is also partnering with “Unorthodox” producer Real Film Berlin on a four-project slate that includes the tentatively titled “Sayn & Schein,” a dark comedy about a royal title dealer set in the present-day world of German and British aristocracy.
“It’s a booming market,” says von Wittgenstein, noting that there are people who pay intermediaries hundreds of thousands of euros to obtain princely titles. The series is also produced by Michael Lehmann, CEO of Studio Hamburg Production Group, which owns Real Film.
Violet Pictures and Real Film are also teaming on an eight-part series set in present-day Berlin for Sky Deutschland.
The strategic partnership makes it possible to focus on projects with more of an international scope, von Wittgenstein notes.
Violet Pictures is separately developing the historical series “A New Order (WT)” with Vienna-based Film AG. The show centers on the 1814-1815 Congress of Vienna, which reshaped Europe following Napoleon’s defeat and paved the way for the continent’s modern political development.
Based on a screenplay by Agnes Pluch, the series will be told from the perspective of the women who pulled the strings behind the scenes. Violet Pictures and Film AG will likely co-produce the ambitious project with a couple of other European partners.
Also in the works is “Agent Sonya (WT),” the fact-based story of a German-born female Soviet spy during the 1930s and ’40s who also managed to raise three children during her cloak and dagger career. After retiring from the intelligence service, the former spook went on to become a bestselling author of children’s books.
In addition, Violet Pictures is partnering with Strasbourg-based Red Revolver on the German-French production “Fessenheim.” Set in the late 1970s in the titular French town located near the German border, the six-part series revolves around the Fessenheim nuclear power plant that began operation in 1978 as a French-German energy project. The series follows the German student activist Nina, who, while demonstrating against the nuclear plant, meets Jean, a young French gendarme. Their blossoming relationship is tested when Nina’s activist friends turn to ever more radical means of protest.
French writer Max Disbeaux created the series and is developing it with Nacim Mehtar (“En Thérapie”) and German scribes Bob Konrad (“4 Blocks,” “Labaule & Erben”) and Silke Eggert (“303”).
“Fessenheim” is “an organic French-German TV series … and we needed the best of both countries to tell this powerful and heartbreaking story,” von Wittgenstein says.
The topic and its timeliness was particularly appealing to von Wittgenstein in view of the role nuclear power has played over the years in Germany’s own environmental movement and ongoing energy transition, which was accelerated in 2011 following the Fukushima disaster in Japan, when Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government agreed to shut down eight nuclear plants in the country and pull the plug on nine remaining facilities by 2022.
“To quote the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, nuclear power is a pharmakon — it’s a poison as well as a medicine,” von Wittgenstein says. “Nuclear power has improved the lives of millions of people, but it has also destroyed as many lives. As a TV series maker, I like to always consider both sides of an issue. It’s good for democracy and fantastic for dramaturgy and storytelling.”
Violet Pictures is also reteaming with fellow “Oktoberfest” producer Zeitsprung Pictures on “Der Spieler,” RTL’s upcoming TV biopic of tennis legend Boris Becker for RTL. “Oktoberfest” director Hannu Salonen is helming from a script by Richard Kropf and Marcus Schuster. As part of the writing trio known as the HaRiBos, Kropf regularly collaborates with Konrad and Hanno Hackfort, with whom he also worked on Violet Pictures’ 2018 family comedy series “Labaule & Erben” for ARD.
On the feature film front, the company’s dark coming-of-age tale “A Pure Place” by Nikias Chryssos is expected to hit the festival circuit this year. The story follows two young siblings who try to free themselves from a secret and isolated community on a remote Greek island.