‘Unorthodox’ Co-Producer Real Film Developing VW Scandal Drama as It Embraces True Stories (EXCLUSIVE)
Real Film, the Berlin-based co-producer of the hit Emmy-winning Netflix series “Unorthodox,” looks set to continue its recent success with a slew of hard-hitting fact-based series.
The Studio Hamburg subsidiary is focusing on German-language productions aimed at the international market, including a take on one of the biggest automotive industry scandals in history and an exploration of Germany’s role in international money laundering. It’s also expanding its international activities, including a project with Greg Silverman’s Stampede Ventures.
“Our shows and films tend to be based on real life events or characters,” said Real Film managing director Henning Kamm (one of Variety’s 2017 Producers to Watch). “That’s really something that I’m personally drawn to. There’s something just magical about real life. They have international appeal, that I’m certain about.”
Among the new miniseries is “Wolf of Wolfsburg,” about the Volkswagen car emissions scandal, which has so far cost the carmaker €31.3 billion ($37 billion) in fines and settlements.
Kamm describes the project, written by Florian Oeller (“Merkel — Anatomy of a Crisis”), as “an extraordinary take on Germany’s biggest industry scandal.” The company has a series bible in hand and the project is ready to take to market, Kamm added.
Oeller is likewise penning “Wolfszeit — Germany 1945-1955,” an adaptation of Harald Jähner’s bestselling nonfiction book about Germany’s post-war society. The six-part anthology series chronicles a decade of unprecedented emancipation, lust for life and a new society in the making.
It was a period that was “so different to the reality that we have now.” Kamm explained. “Women basically ruled the country for so long. Men were just not present, they were either dead, lost at war or they were at home traumatized. Women took their lives in their own hands and ran the show, up until the point when the men came back and everything flipped backwards again. But the country was so emancipated, so much more emancipated than decades later.”
Real Film is partnering with Stampede Ventures and Berlin-based Jumpseat Film on “Immunity,” a coming-of-age family drama thriller set in Berlin’s diplomatic community. Written by Jumpseat’s Niels Laupert, the series follows three teenage friends, a British lad, an Iranian boy and a German girl involved in a three-way relationship who learn that, despite having diplomatic immunity, their actions have consequences.
“It looks at the world of diplomacy through the eyes of those kids and also tells the story of their parents and how that world shapes the kids,” Kamm noted. “We’re looking into a world that is more or less hidden, that has its own rules. It’s very sexy.”
Kamm added that collaborations with U.S. companies are becoming more common for the company. “There are European doors you can walk through but there are also American doors that you can walk through. You can nowadays team with an American company and it doesn’t seem as odd as it used to be. It’s really beautiful.”
Another major project in the works is “Money Made in Germany,” an eight-part series based in part on the leaked reports from the U.S. Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) documenting how more than $2 trillion was moved around in suspicious transactions across multiple global banks from 1999 to 2017. The series, which Real Film is developing in collaboration with a group of investigative journalists, will examine how money becomes power as it traces a vast international network that spans across Germany, Italy, Russia and Lebanon. “It’s a story that is German yet international,” Kamm adds.
Real Film is also tackling true crime at the time of German reunification with “The Pink Giant.” Written by Anja Flade-Kruse, the six-part series examines the first East German serial killer case to attract major media attention. From 1989 to 1991, Wolfgang Schmidt murdered five women and an infant near Berlin before finally being arrested. Schmidt was known as the “Pink Giant” in the media due to his large build and alleged penchant for wearing pink lingerie.
It’s not only the story of a serial killer, it’s also a story that offers a unique perspective on the cultural differences between West and East German society, Kamm said.
Real Film just wrapped another historical drama about the East-West divide, the €4 million ($4.7 million) TV event movie “3 1/2 Hours,” which will mark the 60th anniversary of the building of the Berlin Wall when it premieres on ARD’s Das Erste next year. Written by Robert Krause and Beate Fraunholz, the true story is told through the eyes of passengers on a train heading to East Berlin who, on Aug. 13, 1961, are faced with the decision of their life when they learn of the wall’s construction: Stay on board or disembark before the border.
On the international front, Real Film has also boarded season two of the New Zealand series “The Gulf,” in co-production with ZDF, Screentime NZ and Lippy Pictures. The series is currently shooting.
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