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Berlin to go, english edition, 02/2017

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TALK OF THE TOWN CURTAIN

TALK OF THE TOWN CURTAIN UP ON BERLIN! Text: Eva Scharmann Photo: Frédéric Batier/X Filme The TV crime series “Babylon Berlin” brings 1920s Berlin back to life – and makes the city its biggest star Berlin is brimming with art, culture and creativity. Today, people are drawn to the city for the same reasons artists, intellectuals and cosmopolitans flocked here in the 1920s. Back then, the capital region was already a film metropolis, generating a string of cinema classics. In Tom Tykwer’s new TV series “Babylon Berlin,” the city assumes a leading role once again, this time as a haven for people longing for freedom and an open society. The series will no doubt enhance the global appeal of Berlin’s film industry – and boost tourism as well. Berlin, 1929. A city in a frenzy of pleasure and entertainment. A city of opposites where high society meets the underclass and friends and foes of the Weimar Republic fight each other on the streets. Raise the curtain on “Babylon Berlin,” the new TV series based on the novels of Volker Kutscher about a German detective named Gereon Rath. A collaboration between X Filme Creative Pool, ARD, Sky and Beta Film, the series depicts Berlin as the melting pot of its time. “Berlin was a magical city in that era, so it was clear it would play the leading role in the series,” notes Stefan Arndt, Managing Director of X Filme Creative Pool. With two seasons and a total of 16 episodes, the period drama was co-directed by Tom Tykwer, Henk Handloegten and Achim von Borries and is the most expensive German-language series of all time. X Filme head Arndt is confident that “Babylon Berlin” – which will be broadcast starting on 13 October 2017 on Sky Atlantic and on ARD in 2018 – “will be a big hit that unites German audiences’ love of crime shows with one of the most exciting eras in German and Berlin history.” The series will no doubt have an international appeal; shot over the course of 180 days in Berlin, Brandenburg and North Rhine-Westphalia, it has already been sold to several European countries as well as to Netflix in the USA, the motherland of the recent boom in TV series. 12

Berliners and Brandenburgers have long since gotten used to seeing film crews on every corner. Last year, film teams spent more than 5,000 days shooting in the region – a new record. It’s an ideal mix of business and high-end cinema: Berlin is the number-one location for film and TV productions in Germany with over 3,800 companies and a workforce of roughly 36,000. According to a study by Berlin’s Senate Department for Economics, Energy and Enterprises, the total annual turnover of Berlin’s film and TV industry rose by 8 percent to €3.8 billion from 2012 to 2014. “Film productions cost a lot in terms of time, nerves and money,” says Arndt. The federal states of Berlin and Brandenburg allocate €20 million in funding annually to the regional film and TV industry. With an annual budget of roughly €30 million, the Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg funds films and film-related projects and provides advice to filmmakers. The Medienboard is supporting the elaborate1920s Berlin crime series both financially – by means of €1.5 million per season – as well as logistically. Arndt singles out the “great support from the City of Berlin” for praise, noting that the direct link to Berlin’s Governing Mayor Michael Müller shows the extent to which the film industry in Berlin is given high priority. Kirsten Niehuus, head of film funding at the Medienboard, also emphasizes the importance of the film industry as an economic factor: “A series like ‘Babylon Berlin’ is a great job creator for the Berlin film and TV community, but it’s also an excellent means of promoting Berlin in a way that a traditional image campaign can’t achieve.” The series will also be showcased at the 50th anniversary of the Berlin-Los Angeles city partnership. A film gala will take place at the US premiere of “Babylon Berlin” on 6 October 2017 at the historic United Artists Theatre in L.A. A number of other events will celebrate the close relationship between the two cities. The Berlin and Brandenburg region continues to exert a strong magnetic appeal on producers from all over the world. “Babylon Berlin” also makes use of the area as an attractive backdrop: “From Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz all the way to Wannsee – the heroes in our series are always on the move throughout the city,” notes Arndt. In addition to shooting at original sites, X Filme worked with Studio Babelsberg to launch an ambitious project designed to faithfully reproduce the look of Berlin in 1929: “In 2016, our production designer Uli Hanisch created a ‘New Berlin Street’ for Studio Babelsberg that made it possible to shoot several different street scenes,” explains Arndt. Germany’s capital region has a long history of cinema excellence: the Studio Babelsberg film production company was founded back in 1912, and there were also film studios in Weißensee and Woltersdorf in the 1910s and 1920s. Cinema classics like “Nosferatu,” “Metropolis” and “M.” were made here at the time. Today, the region is entering a new golden era of film. Berlin and Brandenburg are the venue for several tradeshows and film festivals, including the Berlinale, as well as important film and TV production sites. In addition to Studio Babelsberg, the Adlershof Media City is the largest connected media location in Berlin. According to Medienboard head Niehuus, Berlin and Brandenburg will continue to be a sought-after address for the ongoing series boom: “Among others, the end-of-the-world drama ‘8 Tage’ (8 Days) is in the works in Berlin, and Christian Alvart’s new Netflix series ‘Dogs of Berlin’ is also on the starting block.” 13

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