Year by year, the Berlin Film Festival’s drama series strand and market movers closer to center-stage. As in so many ways, COVID-19 may merely accelerate that process. The Zoo Palast Berlinale Series showcase no longer screen a time-consuming 20-minute taxi ride from the festival center, but online, its titles as accessible as festival movies.
For industry attendees movies — first arthouse and documentaries, later studio-style indie tentpoles — were the name of the game at Berlin. Now many producers who go to Berlin to talk movies are looking for a future with TV. After canvassing marketgoers, five takeaways about Berlin’s drama series lineup and Berlinale Series Market, which celebrates March 2 its Co-Pro Series pitching sessions, emerge:
The Biz So Far
In early industry news, Keshet Intl. has swooped in on sales rights to Norway’s “Suck It Up,” a drama produced by Monster Scripted for Viaplay and a reported standout in the Series Market Selects showcase. Global Screen has boarded neo-Nazi mole thriller “Hinterland,” from Germany’s Ringel Film. Road Movies will co-produce the Wim Wenders and David Byrne-directed series “This Is Music,” produced by Norway’s Oslo Pictures. RTL Klub Hungary is backing Joyrider’s Cold War thriller “Balaton Brigade,” a third Co-Pro Series title, to be directed by Golden Bear winner Ildiko Enyedi (“On Body and Soul”). Berlin captures non-U.S. production in an expansive mode, sensing a main market chance to sell beyond borders as Hollywood’s studios hold back even more titles for their own platforms.
Women Move to Center Stage
10 of the 18 series in Berlinale Series, the festival section and Series Market Selects — which features projects with more commercial series play — have female protagonists. When also created by women, that can bring a different sensibility to the table. In “Snow Angels,” a Berlinale Series player, for instance, a mother wakes up to discover her five-week-old baby is missing. Who’s taken him? And why? But rather than plot-driven, Berlinale Series head Julia Fidel points out, the SVT-DR series created by Mette Heeno sets out to “develop strong characters, drilling down layer by layer” and “demystifying some ideas of femininity” on the way.
Series Are Getting Shorter (And All the Better For It)
Walter Iuzzolino, at Channel 4 VOD service Walter Presents, commented at Sweden’s Göteborg Drama Vision last month that an executive at a streaming platform had told him that the streamer was looking for shorter series, not returnables in the “Sopranos” or “The Crown” mode. Berlinale Series shows the upside. Russell T. Davies’ “It’s a Sin” weighs in at five episodes; while Gustavo Pizzi’s “The Last Days of Gilda” and Pablo Fendrik’s “Amongst Men” at just four. “As film directors and writers pour into series, they’re making short series. It’s very different to make a four-part series to one which has 24 episodes,” Fidel says. It’s also more liberating. Before, TV series had certain narrative obligations, says Fendrik, such as to persuade audiences to watch the next episode or season. Now, with limited miniseries, creatives are unleashed.
Germany’s Y.A. Boom
Just a decade ago, German TV was among the most traditionalist in Europe. No more. Operators are mounting high-end European co-productions, Fidel notes, citing “Furia.” They’re also driving into young adult fare. “It’s a big trend,” says EFM head Dennis Ruh. It also looks likely to produce some of the standout German series at this year’s Berlinale, whether Series Market Presents player “Echos,” produced by Neuesuper (“8 Days”) for ProSieben’s Joyn, about Munich rich kids discovering a city underworld; WarnerMedia’s buzzy “Para — Wir Sind King”; and the awaited “Wild Republic,” from X Filme Ceative Pool, about youth offenders creating a new society in the Alps, sold, like “Echos,” by Beta Film.
Other Buzz Titles
Industryites cite “It’s a Sin,” from Series Market conference keynote speaker Russell T. Davies, a look at gay ‘80s London kinship soon scythed by AIDs; Sundance hit “Philly D.A.,” a doc-series portrait of reformist D.A. Larry Krasner; Berlinale Series’ “The Last Days of Gilda,” from Brazil’s Gustavo Pizzi, a consistently innovative new female identity social thriller; Pablo Fendrik’s “Amongst Men,” from HBO Latin America, a genre blending indictment of ‘90s Argentina; and Studiocanal’s “UFOs,” a second chance in marriage drama, framed in a retro 1980s France alien invasion dramedy, as some of the top prospects airing in Berlin.