Dark creator Baran bo Odar said he pored over fan theories when creating the second season of the German time-travel show, before abandoning his efforts to please fans.
Speaking at CanneSeries where he’s serving as president of the competition jury, Odar said: “We tried to listen to it and tried to create a season based on that, then we just realized this is never gonna work, you can’t satisfy everyone and we threw everything away, literally.” He and co-creator Jantje Friese then approached it differently. “Let’s pretend no one watched the show and what story do we want to tell? And then we went there and now never really think of the audience.”
But it was a hit in rural America, including places like Montana where the audience numbers provided to him by Netflix (which famously doesn’t supply numbers publicly) were a big surprise. International shows such as Dark or Spain’s Casa de Papel available on streamers have transformed the industry for filmmakers who are fleeing to the small screen seeking creative freedom. As a supernatural and kidnap thriller, Dark never would have had a chance on the big screen, he said.
The German duo were the first team to sign an exclusive multiyear series deal with Netflix. While the streamer has given them almost complete creative control, the audience penchant for binge-watching has created added pressure. “It’s great that our fans are demanding the second season, [but] sorry guys, we can’t just put it out there. You have to edit it, mix it, color grade it, there are processes and the audience doesn’t care when they binge-watch a show. They think in four weeks you should get the next season.”
He joked that the pressure will result in hospital or therapy, or waking up living every writer’s worst nightmare — having no ideas left.
The Sleepless director said TV is riding a “golden wave,” which may come to an end in two or three years as more players compete for audiences. “It’s insane how much is being produced right now,” with hundreds of shows in the works around the world. But he doesn’t see a return to traditional movie formats as they have become formulaic and uninteresting to a young audience.
Odar, who worked with the young stars on Dark, said they simply don’t go to movie theaters, instead relying on what is on the screen in their pocket for content. “The worst thing for me as a filmmaker is to watch on the iPhone but you can’t stop it. I think you have to adapt to it.” With movie attendance hitting all-time lows in Germany, he is unsure that the European film business will ever recover the momentum it’s lost to series.
The team is finishing the last two episodes of Dark‘s second season, with the release date announced soon, as well as working on the drama 1899, which follows various groups of immigrants on a transatlantic journey to pursue the American dream at the turn of the century. The multi-language drama is slated to debut next year.
The CanneSeries juror said that watching TV shows on the Palais’ massive screen had been a “really great experience” which allowed him to explore cultural differences with shows from around the world. “That’s why I think this festival is so exciting,” he said. “I’m always curious what the world is trying to tell story wise.”