In one of the biggest swings in Europe’s market, Erik Barmack, the former Netflix VP of international originals, is teaming with Benjamin Munz, producer of “Blood Red Sky,” Netflix’s most-watched non-English movie of all time, on a tentpole high-speed German action film, “The Chase.”
Billed by Barmack as “‘The Fast and the Furious’ meets ‘Money Heist’” – which he helped bring to Netflix – “The Chase” marks the first movie out of the gate at Munz’s Berlin-based new label, Fright Zone, the first production company in Germany that will focus exclusively on developing and producing fantasy, action, horror and science fiction films as well as TV shows in and from Germany.
Overseen by founder and CEO Munz, Fright Zone will produce with Barmack, who is now working out of his own L.A. label, Wild Sheep Content, a company that he started with The Mediapro Studio, headed by Laura Fernández Espeso. Crucially, movie will shoot in German, as “Blood Red Sky.” “Films can be ambitious without feeling Hollywood,” said Barmack.
“The Chase” is created by Germany’s Korbinian Hamberger, whose writing credits take in episodes of iconic ZDF crime franchise “Soko” and 2018’s “The Travels of Young Marco Polo,” the latter for German channel Kika, as well as an episode of 2021’s Netflix series, “Kitz.”
Now in development, “The Chase” turns on Serena Hell, 32, who uses the distraction of Munich’s rowdy Octoberfest to steal a billionaire’s car collection from his high-tech garage. But she’s after a far bigger prize. To get it, she has to outwit the billionaire’s henchmen, the cops, sometimes her own motley crew of robbers and the Albanian mafia.
“The Chase” looks set to unfold against the background of dramatic Bavarian and Swiss Alps, their vast cliffed mountains, fairy tale castles and hair-pin bends – which will allow Serena and her crew to put some of the fastest and most luxurious cars in the world through their paces.
“The style of the film matters. This is modern and sleek, intended to be shot in the Alps, or a place that looks like the Alps, with European cars and European, largely German actors,” said Barmack, adding that “The Chase” was imagined as a returning film franchise, “when a lot of films in Europe are one and done.”
The mastermind behind the heist, Serena Hell, comes across as a younger, less sophisticated but far more confident and kick-ass version of “Money Heist’s” Professor with a deeply personal back story, which explains why she is so hell-bent on ruining the billionaire.
One of the world’s top car commercials directors, renowned for his bold visual style and ads “– for example, Blue Pill” for Fiat, Mercedes SLS’ “Gullwing” and Lamborghini’s “Huracan” – the Cannes Lions-winning Antony Hoffman will serve as a consultant on the series. Helming two ads at 2021’s Super Bowl, he recently directed “American Hypercar,” on Tuatara’s world breaking 298 mph run at the land speed record.
“Why ‘The Chase’ is so exciting is that as more and more streamers enter into Europe, what’s been proven – and you can see it with ‘Black Crab’ out of Scandinavia and mostly ‘Blood Red Sky’ – is that consumers in Europe don’t just want small films,” said Barmack.
“They want movies that have scope and genre. Why can’t there be films like ‘The Fast And The Furious’ coming out of Europe? The answer in the past has sort of been cost. But the real answer’s a mentality, that big popcorn movies shouldn’t be created in markets like Germany,” he added.
Now a new market is emerging for Europe, Barmack argued, pointing out that two of the three productions to which he’d compare “The Chase” – “Money Heist” and “Blood Red Sky” – are European. “Just over four years ago, these comps just didn’t exist.”
Fright Zone: More Details
Catnip for platforms, “The Chase” and Fright Zone aim to exploit an “untapped and underdeveloped” but “important and lucrative space,” said Munz.
Shows and genre productions like “Dark” (Wiedemann & Berg), “Barbarians” (Gaumont) and “Blood Red Sky” (Netflix/Rat Pack Filmproduktion) have underscored the huge opportunity and hunger for genre content in Germany, Munz argued, adding that “South Korea, Spain, and Sweden are no longer the only countries able to dynamically bring together entertainment and pop culture in storytelling to score big wins with audiences.”
Fright Zone’s slate takes in a movie based on Kai Meyer’s horror graphic novel “Fleisch Der Vielen,” as well as his mystery series, “Die Sieben Siegel”; “Ilona,” a fantastical drama by Seanne Winslow, executive producer of “The Lego Movie” and director of the award-winning feature, “The Falconer.”
Munz recently signed a deal with Wiedemann & Berg and Leonine to oversee a major TV show.
Working in strategic partnership with major players such as large production companies, studios, networks, and streamers, Fright Zone looks to build on a large and diverse network of hungry creatives who are eager for the opportunity to tell genre-based stories.
Its “diverse, modern, and relevant stories” will be made in “exciting and innovative ways to create high-quality entertainment that will reach a broad audience,” added Munz, who worked for Constantin Film and Netflix on another big action movie coming out of Germany: 2019’s “Polar,” starring Mads Mikkelsen.
Completing a Netflix hat trick, in 2021, Munz produced “Old People,” a horror film, for the U.S. streaming giant and Constantin Television.
“From early childhood, I’ve been drawn to fantastical worlds and they continue to captivate me today. I grew up in comic book shops and still play pen & paper role playing games and read fantasy books for fun,” Munz confessed. “Founding Fright Zone allows me to unite my passion with my professional experience and to offer it up in service of the German film industry.”