EXCLUSIVE: The Berlin Film Festival and its associated European film market may be all about the big screen, but in recent years, the Berlinale series has been getting bigger and bigger. Series director Julia Fidel has seen the barriers between film and TV break down and more and more stars, writers and executives behind the biggest films have chosen to lead TV projects.
There are seven shows in the Berlinale Series this year and many more Series Market Selects ranging from a world premiere to Amazon Prime’s Argentine Yosi, the sorry spy to Sky UK’s supernatural crime thriller the rising to Czech Republic/French co-pro suspect. We spoke to Julia about this year’s crop and got her take on the rapidly evolving TV landscape.
DEADLINE: Talking Us Through This Year’s Series List?
JULY FIDEL: We are so excited about these seven titles, starting with Argentina’s Cigarette by Daniel Burman. He is one of only four former Berlinale winners to ever come back with a series and this is one of the main reasons we started showcasing series at the fest because we realized that people we welcomed on the movie side now leaning towards TV. Then we have shows like Canada’s Last summers of the raspberrieswhich is so hilarious and sensitive, and Denmark’s The Shift, a hospital series like no other. You can tell that these creators are masters of storytelling. They have very deliberately chosen to make something episodic to tell a different kind of story, and the shows are very carefully developed.
DEADLINE: You’ve doubled the number of entries to 200 this year. How on earth did you reduce them to seven?
FIDEL: I asked myself the same question! We had a panel of eight and discussing the shows remotely (due to the Coronavirus) was a challenge. But when we saw so many shows, we started to see themes develop from what we were watching. You want to go for balance but are not afraid to deal with what stays with you. For example, we picked three Scandi shows.
DEADLINE: Yes, I wanted to come back to this. Almost half of the shows (The shift, Sweden’ lust and that of Iceland Black Sand) come from Scandinavia. How has Scandinavian TV evolved since the days of? The bridge and The murder?
FIDEL: Scandi TV has been going strong for a long time and we have even more in the Series Market Selects. They have a certain fearlessness about telling stories. Among all these great themes about dark entities we have: lust, a Swedish comedy about women in their late 40s who just want to have a great sex life. It’s very original, very Swedish and very honest.
DEADLINE: lust is, of course, an HBO Max show. Do you think we’ll see more of this new generation of streamers in the coming years?
FIDEL: Yeah, it kind of feels like this is yet to come and it will be interesting to see the lineups for 2023 and 2024. Another interesting development is that talented producers who worked for bigger drama indies are starting their own companies and talking to all the new streamers. Many of these projects will be realized shortly. We have a small German showcase in the Series Market and before that we had a great choice because there is so much more on an international scale. The European quota for streamers’ originals may also have an impact.
DEADLINE: What about the Series Market Selects. Which ones stand out?
FIDEL: Yes, we have series from all over the world in the Selects and all these countries are very strong on TV. We also have two German shows (oh damn and ZERV (divided we stand)) and I noticed that in these shows there are Eastern European characters that are portrayed as very cool – they are the heroes. That’s certainly an improvement from 10 years ago when they were characterized in a different way. It’s like TV writers have discovered that Eastern Europeans are pretty cool.
DEADLINE: What other trends are we seeing in the global TV market?
fidel: I think there’s a little less experimentation, but a lot of really strong, classic stories. Makers set themselves a certain framework, for example within detective or hospital shows, and push those boundaries. And of course, non-English content is on the rise. Portugal may not be on every major sales company’s map, but maybe it should be. We had our first LatAm shows last year and lots of entries this year, and it was also a strong year for Eastern Europe.
DEADLINE: TV is becoming an increasingly important part of the wider festival, do you think this trend will continue to increase?
FIDEL: I feel like we’ve had a very strong position within the festival for a while now and play a bigger role on the market side, which is interesting because for TV, even more than film, business and art are connected. It would be great if there was more talk or cultural discussion about series because they are worth this intense discussion. A function of our program is to create a certain number of series that people can then discuss and dissect. And some makers from the festival side are in talks on the market side to boost these exchanges.