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C21 DIGITAL SCREENINGS

Studio Hamburg Enterprises

Programming Profile

Germany’s Studio Hamburg Enterprises unveils slate of fresh, authentic content

20-10-2021

Studio Hamburg Enterprises has been bolstering its slate with high-end crime drama and factual content, focusing on key values of optimism and authenticity. Director of international sales Kerstin Grünwald reveals how the company’s structure and strategy are enabling this, as part of its C21 Digital Screenings content showcase this week.

 

German distributor Studio Hamburg Enterprises (SHE) is looking to highlight authenticity and optimism in its new slate for the coming year. For Kerstin Grünwald, the company’s director of international sales, the strategy is to sell the best in international content, including titles from outside Germany.

 

In recent years the company, like others, has upped its international sales game and broken into new territories. “We’re making a number of sales in Spain as buyers there are focusing a lot on female-focused stories,” says Grünwald. “One key element of all our shows is authenticity, as people these days can tell when a show is artificial. It’s always good to have something people all over can identify with.”

 

Grünwald
Kerstin Grünwald,
Studio Hamburg Enterprises

Finnish drama My Husband’s Wife (8×45’) is likely to have widespread appeal due to its thrilling hook. In the series, a woman’s husband suddenly dies – only for two women to turn up claiming to be his other wife and the mother of his illegitimate child. As they try to piece together what has happened, they become united in grief. The series is produced by Finland’s Lucy Loves Drama.

 

Grünwald says My Husband’s Wife represents the high global appeal of very local content nowadays. “We fell in love with this series, and we bought it on a script basis two years ago,” she says. “We value the appeal of local content and this show can really travel exactly as it’s been produced. However, we also hold remake rights and we definitely want to license them one day. Nowadays, English-speaking territories are showing foreign-language content with subtitles and that increases the number of platforms that are showing interest. The biggest commercial channels are still a bit cautious about foreign-language content for their main channels.”

 

My Husband’s Wife
My Husband’s Wife

Berlin Legal (8×45’) is a legal crime series, this time covering the work of German media lawyer Leo Roth, based on an existing contemporary lawyer. The series was produced by UFA Fiction and will be shown on German channel ARD. Grünwald says that being based on real life helps crime series grow in popularity. “A lot of our crime series are inspired by or based on real people, like Berlin Legal,” she says. “There’s a lot there about social media and cancel culture that has applications for real life.”

 

Marnow Murders (8×45’/4×90’) is another high-end crime series that centres around real events. During a sweltering summer, two detectives attempt to unveil a serial killer who seems to be backed by the most powerful people in their town. Once again, the show aired on German channel ARD and Grünwald says the roof organisation of Germany’s regional pubcasters is focusing on linear production to feed their OTT content.

 

“Linear channels are using their catch-up services more often and more actively,” she says. “Germany’s ARD has expanded its capabilities to its own platform and has actually started producing for this platform. Linear broadcasters are still focused on a mainstream audience while VoD platforms go for more of a niche, younger audience.”

 

Berlin Legal
Berlin Legal

Another SHE series made for ARD is Dark Rivers, which has had 4×90’ episodes so far and is made by Munich prodco Hager Moss Film. When a woman flees with her daughter to escape the mob after blowing the whistle on them, her new identity isn’t enough to protect her. Grünwald feels this show is an example of one particular trend going on in drama right now.

 

“Even with local production values, the topics are very global – for example, a doctor moving out of the city to go work in the countryside. Not only that but a female protagonist with a family and kids is instantly relatable. It’s always good to have something authentic.”

 

Another show that sees a female lead move to the country is Vera – First Aid From Berlin, a series composed of 90-minute episodes. When a doctor moves out of Berlin, she discovers the rural medical scene to be woefully understaffed but never lets a home visit slip. For Grünwald, this kind of feel-good community-based content is exactly what people want.

 

“Right now, buyers – especially pubcasters – are looking for feel-good content that has that cozy feeling,” she says. “These shows have international appeal because everybody can identify with the characters.”

 

Dark Rivers
Dark Rivers

There’s no better source of authenticity than reality, and the next true story from SHE is a feature film about the building of the Berlin Wall. In 3½ Hours, a train full of people heading for East Berlin from West Germany must make a decision about whether to stay on the train and reunite with their families or escape the Communist bloc, on the very day the Wall goes up without any warning. The movie is produced by fellow Studio Hamburg subsidiary Amalia Films and Berlin prodco Real Film.

 

As well as dramatising true stories, SHE is also bringing out a fresh slate of factual content. On the international stage, this genre has been SHE’s bread and butter for some time and Grünwald sees no reason for that to change.

 

First on the factual slate is Special Police Unit 65 (working title, 5×45’) is a blue-chip true crime series that SHE has chosen not to dramatise but simply leave to tell its own story. The series goes into the red-light district of St Pauli in Hamburg in the 1980s, where gangs and violence were everywhere. The show appeals to anyone who lived through the time and is a coproduction with Germany’s Gebrueder Beetz.

 

Marnow Murders
Marnow Murders

Next up, Africa’s Lost World: Life in a Super Volcano (1×52’) is a high-end wildlife one-off that goes to Mount Suswa in Kenya to see the incredible variety of wildlife there. The show comes from German factual prodco Doclights, with which SHE has a distribution deal. It was also made in cooperation with Swedish public broadcaster SVT and Austria’s ORF, with NDR broadcasting the special in Germany.

 

Meanwhile, The Frisian Islands: Life in Motion (1×52’) travels off the German coast to take in the spectacular landscapes and natural variety ranging from seals to endangered birds. The special was made for national broadcaster NDR by Doclights and NDR Naturfilm, in collaboration with Franco-German producer Arte.

 

“We can always trust wildlife and nature documentaries as they’re a global topic,” Grünwald says. “What’s more, camera technology is always developing and allowing you to explore different things.”

 

3 1/2 hours
3 1/2 hours

Elsewhere, Mare TV is a series of standalone 45-minute episodes about parts of the sea in various regions of the world, from Croatia to the Caribbean. SHE has two versions on its slate, the original Mare TV and spin-off series Mare TV: Favourite Coasts. Both are made by Germany’s Nonfictionplanet for national broadcaster NDR.

 

Taking a broad view, what Grünwald sees across SHE’s slate is locally produced content with an authenticity that will see it fly off the shelves in the international market.

 

“Even if the productions are locally produced, the topics are very global. Vera – First Aid From Berlin, for example, happens all over the world and is very relatable,” she says. “Very often an audience, no matter where it’s from, will relate to something a character in a show goes through. What is key for that is to remain authentic – a show can’t be artificial or it’s finished.”