Series Mania 2022 - Series Mania Forum
Industry Report: Series
Expert Frank Doelger reveals his secrets at the Series Mania Forum
Now the head of Berlin’s Intaglio Films - combining the talent of Beta Film and ZDF - the producer of Game of Thrones and Rome discusses his European projects and his particular work approach
A famous figure in the American film industry thanks to his work on Rome, John Adams and Game of Thrones, producer Frank Doelger now works in Europe on international, English-language series projects initiated via Berlin’s Intaglio Films (a joint-venture between Beta Film and ZDF Enterprises – read our news). He discussed his projects already in progress (the series The Swarm, Concordia and Doing Good), as well as sharing a few lessons learned on both sides of the Atlantic, in the presence of professionals who’d come to listen to him at the Series Mania Festival’s professional sidebar, the Series Mania Forum (news).
The Swarm (read our article) is now in post-production and the aim is for the film to enjoy its world premiere at the 2023 Berlinale, with discussions already underway for a second season. Asked about the impact on his work of the huge number of partners involved (ZDF, France Télévisions, RAI, ORF, SRF, Nordic Entertainment Group NENT, Hulu Japon in terms of broadcasters, and Intaglio, ndF International Production, Schwarm TV Productions, Bravado Fiction and Viola Film vis-à-vis production), Frank Doelger admitted he’d been “a little worried to begin with, because I wasn’t used to so many partners being involved when I worked with HBO or the BBC. But I very quickly realised that these many partners weren’t only competent, they were first and foremost reasonable. They’re experienced and they understand the creative process needs its own space. There’s a lot of mutual respect between us, so I did my best to respond to their various questions and suggestions, although they mostly agreed with our biggest decisions."
Indeed, what’s crucial to American and neo-Berlin producers is remaining open, and for projects to always be fluid: to have the option to enter into production without a finalised screenplay or to insert additional dialogue, knowing that scenes will more than likely end up in the bin, etc. "Even in the pre-production stage, you have to be able to adapt, especially in a world where things can change very quickly. In the initial screenplay for The Swarm, for example, there was a company looking for new gas and oil deposits. We were about to start filming, but then I read an article about deep sea mining, an activity stirring up a great deal of scientific and environmental debate at present, which is set to become a highly publicised issue next year because we want to at least slow down this phenomenon. So we completely re-wrote the script along these lines."
Frank Doelger has another two projects in development: Concordia, which unfolds in the near future and revolves around a community who have used an artificial intelligence technology to create a fairer and safer society. Having proven a great success, with migrants and thousands of refugees in search of a better life safely welcomed into this utopia, countries from all over the world cosy up to its creators to find out more. But appearances are deceiving and a dark secret lurks beneath… Shooting on the project will kick off in September.
The second project in development with Intaglio Films is Doing Good, which unfolds at the intersection between human rights associations and the secret service, revolves around three main characters (the director of a huge NGO, his contact in the CIA, and the young woman who connects the two of them) and explores the moral complexity of trying to do good in an unwholesome world without becoming bad yourself. The first clapperboard is set to slam on this project in February 2023.
Regarding the current boom in series, Frank Doelger stressed that what’s essential, in his mind, is "having projects which go beyond entertainment. Because it’s brilliant to have excellent reviews, but what you really need is stories which journalists can use to explore other subjects, political, social or other. These are typically projects which are better characterised by their international dimension that their cast, for example.”
He was also delighted "that there’s no longer just an A, B or C list for industry talent, screenwriters, directors and actors, there’s also an incredible depth of resources: there’s so much work that it opens up the door to real talent whom we would previously have rejected for having too little experience. Added to this is the great diversity of casts, which is possible now, and also required, because it reflects the reality of the world: it’s a huge help when it comes to unearthing new talent."
(Translated from French)
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