Monday, November 29

The Swarm: German television adapts the successful sci-fi novel in English | Television industry

It topped Germany’s best-selling novels list for eight months, and to great local enthusiasm, Frank Schätzing’s science fiction book The swarm it is being converted into an eight-part drama series for the German public service broadcaster ZDF.

But for the first time in the country, the primetime television adaptation will be filmed in English rather than German. The swarm is becoming The Swarm in response to market changes brought about by streaming services and as part of ZDF’s plan to secure significant international sales. The program will be dubbed for the German audience of its two channels and subtitled on ZDF’s video-on-demand service.

Alexander Karim, who plays Dr. Sigur Johanson.
Alexander Karim, who plays Dr. Sigur Johanson, in German broadcaster ZDF’s English production of The Swarm. Photographer: Andreas Franke / ZDF and Andreas Franke

In a further sign of the broadcaster’s global ambitions, in association with German independent filmmaker Beta, it has signed one of the biggest names on American television, Frank. Doelger, the producer of the three Emmy Award-winning Game of Thrones for a joint venture in which The Swarm is set to be the first of many English-language productions directed in German.

Schätzing’s book, first published in 2004 in Germany and Austria and having sold over 4.5 million copies, has been praised for its scientific accuracy in describing the geology and marine biology behind a fictional series of events. global found in history as caused. by a hitherto unidentified entity that lives in the depths of the sea.

Speaking at a € 23 million underwater studio on the outskirts of Brussels, where the final scenes of the first series of The Swarm were filmed, Doelger said the ZDF decision reflected the difficulties of European public broadcasters in buying high-end dramas. quality in the age of streaming.

Underwater filming for The Swarm.
Underwater filming for The Swarm. Photography: Fabio Lovino

“Many broadcasters have realized that with the advent of streaming services, the kind of projects they used to buy in the UK or the US: the high-quality, high-production English series that were very important to an audience. younger and a more international audience: they were no longer going to buy.

“As an example, I think Game of Thrones was sold to over 240 stations around the world, and as I understand it, HBO is a prequel now that they won’t sell to any of those stations. They’re basically keeping it for HBO Max. [a subscription streaming service]. That means there will be these gaps in the schedules. “

Doelger said he did not believe there would be opposition in Germany to the novel idea of ​​German-directed productions being shot in English. “I think there is not the resistance that you would expect because these projects have been specifically carved to fill a gap in your schedule.

“No local producer who is doing the standard rate for German television would accept something like this. It is not that they are telling local producers that they are not going to support the local language, we are simply taking the airtime and the money allocated for acquisitions and project creation ”.

Leonie Benesch, who plays Charlie Wagner.
Leonie Benesch, who plays Charlie Wagner. Photographer: Andreas Franke / ZDF and Andreas Franke

The new drama, whose cast includes Leonie Benesch, who played Prince Philip’s sister Cecile in The Crown, has been filmed primarily in the Italian regions of Lazio, Veneto and Puglia, but Northern Ireland, HBO’s choice for Game of Thrones, had been a contender.

“Unfortunately, the situation with Northern Ireland became more complicated after Brexit,” said Doelger. “All the rules and regulations about the teams coming and going, the transport from Northern Ireland, it became a lot more complicated and I know that in Game of Thrones, you know what made it possible, we could put actors on a plane in Belfast. Or take them to Dublin [and] who work in Spain “.

The Swarm plays on the concept that reckless treatment of the oceans will have unforeseen consequences, a theme that particularly resonated with Doelger, he said, in light of Sir David Attenborough’s call to ban deep-sea mining over the “potentially disastrous risks. “. to their ecosystems.

Doelger said he had avoided relying too heavily on parallels with the Covid pandemic and man-made climate change.

The BBC has been in talks about buying the rights to the series, which Doelger said was “character-driven” and, like Game of Thrones, could run and run.

“When I read the novel for the first time I thought that this is a wonderful example of an intelligent life force that has been on this planet and is responsible for the evolution of man from the sea and the well-being of the oceans, it is a force for good and of love, but also, like a vengeful God, he will seek revenge on those who pervert the natural order. “

The joint venture that produces The Swarm, Intaglio, is led by Doegler and Eric Welber of NDF International Production. Along with ZDF, which is the main broadcaster, the other project partners are France Télévisions, Rai in Italy, Austrian broadcaster ORF, SRF in Switzerland, the Stockholm-based Nordic Entertainment Group and Hulu Japan.

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