MIPTV Panel Explores Germany’s Drama Prowess


CANNES: Executives from ZDF, ZDF Enterprises, UFA Fiction and RAI spoke about the power of German drama at home and abroad in a MIPTV panel this morning moderated by World Screen’s Anna Carugati.

The session, Beyond the Hype: German Series Go Global, was part of MIPTV’s Focus on Germany strand. It featured Benjamin Benedict, CEO of UFA Fiction; Fred Burcksen, executive VP and COO of ZDF Enterprises; Susanne Müller, executive director of feature films at ZDF; and Guido Pugnetti, the head of marketing and TV product management at RAI Cinema.

UFA’s Benedict said several factors are driving the success of German drama. “It’s a highly developed, very professional industry already. It’s one of the biggest markets in the world. And it has a long tradition…[that has laid] the ground for professional training and working experience. And there’s a strong connection [between broadcasters] and the audience. Drama is important to people. And on that foundation a lot of trust developed, for example in our relationships with ZDF and ZDF Enterprises. With the long relationships we’ve had we’ve been able to think about new kinds of storytelling.”

Benedict went on to note that, “for better or worse, German history for the last 100 years has been so full of events to think about and talk about. From the catastrophes of World War II to the miracle of the reunification of Germany.”

RAI’s Pugnetti noted the success of German series in Italy. “The Germans are able to sit beautifully in the middle [between local and American content]. They’re taking the best from the U.S. way—rhythm, pace, storytelling, subjects—and at the same time giving it a European flavor.”

ZDF Enterprises’s Burcksen discussed Germany’s strength in scripted co-pros. “There’s so much talent, and the size matters as well. If we are willing to step into your production, the money we put in is effective. And more important is the authentic curiosity for what’s going on in Australia, in Scandinavia. Because of our curiosity we kicked off the Scandi noir trend,” when the distributor began rolling out series like The Killing to the global market.

UFA’s Generation War and Deutschland 83 have set a new standard for German drama, Benedict noted. “It’s not a coincidence that in both the protagonists are very young. We wanted to make them accessible for a new generation.”

ZDF’s Müller said that until now, “a co-production for us was getting involved in series and films in other countries. We started the Scandi noir. Now we are moving to new territories. We are working with Belgium, ZDF Enterprises is doing first-look deals in the U.K. with partners like Eleventh Hour. We’re always looking at the most interesting projects and through our partnerships help those who make [these projects] make them even better. We put in money and some creative input as well.”

She added, “Right now we are in a new position. We are trying to [present] co-productions that we [originate and] bring to the market. Many countries were very reluctant taking German programs because of the language. Now in this fragmented market, our German product is broadcast in the U.K. on BBC Four with subtitles. This was not possible many years ago. We have a new way of bringing things to the market.”