The Swarm: German television adapts a best-selling science fiction novel into English | Television industry

It topped Germany’s bestseller list for eight months, and much to local excitement Frank Schätzing’s sci-fi page turner Der Schwarm is in the process of being turned into an eight-part drama series for German public service broadcaster ZDF.

But in a first for the country, the prime-time TV adaptation will be filmed in English rather than German. Der Schwarm becomes The Swarm in response to market changes induced by streaming services and as part of ZDF’s plan to secure significant international sales. The show will be dubbed for German audiences from its two channels and captioned on ZDF’s video-on-demand service.

Alexander Karim, who plays Dr Sigur Johanson, in German channel ZDF’s English production of The Swarm Photography: Andreas Franke / ZDF and Andreas Franke

Another sign of the broadcaster’s global ambitions, in partnership with German independent filmmaker Beta, he hired one of the most famous names in American television, Frank Doelger, the triple Emmy-winning producer of Game of Thrones, for a joint venture in which The Swarm is supposed to be the first of many German-led productions in English.

Schätzing’s book, first published in 2004 in Germany and Austria and which sold over 4.5 million copies, has been praised for its scientific accuracy in describing geology and geology. marine biology behind a fictional series of global events found in history to be caused by a hitherto unidentified entity living in the depths of the sea.

Speaking at a € 23million underwater studio on the outskirts of Brussels where the final scenes of the first series of The Swarm were being filmed, Doelger said ZDF’s decision reflected the difficulties of European public broadcasters in buy high quality dramas in the age of streaming.

Underwater shooting for The Swarm.
Underwater shooting for The Swarm. Photography: Fabio Lovino

“A lot of broadcasters realized that with the advent of streaming services, the kind of projects they were buying in the UK or the US – the high-quality, high-production English series that were very important. for a younger audience, and a more international audience – they weren’t going to buy anymore.

“As an example, I think Game of Thrones has sold to over 240 broadcasters around the world, and if I understand correctly, HBO is now making a prequel that they won’t sell to any of those broadcasters – they’ll keep it. mainly for HBO Max [a subscription streaming service]. So that means there are going to be these holes in the schedules. “

Doelger said he did not believe there would be opposition in Germany to the new idea of ​​German-led productions shot in English. “I think there isn’t the resistance you would expect because these projects were specifically designed to fill a gap in their timeline.

“No local producer who does the standard German TV rate would agree to something like that. It’s not that they tell local producers that they are not going to support the local language, we just take the time to antenna and the money allocated to acquisitions and the creation of projects.

Léonie Benesch, who plays Charlie Wagner.
Léonie Benesch, who plays Charlie Wagner. Photography: Andreas Franke / ZDF and Andreas Franke

The new drama, whose cast includes Leonie Benesch, who played Prince Philip’s sister Cécile in The Crown, was primarily filmed in the Italian regions of Lazio, Veneto and Puglia, but Northern Ireland, the HBO’s choice for Game of Thrones, had been a contender.

“The situation with Northern Ireland has unfortunately become more complicated after Brexit,” Doelger said. “All of the rules and regulations regarding round trips of equipment, transport from Northern Ireland, have become something much more complicated and I know in Game of Thrones you know what made that possible, we could put actors on a plane either to Belfast or drive them to Dublin, [and] make them work in Spain.

The Swarm plays on the concept that reckless treatment of the oceans will have unintended consequences, a theme that particularly resonated with Doelger, he said, in light of Sir David Attenborough’s call for a ban on deep-sea mining on “potentially disastrous” risks. to its ecosystems.

Doelger said he avoided relying too much on parallels to the Covid pandemic and man-made climate change.

The BBC is in talks to purchase the rights to the series, which Doelger said was “character driven” and, like Game of Thrones, could and do work.

“When I first read the novel I thought it was a wonderful example of an intelligent life force that has been on this planet and responsible for the evolution of the sea man. and the well-being of the oceans, is a force of good and love but also, like a vengeful God, he will seek revenge on those who pervert the natural order.

The joint venture producing The Swarm, Intaglio, is led by Doegler and Eric Welber of NDF International Production. Along with ZDF, which is the first broadcaster, the other partners in the project are France Télévisions, Rai in Italy, Austrian broadcaster ORF, SRF in Switzerland, Nordic Entertainment Group based in Stockholm and Hulu Japan.

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