EXCLUSIVE: Netflix’s Director of Local Language Originals for the CEE, Anna Nagler, has outlined the streamer’s ambitions in region, as its biggest drama series from the region, High Water, launches globally today.
In an exclusive interview, Nagler said the streamer’s “doors are open” to creatives and their ideas in Central and Eastern Europe, as Netflix pushes into original shows from international territories despite the company’s well-documented stock price drop this year.
This comes after Netflix opened its regional CEE office in Poland this year. Since launching in Poland in 2016, the SVoD player has claimed to have invested more than 490M PLN ($115M) on original films and series such as erotic movie franchise 365 Days in the country, creating more than 2,600 jobs across the production sector in 2020 and 2021.
“Opening the Warsaw office was important but also we’re getting closer to the creative community in general,” Nagler told Deadline.
Her comments aped the tone EMEA series chief Larry Tanz took last week in an exclusive interview with Deadline when he said a previous international content approach of “’Hollywood comes to you’ has changed.”
“There’s an incredibly rich history of storytelling here,” said Nagler. “Our goal at Netflix is support our creative producers, scriptwriters and directors to help them bring their stories to life. My job is to listen to them, share our Netflix vision and put those two things together to bring the story to life.”
Her highest profile commission to date is six-part disaster drama High Water, which tells the story of the Millennium Flood that hit Poland and parts of Czech Republic and Germany in 1997 and took 114 lives. Directed by Jan Holoubek and Bartłomiej Ignaciuk, it stars the likes of Agnieszka Żulewska and Tomasz Schuchardt and is written by Kasper Bajon and and Kinga Krzemińska.
Nagler pointed to a screening last week in Wrocław, which had experienced some of the worst of the great flood. Around 1,000 people attended and many “responded immediately to what they were seeing on screen,” she said. “These people lived through it and it was very special to see.”
Netflix VP of Original Series for EMEA Tanz last week said High Water was among several shows on a European slate also including the likes of Germany’s 1899 and The Empress that prove the streamer is “doubling down on local authenticity.”
Nagler was keen to stress it is “business as usual” for her team following the changes to Tanz’s role last week, with the Amsterdam-based exec subsuming the film duties of the outgoing International Film boss David Kosse. Deadline broke the news of Kosse’s departure last Thursday.
The streaming service has several other Polish original series coming, including director Tadeusz Śliwa’s The Green Glove Gang, about a trio of robbers who hide out in a nursing home; and Dead End, about a group of strangers who accidentally make off with a car containing 2M PLN ($410,000) from a bank robbery, written by Kacper Wysocki (Queen) and newcomer Dorota Trzaska.
Also on the slate is Glitter, about three emancipated and sophisticated women in the 1970s who begin providing sexual services so they can enjoy everything life has to offer; and Bartek Prokopowicz’s 2023 series A Girl and an Astronaut, about a man who returns after 30 years in space having not aged at all still in love with the same woman.
Nagler has a unique view of Netflix’s progress in Poland, having joined the company in 2020 after producing the streamer’s second original series from the country, The Woods, for ATM Group. Earlier year, she unveiled an 18-title slate of films and series from the CEE’s biggest country by population and GDP, including Detective Forst, from noted Polish writer Remigiusz Mroz, and Tonight You Are Sleeping With Me, an adaptation of Anna Szczypczyńska’s romance novel helmed by Robert Wichrowski .
Opportunity beyond Poland
Nagler said it was on Netflix to ensure the service worked for viewers across the entire region. “Many people don’t know what the CEE really means — you can’t buy a ticket to the CEE,” she added. “We want all of our members across the region to have something they love to watch, whether that’s film or TV.”
To date in much of the CEE region, Netflix has to do focused on licensing content, from territories such as Czech Republic, Romania and Hungary. However, that could be set to change.
Nagler and Netflix International Director for Creative Growth Christopher Mack attended the Transilvania International Film Festival earlier this year to appeal to the local community there, hosting the event’s party, organizing a workshop and meeting with dozens of producers and creatives to hear their ideas.
“That was a great opportunity to learn from them,” said Nagler. “Some of their challenges are specific to Romania and others, like the scarcity of crew, are more general problems worldwide.”
Producers in Romania have been talking up the opportunity with Netflix and are hoping it can fill the void left by HBO Max, which will no longer commission in the CEE region after a strategic shift in continental Europe for Warner Bros. Discovery.
Nagler, a former HBO Europe exec, also attended the Serial Killer event at Berlinale in Germany with a licensing exec, where she met Czech and Slovakian creatives and listened to their creative challenges, and travelled to Israel with Tanz in late April on a local charm offensive.
Elsewhere in the interview, Nagler said Netflix continues to support the Ukrainian content industry as Russia’s invasion of the country grinds through its eighth month. In July, the streamer — via its Netflix Fund for Creative Equity — teamed with the Ukrainian Film Academy and the ‘House of Europe’ initiative to provide financial support, access to training and networking opportunities to Ukrainian artists in the country and those displaced around the world.
“Our acquisition team has also been working with producers to bring their programs to the service,” added Nagler.
Netflix suspended its service in Russia after the invasion began in February.