Hollywood takes Germans to showrunners school

Hollywood takes Germans to showrunners school

A leading German action-drama producer will be in Hollywood this week to pitch the idea of teaming up with a major studio to make new German drama concepts for the U.S. and global markets.

The move is the result of a unique initiative by the company to adopt a more aggressive U.S.-style production process.

Action Concept, one of Germany's largest independent companies, has made numerous hit action series for Germany's RTL. But it's now looking to break out of the German market -- and has been studying very closely how Hollywood continues to provide a steady stream of TV hits at home and abroad.

The company has even brought top U.S. showrunners to Germany to share insights with its producers and writers on how U.S. drama is made.

It is a major project for which Action Concept's founder, Hermann Joha, brought in MediaXchange, a well-known international media consultancy group that is based in London and Los Angeles.

MediaXchange founder and CEO Katrina Wood explains just how this German production initiative came to be. "MX has been addressing the gap between the industrial approach to the creative process, which underlies U.S. series television, and the European auteur approach, where individual writers often remain isolated and do not create in the collaborative manner of the USA."

She adds: "I felt there was a strong need for the influence of U.S. writer-producer-showrunners who could mold a more efficient approach to producing successful, long-running drama."

Action Concept's Joha also sees a need to move the local industry on to a more commercial axis where shows are conceived, developed and produced according to the U.S. model and have the ability to sell in the international marketplace.

It was just a matter of time before German producers reached out to the world market. Once almost entirely dependent on the U.S. for blue chip dramas, German producers are now among the world's most accomplished action-drama creators, but largely limited to the local market.

Emmy Award-winning executive producer Bill Finkelstein ("L.A. Law," "NYPD Blue") and executive producer Lee Goldberg ("Missing," "Monk," "Psych," "Martial Law," "Diagnosis Murder") have been in Cologne, where they have been conducting an intense training course on how the U.S. style of team writing works.

"(Action is) very successful in their own niche, but what they are hoping to be able to do is make the creative process more efficient and speed things up so that they can bring a project from conception to pitch then into development and on air much quicker," Wood says. She adds that if there is to be a really effective transatlantic production process, the Europeans will need to adapt to the more industrialized system of production in the U.S. in order to be able to produce the number of episodes that U.S. networks require.

Action Concept hopes to have about 30 writers trained in the U.S.-style writing and production process with at least three series sold and into production within the first year.

The aim of this week's delegation from Action Concept to Hollywood is to interest a studio in partnering on these new drama concepts out of Germany -- for worldwide sales, including the U.S. If successful, the move will represent a total turnaround for a country that little more than a decade ago was awash with U.S.-made series.