Beta places bet on English


CANNES -- German sales giant Beta Film and its production division, EOS, are turning to English-language productions in a bid to crack the difficult U.K. market.

EOS, for the first time, and production partner Teamworx will produce one of their big-budget miniseries entirely in English.

"Laconia," a two-part, 90-minute drama on the real-life sinking of a luxury liner by a German submarine in 1942, will be produced by EOS and Munich-based Teamworx with the BBC and German broadcasting organization ARD.

"Laconia" is set to begin shooting late next year. No talent is in place.

There also will be considerable English spoken in "Hindenburg," another big-budget, two-part miniseries from EOS/Teamworx. The project, which explores a conspiracy theory behind the tragic zeppelin disaster in May 1937, will be produced for RTL in Germany.

Although much of "Hindenburg" will be in Germany, producer Nico Hofmann said a significant portion of the mini will be set in the U.S. and feature American actors.

Roland Suso Richter, who directed the World War II mini "Dresden" for EOS/Teamworx, also has agreed to helm "Hindenburg." EOS is hoping for a similar success. In addition to being a ratings giant in Germany, "Dresden" was the first EOS television production to sell to the U.K., with Channel Four picking up the rights.

On the acquisitions side, Beta on Monday said it had picked up three new English-language shows for sale internationally, including the event miniseries "The Trojan Horse," from Canadian public broadcaster the CBC and two telefilms from Lifetime. In both cases, Beta acquired all rights outside of North America.

"This is an attempt to develop relationships with U.S. independent producers similar to the ones we enjoy with German content companies," said Dirk Schuerhoff, managing director of sales and acquisitions at Beta. "Ideally, we would like to move toward co-producing and co-financing English-language production out of the U.S."

EOS and Beta are best known on the international market for their miniseries and feature films set during WWII. In addition to "Dresden," EOS was a co-producer on the Oscar-nominated "Downfall," and its latest project is "March of Millions," about the expulsion of 12 million Germans from Eastern Europe at the end of WWII.