Jan Mojto’s international sales company Beta Film has sold police series “Faster Than Fear,” a hit for ARD in Germany, to three high-profile international buyers. The six-hour series has been acquired by ORF in Austria, Disney Plus in Spain, and Walter Presents in Australia and New Zealand.
In Germany, the show was commissioned by ARD under its initiative termed “Mediathek First” for shows that launch first on its streaming platform, the ARD Mediathek. The digital-first initiative, which is changing the landscape in Germany, aims to target a younger audience online, while also going after the older demographic that tends to dominate the linear audience. The series was available for streaming on the ARD platform from Dec. 30, and has drawn 6.4 million views so far. On linear TV, it started to air on Jan. 1, in late primetime, following the classic crime show “Tatort” – one of the most popular series in Germany – and scored more than three million viewers an episode on average – a 13% market share.
“Faster Than Fear” centers on a young female detective, Sunny, who engages in a dangerous game of cat-and-mouse with a murderer, facing her darkest fears. It starts with Sunny returning to duty after six weeks on sick leave. She joins a team tracking down sadistic killer André Haffner, who has escaped prison. The cops are sure Haffner, who targets women, will kill again. Sunny is eager to take the lead, but her superiors give that role to her male colleague, and insist she sees a therapist. Unbeknownst to her co-workers, Sunny was sexually assaulted at work by a masked assailant, but she refuses to tell anyone about the attack. Even though her male colleagues seem supportive, she does not trust them. Suspicion has become second nature to her, and she sets out to take revenge on her attacker alone.
The show, which stars Friederike Becht (“Labyrinth of Lies,” “The Reader”), is directed by Florian Baxmeyer. It is produced by Rowboat Film- und Fernsehproduktion for MDR/ARD Degeto.
Rowboat was founded in 2010 by U.S. executive Sam Davis and Beta Film, with Davis taking the reins as CEO. Davis had served as head of the TV movie department at RTL Television from 1993 to 1998. In 1998, he became a partner and co-CEO of production company Zeitsprung, where he produced event productions, TV movies and series. From 2004 to 2009, he was in charge of the German fiction department of Endemol in Germany. He won the International Emmy for “A Day for a Miracle” in 2013.
Speaking to Variety, Davis said ARD’s Mediathek First initiative gave the producer a chance to push the boundaries of what is usually offered on broadcast television in Germany. So it is “a little heavier, a little scarier, definitely more tense … much more thrill.” He added: “And then you can assemble the key players – the writer, the director and so on – to create this, who are actually in that first generation of talent that has worked with the streamers.”
One of the distinguishing features of a non-procedural crime show like “Faster Than Fear” is that “the characters are able to be woven into the fabric of the story,” he says. The originally concept for the show was a “Heart of Darkness” story in which “a woman who is supposedly sick and not on top comes back to work, and she has a secret – she has been raped and didn’t report it – to create a broken character.” She doesn’t want to reveal that she has been the victim of such a crime as she fears it could keep her from advancing in the police department. “At the same time, she is faced with a Solomonic decision: Who do I go for? My own rapist or the escaped convict that is running around creating hell?”
He added: “We felt that itself – having a character-centric development – was very un-German, in a procedural sense, in a mainstream crime story.” It is also a “rough-and-ready road movie,” he said, as opposed to a manhunt drama in a usual setting, “because of the nature of the character.” He said: “There is a lot of kinetic and emotional energy too,” which also sets it apart from many German crime shows.
In her audition for the role, Becht offered “the vision of a modern woman trapped in a terrible dilemma and yet balancing the incredible emotional pressure on both a professional and private level, and staying very human and down-to-earth. She has an authenticity that appeals to the German audience, because she doesn’t have what you call in the United States a bicoastal appeal – she is from anywhere. She is very compelling. What she makes of her character is complexed and sincere. If I would be a judge of the over 80 letters or comments I have read [from viewers] – mainly women – she came across as very authentic and very empathetic to women.”
Beta Film is also selling Rowboat’s two-hour limited series “Murder Squared,” which was ordered by ZDF. In the show, when Thomas Becker is shot dead, any solidarity within the family of the powerful construction company Becker & Sons collapses as suddenly as its scandalous multi-million housing project.