EXCLUSIVE: Members of the first ever Berlinale Series Award jury have predicted that TV awards could soon rival film at the world’s major festivals.
Former Yes Studios boss Danna Stern, Moonlight star André Holland and Danish writer Mette Heeno sat down with Deadline on day one of the Series Market – the TV section of the European Film Market – to discuss their role choosing the debut Berlinale Series Award winner, which is the first ever TV series award at an A-list festival. They forecasted more recognition for the small screen in the not-too-distant future.
“I have been doing international TV for years and the fact that an A-list festival is finally recognizing us and putting us at the same level as big budget films and filmmakers is really special,” said Stern. “I hope [other festivals] will follow suit.”
Stern said the “time feels right” for TV to be put in the same category as film. If the move had been made a decade earlier, she posited it would have been too early, but the Covid-19 pandemic unleashed a wave of top-quality global TV content.
Along with many of his acting peers, Holland, whose Damien Chazelle Netflix musical drama series The Eddy was in Berlinale competition three years ago, said he works across both TV and film interchangeably. “The barriers are getting thinner and thinner and it’s about time TV gets recognized,” he added.
Heeno, whose credits include Splitting Up Together and Snow Angels, predicted major markets like Berlin will soon offer more than one TV gong.
“In time we will have the likes of best actor, best actress, best cinematographer and best make-up [for TV],” said Heeno.
She cited BAFTA-winning All Quiet on the Western Front and Your Honor director Edward Berger as a textbook example of someone who is blurring the lines between the two mediums. Berger is riding high off the back of Netflix’s All Quiet’s multi-award-winning BAFTA performance and recently struck a deal with Fremantle for global TV and film projects.
Stern said she “cannot think of any recent director or writer who hasn’t said yes to a TV project if offered.”
Holland, Stern and Heeno have been busy scrutinizing two episodes of the seven TV shows in contention for the debut Berlinale Series Award, which is sponsored by Deadline.
The likes of HBO Max Cold War thriller Spy/Master, Disney+’s The Good Mothers and TV2’s Agent are shortlisted, while Frank Doelger’s big-budget eco-thriller The Swarm is playing out of competition.
Also in the mix is Chinese iQIYI drama Why Try to Change Me Now. Spotlighting a Chinese drama has been a new experience for the trio, with Holland conceding Chinese drama is “very new” to him and Stern saying she has never seen one.
“Because the streamers aren’t in China it’s really interesting to see the parallels between this show and [the streamers],” said Stern. “China has historically been so self contained.”
Elsewhere, both Disney+ Italy’s The Good Mothers and Prime Video India’s Dahaad (Roar) take traditionally male stories about the mafia and police respectively and reimagine them with female protagonists.
Stern said “most TV viewers are female so it makes sense to have female protagonists” while Heeno noted the trend has been in the offing for some time and stressed that it should be the norm.
“We’re biased in the way we talk about these things,” added Heeno. “We make out like it’s so special to have a ‘female detective’ but never use terms like ‘male detective.’ If a detective is male then he’s just a ‘detective’.”
Having also been part of the Series Mania jury and watched dozens of shows, Stern noted “female-centric” and “environmental” shows are having a moment, adding that the “Coda effect” has led to a number of projects about people with hearing disabilities.
The Berlinale Series Award, which will be handed out tonight at the Berlin Zoo Palast, has its shortlist rounded out by Stan drama Bad Behaviour and Viaplay’s Arkitekten (The Architect).
The jury all agreed that the tectonic plates of the TV landscape are shifting dramatically and they acknowledged multiple Berlinale Series Market discussions about how streaming strategy shifts and mass layoffs in the U.S. are impacting international.
“The U.S. is feeling a bit dead and there is lots of international funding now,” said Stern, who oversaw the likes of Fauda and Shtisel during her time helming Israel’s Yes Studios. “Multiple shows [in the U.S.]. are being pulled mid series. It does feel like the accountants have taken over from the creatives.”
Speaking shortly after Stern on a Series Market panel, Shades of Blue creator Adi Hasak branded U.S. TV a “disaster zone” and encouraged showrunners to relocate.
Meeno said European TV is also helped by cross-country co-production models such as The Alliance and Nordic 12, which allow smaller nations to contribute to bigger budget projects such as The Swarm.
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