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“The depth of the characters counts, no matter what kind of story is being told”

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Christiane Siemen • CEO, Creative Europe Desk Hamburg

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- We spoke to Christiane Siemen, CEO of Creative Europe Desk Hamburg, about the benefits that the Series Lab Hamburg can offer its participants

Christiane Siemen  • CEO, Creative Europe Desk Hamburg

The Series Lab Hamburg (which got going yesterday – see the news) gives producers the opportunity to pitch their projects to potential partners such as broadcasters, financiers, sales agents and co-producers. We spoke to Christiane Siemen, CEO of Creative Europe Desk Hamburg, about MEDIA support, collaborations, co-productions and the current trends in European series production.

(The article continues below - Commercial information)

Cineuropa: What is the approach of the Series Lab Hamburg?
Christiane Siemen: 
The Series Lab Hamburg came out of a common commitment by Letterbox FilmproduktionFilmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein and Creative Europe Desk Hamburg to establish an international industry event in Hamburg. The MEDIA programme responded very quickly to the big “series boom” with training and support measures in order to foster the production of European series. We followed this impetus and created a concept for the Series Lab Hamburg that was orientated towards the needs of producers. In the process, we highlighted two aspects: the dramaturgical work on the projects and the financing. We are delighted that, once again, we can welcome more than 20 international financiers to our event in Hamburg, where producers are pitching their projects. Furthermore, it is crucial to consider co-productions – three intense days of collaboration can be the basis for further cooperation.

What are the selection criteria for the participating producers? Which countries do they come from?
Fortunately, we are part of a pan-European network of the Creative Europe Desks. Thanks to our colleagues in 11 countries who are supporting the lab, we have got internationally experienced producers with gripping projects on board. The most important selection criterion is that they are developing a series for the international market which has already received the first tranche of financing in their country. The selection was made by our colleagues from Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland.

What were the results of the first Series Lab Hamburg like? Were new partnerships formed or any projects produced?
We were absolutely delighted with the feedback we received on the first edition of the Series Lab Hamburg. The response of the producers as well as the financiers was positive in every respect. This prompted us to organise a second edition this year. All of the partners decided to join in with this event immediately thanks to the great personal contacts that were forged during the lab. This event offers a rare opportunity to present projects to European decision makers at single sessions. 

How deeply are the script consultants involved in the project development?
Scriptwriting for series requires dramaturgical skills that are only very slowly being implemented in the curricula of film schools. The DFFB in Berlin was supported by MEDIA to develop the “Serial Eyes” study programme, which is especially designed for the horizontal storytelling of series. John Yorke and Nikolaj Scherfig are sophisticated writers who have a great deal of experience when it comes to international series. This year, the group of participants also includes writers so that the dramaturgical work can be even more intensive. In each of the ten group sessions, one project is always analysed by producers, who tend to raise particular issues. That is especially exciting.

How deeply are broadcasters involved in the Series Lab Hamburg?
This year, we have got regional broadcaster NDR on board as a new partner. We really appreciate the commitment of NDR, which will award the most promising project with a prize worth €7,500. The award will be handed out to one of the participating producers at the Series Lab. The decision of who will win the “Albatross” is made by a jury that includes actress Maria Furtwängler (Tatort), Danish series writer Nikolaj Scherfig (The Bridge) and Christian Granderath, head of the TV Fiction department at NDR.

For the second time, Sky Germany and ZDF Enterprises are our partners, and they are very much involved in the production of series, as proven by big productions such as Babylon Berlin and Maltese. As active participants, the broadcasters are crucial for the lab. We organise speed-dating sessions that give the producers the possibility to pitch their projects to commissioning editors in one-to-one meetings. We have invited 22 financiers from ten countries.

What are the current trends in series production?
The fact that broadcasters are creating additional slots for high-end series is certainly an important indicator that the series market won’t be surrendered to the online platforms. Owing to the increasing demand for content, we are quite confident that a co-production event for series makes an important contribution, as it means that European stories will be told in the form of high-quality series. The depth of the characters counts, no matter what kind of story is being told. The characters in series become the viewer’s friends, but they need to have a true-to-life dimension so that this emotional bond can be built.

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