All posts by DQ

Walking with Gigantes

Gigantes (Giants) director Enrique Urbizu takes us through the opening scene of the Movistar+ drama, which focuses on a family that runs a prestigious antiques business as a front for their drug empire.

The first minutes of a movie or show are decisive in establishing the tone, the heartbeat and, if you allow it, the style that should continue throughout the story. It is the entrance into history for the viewer, determining their first impressions.

Gigantes begins with the image of a puddle reflecting the cloudy sky of Madrid. There is also a dead bird. Three inverted figures approach until they are stood in the dirty water.

Enrique Urbizu

Two children follow their father, Abraham Guerrero, in a strange procession: in single file, the trio are dressed for mourning. The bells ring to mark death. It’s cold. Nobody talks, nobody cries. A fence encloses the frame.

The procession reaches the door of an old warehouse at the stone walls of the historical centre of Madrid. A wooden sign reads ‘Antigüedades Guerrero’ (Guerrero Antiques). Following a gesture from their father, the children stop by the door. Abraham enters. The children look in opposite directions: Daniel on the left and Tomás to the right of the frame.

Abraham comes out with an old leather suitcase, and the three continue on their way. Stone, wood and leather – textures of the warrior world – are visible.

Looming over the entrance to the Guerrero building is an image of Saturn Devouring His Son, originally painted by Spanish artist Francisco Goya, in the shape of a rosette. It represents the curse of the family – the father who consumes his descendants. This is an allegory that becomes the ‘soul’ of the first chapter of Gigantes and an anchor of meaning for the entire series.

Preceded by the shadow of Abraham, the sad procession enters a building and climbs the stairs; stairs that will be linked forever to their destinations. Dark, wet, eternal.

It’s an old-fashioned house, steeped in another time and with quality wood furniture – old Spanish. Cold light, cold day.

On the table is the suitcase, which is full of money. The children count bills. Tomás, the smallest, seems the most meticulous. Write carefully the figures in your notebook. Try to hide your tears.

Gigantes airs on Spanish network Movistar+

Abraham, sitting on his throne, watches over his territory. His presence imposes silence. In a corner of the room, a baby is stirring in his crib. He starts crying.

It has to be Daniel, the older brother, who cares for the little ones. “Today you can mourn your mother, tomorrow no longer. She does not cry anymore in this house,” Abraham dictates.

Emotions are buried; it’s forbidden to show any hint of weakness. The wild and permanent exercise of power through violence.

After burying their mother, the Guerrero brothers face a wild education, a sentence that marks them for the rest of their errant lives.

These first minutes condense some of the main narrative and aesthetic keys that make up the staging of Gigantes.

The series is stylised, tense, risky, adult and complex. We wanted to be more attentive to the characters than to the development of a criminal plot. The characters are what infect the character of the series.

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Enigmatic TV

Based on the book of the same name, The Flatey Enigma is an Icelandic mystery drama about Johanna (Lara Johanna Jonsdottir, Sense8), a mother who returns to home to bury her father.

After the funeral, she picks up his research into an ancient manuscript that posits a riddle pointing to the resting place of a Viking lord. She then continues his work to solve the puzzle, as police arrive on the island following the murder of someone else who was interested in the riddle.

In this DQTV interview, executive producer Kjartan Thor Thordarson introduces the series and talks about how it offers a viewers a slower pace and alternative visual style to other Scandinavian noir series.

The Flatey Enigma is produced by Sagafilm and Reykjavik Films for Icelandic public broadcaster RUV. Sky Vision is the distributor.

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Six of the Best: Zhanna Shakhshaeva

The head of the international department at Russian distributor All Media makes a selection of scripted shows worthy of binge-watching, including an Icelandic thriller, a Spanish prison drama and an award-winning US series.

Trapped
This drama was produced in Iceland. It enthrals with its fascinating photography and creepy feeling as it unravels the dark mystery behind a crime committed in a small town isolated from the rest of the world by snow storm. The story centres on a policeman who finds himself having to deal with a major crime for the first time. With no hope of outside help, he has to rely on his scarce experience and his best attributes – his honesty and his fidelity to his job. This drama stands out for its dark yet utterly realistic style. The viewer’s feelings are intensified by its atmosphere of reality, generating fear, sympathy for the heroes and a desire to learn the truth.

The Young Pope
Another drama with unquestionable style, The Young Pope reminds me of Italian cinema that savours each detail in every scene. This is the most intriguing series on the most complicated theme – religion. All the hidden problems and complexities of the Vatican are told in a surprisingly light manner through the main character who, despite occasionally declaring he doesn’t believe in God, suddenly becomes the new, youngest ever, Pope. Creator and director Paolo Sorrentino is a brave, ambitious filmmaker who dares to challenge stereotypes about the life of clergymen. In just one season, he brings up a bunch of hot-button topics: abortions, paedophilia, infertility and faith among churchmen.

Homeland
This American adaptation of the story born in Israel as Hatufim keeps up to date with real-world events, giving viewers the sense that its characters live next door and the action is happening right now. This involves you in the story and in the breathtaking conflict of the protagonist, Carrie (Claire Danes). She is constantly in the middle of a global conspiracy that threatens peace in her country, and is ready to sacrifice her life for her homeland at any minute. Yet we see how fragile her own world is: an incurable illness that threatens her whole career, a personal tragedy, and the constant struggle of raising her daughter and keeping her safe. Despite the overall political context, the conflict is very human. Homeland lets us sneak into the world of governors and decision-makers, but makes it clear that ordinary people – just like us – and seemingly small, insignificant events can change history.

Better Than Us
Russian drama Better Than Us (also pictured top) depicts a near future where people co-exist with human-like androids who become whatever we want, from home assistants to office employees. That provokes conflict with young people who blame robots for occupying their jobs and complicating their lives. These ‘perfect’ androids can have anything – apart from feelings. But what if they learn to feel? What if they have superior feelings and a superior mind? The drama intrigues with these questions, presenting a fantasy about a different world. It is performed perfectly by the actors, especially Paulina Andreeva (pictured) as the main female android. Produced by Yellow Black and White and Sputnik Vostok Production, Better Than Us will premiere in Russia soon.

Big Little Lies
I like the inverted way this story keeps you hooked the whole time. From the very first scene, you are dying to see the conclusion, when the truth will be unveiled. Every storyline matters and no detail is unnecessary. And the whole structure is built on one little lie that keeps viewers curious right up to the finale. Brilliant casting and storytelling makes every character central. The characters are key to the drama: although they are somewhat upper class, all are very real, alive and down to earth in a good way – even the ‘bad’ or broken ones.

Locked Up (Vis-à-Vis)
This Spanish series has proved popular around the world. It centres on a strong female character, a major trend nowadays that still has room for new interpretations and plots. The protagonist, charmed by her boss, commits tax crimes for him and ends up in prison, where she must rely on her toughness – it helps her overcome emotional shock, build relationships with her cellmates and simply survive. This combination of a fragile woman and a tough fighter is highly compelling. It makes you follow the whole story, as does the plot itself, which is full of twists and danger. Locked Up has the key combination for success – a well-written script and a bright protagonist whose desires and aspirations are very clear to any person in nearly any part of the world.

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Feeling Blue

Project Blue Book, a 10-part period drama, is based on the true, top-secret investigations into UFOs and related phenomena by the US Air Force in the 1950s and 1960s.

Inspired by the personal experiences of Dr J Allen Hynek, a college professor recruited to lead an operation codenamed Project Blue Book, each episode draws from the actual case files, blending UFO theories with authentic historical events.

In this DQTV interview, Aidan Gillen (Dr Allen Hynek), Laura Mennell (Mimi Hynek) and Michael Malarkey (Captain Michael Quinn) reveal how the series charts the emergence of the UFO phenomenon in the US, the hysteria it created and the government’s reaction to it.

Gillen talks about the influence of Steven Spielberg’s classic UFO film Close Encounters of the Third Kind and why he relishes playing real people on screen; while Mennell talks about how her character, Dr Hynek’s wife, is isolated in her domestic responsibilities until she goes on her own journey as her husband becomes involved in Project Blue Book.

Malarkey also discusses the show’s modern-day parallels, with Project Blue Book described as one of the first examples of ‘fake news.’

From executive producer Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future) and writers Sean Jablonski and David O’Leary, Project Blue Book is produced by A+E Studios in association with Compari Entertainment for History. A+E Networks distributes the series internationally.

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Telling the truth

In the early 1980s, AIDS emerged and quickly became an epidemic. Those responsible for public safety failed, leading to thousands of deaths and the spread of a second virus, hepatitis C, which infected tens of thousands more.

Limited series Unspeakable is told from the perspective of two families caught in a tragedy that gripped a nation, as well as the doctors, nurses, corporations and bureaucracy responsible for the subsequent cover-up and scandal. The series follows the decades-long saga as people struggled to survive, change the system and battle for compensation for those who desperately needed it.

In this DQTV interview, star Sarah Wayne Callies (The Walking Dead) and creator, writer and executive producer Robert C Cooper (Stargate SG-1) talk about how the series explores the effects of this tragedy across a lifetime, starting from the beginning in 1982 as it follows the fight for justice, compensation and the truth.

As a victim of the scandal himself, Cooper talks about researching the project and bringing this story to the screen, while Callies, who plays Margaret, reveals why she didn’t speak to the real people involved for fear of her performance becoming an impression of them.

Unspeakable is produced by Mezo Entertainment for CBC in Canada and SundanceTV in the US. It is distributed by AMC Studios outside of Canada.

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Brittain’s Clique

University-set drama Clique is described as a seductive psychological thriller that explores the power of friendships among smart, complicated and ambitious young people on the cusp of adulthood.

Season one, which debuted on UK online network BBC3 in 2017, saw childhood friends Georgia (Aisling Franciosi) and Holly (Synnøve Karlsen) drawn into an elite group of girls after enrolling at Edinburgh University.

The show returned for a second season last November, in which Holly returns and encounters a group of men that leads her to become involved in a campus-wide scandal.

In this DQTV interview, writer, creator and executive producer Jess Brittain talks about how her own experiences at university inspired the series and discusses her fondness of dramas that are brave and thought-provoking, citing HBO’s Sharp Objects as a recent example.

She also sheds light on her writing process and reveals what she thinks is the key to successfully developing a television drama.

Clique is a Balloon Entertainment and BBC Studios drama for BBC3. The distributor is All3Media International.

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Best of the best

Some of the television industry’s biggest names reveal their choice of the most influential drama of the past 21 years.

Highlighting shows from The Sopranos to The West Wing, Lost to Friends, Seinfeld, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Game of Thrones, The Bridge, Mad Men, Dexter and others, leading writers, showrunners, producers and network execs pick over the titles that have been most transformative for the business. But what is their ultimate choice?

This DQTV special features contributions from: actors Michael C Hall and Jimmy Akingbola; Jack Ryan creators Carlton Cuse and Graham Roland; Netflix VP of international originals Erik Barmack; Narcos showrunner Eric Newman; AMC Networks programming chief David Madden; Paramount Network senior VP of scripted development Ted Gold; Scrubs and Spin City creator Bill Lawrence; The Mysteries of Laura creator Jeff Rake; Castle creators Terri Edda Miller and Andrew Marlowe; writer Danny Brocklehurst; Red Production Company founder Nicola Shindler; and many more.

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Stiller breaks out

Escape at Dannemora is a Showtime miniseries based on the stranger-than-fiction true story of a prison break in Upstate New York in 2015 that led to a statewide manhunt for two convicted murderers who escaped with help from a married female prison employee.

In this DQTV interview, Ben Stiller talks about directing the “fascinating” seven-part drama. He recalls how he initially turned the project down before the release of an official report into the escape prompted him to seek the “real story” behind the incident.

He also discusses casting Benicio Del Toro, Paul Dano and Patricia Arquette in the lead roles, and how his reputation as a comedy actor gave way to the dark and heavy themes of a series set in prison.

Escape at Dannemora is executive produced and directed by Stiller and produced by Michael De Luca Productions, Red Hour Productions and Showtime for the US premium cable channel. CBS Studios International distributes.

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Reinventing Agatha Christie

Beginning with And Then There Were None in 2015, UK producer Mammoth Screen and screenwriter Sarah Phelps have reinvented several classic Agatha Christie stories for BBC1.

This Christmas, they return with their fourth collaboration, Poirot thriller The ABC Murders.

In this DQTV interview, Mammoth MD Damien Timmer talks about the company’s approach to adapting Christie, what Phelps brings to the titles and how each miniseries takes a different view of events of the 20th century.

The ABC Murders is produced by Mammoth Screen and Agatha Christie Ltd for BBC1 and Amazon Prime Video, and distributed by Endeavor Content.

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Taking a Fall

Insoupçonnable writer Virginie Brac explains how this adaptation of British thriller The Fall was reimagined for a French audience.

When BBC crime thriller The Fall first launched in 2013, the five-part series was considered a step up for the genre as it presented events from the perspective of both the serial killer stalking his victims and the detective brought in to catch him.

The show, created by Allan Cubitt and produced by Artists Studio, subsequently ran to three seasons on BBC2 as viewers watched the complex and emotional relationship between Paul Spector (Jamie Dornan) and DSI Stella Gibson (Gillian Anderson) as the hunt for the killer reached its denouement.

Known for its blend of compelling psychological story and slow-building tension, the mystery lay not in whodunnit but ‘whydunnit,’ and its success led to a French remake, Insoupçonnable (Unsuspected).

In the TF1 version, criminologist Chloé Fisher (played by Emmanuelle Seigner) is sent to Lyon to investigate the murder of Alice Moreau, the daughter-in-law of powerful local MP Damien Moreau, when a second murder quickly confirms her theory that a serial killer is on the loose.

On the other side of the city, psychiatrist Paul Brodsky (Melvil Poupaud) is a loving father with a terrible secret – he’s a serial killer.

Produced by Endemol Shine France label Leonis for TF1, it is distributed by Endemol Shine International.

Here, screenwriter Virginie Brac, with a contribution from producer Jean Benoit Gillig, talks to DQ about remaking The Fall and how the original series was translated for French audiences.

How did you first become involved in Insoupçonnable?
Virginie Brac: It all started when Jean Benoit Gillig, the producer, called my agent with the project of adapting this very special, slow and dark series for TF1, the biggest network in Europe.

Had you seen the original British version of The Fall? What were your impressions of it?
Of course I had! How could I miss it? I loved it!

How did you approach remaking it for French audiences?
The first thing was I pointed out the cultural differences between the English and French, the most obvious being the police system. I had to make this very British show as French as possible to appeal to the audience here. In our business, we underestimate the dramaturgic power of cultural differences. We tend to think the global American culture will appeal to everyone. I don’t believe that’s the case – it’s just a uniform we put on our shows.

How would you describe Chloé Fisher and Paul Brodsky, the drama’s main characters?
They are two narcissistic antagonists, both very much aware that they’re special, different. They find in each other the perfect opponent.

What changes did you make from the original series for French audiences and why?
We changed the pace. As much as I loved the slow rhythm of the original, it wasn’t for a big network like TF1. Through the views of this beautiful city, Lyon, we also gave it a lightness, an elegance. The French show is also shorter  – 10 episodes for the two seasons instead of 11. And, of course, all the police work, which is much more thorough in the French show.

Insoupçonnable moves at a faster pace than the original The Fall

How would you describe your writing process?
I started every morning checking on Alan Cubitt’s scripts for the scenes I was planning to write. They are so incredibly well written and powerful. Then I would go on with my own interpretation of his story.

Did you discuss your work with him?
Yes. Out of respect for his work, I wanted to tell him why I would change things. We understood each other.

How did you use Lyon as the backdrop for the series?
Series producer Jean Benoit Gillig: We felt Lyon was a strong choice for the adaption as it suits the more mainstream audience of TF1. The city couldn’t be more different from Belfast [the setting of the original].  While it’s just as steeped in history, Lyon is the city of magical colours and light and where cinema was born.

What were the biggest challenges writing the series?
Making it believable without scaring the audience off. Violence on screen is a very sensitive issue for a French audience, so the risk of losing our audience in the first 15 minutes was high. It was a real challenge for TF1, and for me. We treated this issue very carefully and I’m pleased to say the audience remained.

What do you think are the most important things to consider when remaking a foreign series?
Cultural differences, of course. We are not alike, and it’s a beautiful thing!

Watch the trailer for the original series below.

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Wilson on Wilson

BBC miniseries Mrs Wilson sees actor Ruth Wilson (The Affair, Luther) lead the cast in a story based on the life of her own grandmother.

Set between the 1940s and the 1960s in London, the series follows Alison Wilson (Wilson), who thinks she is happily married until her husband dies and a woman turns up on her doorstep claiming that she is the real Mrs Wilson. Alison is determined to prove the validity of her own marriage – and Alec (Iain Glen)’s love for her – but is instead led into a world of disturbing secrets.

Alexander Wilson was a writer, spy and secret service officer who served in the First World War before moving to India to teach as a professor of English Literature, where he began writing spy novels. In the 1930s he enjoyed great success with his novels being reviewed in The Telegraph, Observer and the Times Literary Supplement, among others. He passed away in 1963.

In this DQTV interview, Wilson and fellow executive producer Ruth Kenley-Letts discuss bringing this extraordinary true story to the screen and how screenwriter Anna Symon used Alison’s own memoir as the basis for the script.

Wilson also talks about balancing acting and exec producing the drama, which is both a mystery and a thriller as Alison comes to terms with her husband’s secrets.

Coproduced with Masterpiece for PBS, Mrs Wilson also stars Keeley Hawes, Anupam Kher and Fiona Shaw. It is directed by Richard Laxton (Mum) and produced by Jackie Larkin (Strike). Also among the exec producers are Neil Blair (Strike) and Lucy Richer for the BBC and Rebecca Eaton for Masterpiece at WGBH Boston.

Mrs Wilson is a production by Snowed-In Productions for the BBC and Masterpiece. All3Media International is handling the international rights.

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Home truths

National Geographic drama The Long Road Home recalls the real story of April 4, 2004, when a group of US soldiers on a peacekeeping mission in Iraq were ambushed by insurgents, leading to a harrowing rescue and resulting in the deaths of several soldiers on what would become known as Black Sunday.

The ensemble cast includes Michael Kelly, Jeremy Sisto, Jason Ritter, Noel Fisher, Patrick Schwarzenegger, Kate Bosworth, Sarah Wayne Callies and EJ Bonilla.

In this DQTV interview, creator and showrunner Mikko Alanne recalls how he was inspired by Martha Raddatz’s factual book about the events. He talks about balancing the stories of the soldiers with those of the families they left behind in the US, and the responsibility he carried by dramatising a true story.

Alanne also discusses blending narrative and documentary filmmaking techniques in The Long Road Home and the support provided by Nat Geo.

The Long Road Home is produced by Phoenix Pictures for National Geographic and distributed by Fox Networks Group Content Distribution.

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Godfather of Spain

In Spanish drama Gigantes (Giants), brotherly love is in short supply as Isak Férriz, Daniel Grao and Carlos Librado play three brothers raised in the shadow of a cruel father (Jose Coronado).

The Guerrero brothers inherited full control of the entry of cocaine into Europe through Spain from their all-powerful father, Abraham. Together, they eliminated rival families – but when older brother Daniel (Férriz) leaves jail after 15 years, their fraternal war will sink to new depths as he seeks to recover his place in the family.

In this DQTV video, Férriz and writer Miguel Barros discuss this six-part story of ambition and family in-fighting, which they compare to King Lear and The Godfather.

Férriz reveals why he was keen to work with directors Enrique Urbizu and Jorge Dorado, while Barros explains how Gigantes breaks the mould of Spanish drama with a fresh perspective in a well-trodden genre.

Gigantes is produced by Telefonica Studios and Lazona Producciones for Movistar +, and distributed by About Premium Content.

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Space race

With credits including Star Trek: The Next Generation, Babylon 5 and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, writer Marc Zicree is a veteran of science-fiction television.

In this DQTV interview, he talks about the origins of his new series Space Command and explains how he sought the help of fans to bring it to life by crowdfunding for its initial financing.

He also talks about how the pilot season in the US has changed amid the wave of new broadcasters and streaming platforms looking for new series, and how sourcing financing from the audience empowers him to create new content.

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Ripple effect

A year on from winning the C21 Drama Series Script Competition at Content London, Michele Giannusa is on the write track. She tells DQ about the origins of her winning project and offers her advice to this year’s finalists.

It is one year on from the moment Michele Giannusa’s name was called out as the winner of C21’s Drama Series Script Competition 2017. In the intervening 12 months, she has worked with global producer and distributor Entertainment One (eOne) to develop her script and has pitched her series to broadcasters and SVoD platforms including Fox and Netflix.

But for the writer, that winning moment still remains all too unbelievable, much like everything that has happened since. “It was so surreal,” she recalls. “I never went to Content London thinking I would win, I just thought it was a good opportunity and I was really happy to be able to do it. The actual pitch part was very scary and not something most typical writers do – we’re quite isolated and don’t talk to tons of people! I also wanted to make sure I was giving a bit of personal story to let people know how the project came about. So when they called my name, it was really one of the most amazing feelings.”

Giannusa (pictured above left alongside eOne’s Polly Williams) says she was amazed at how people responded to her script, with a constant stream of Content London delegates approaching her to talk about it. “This was a five-minute pitch and I felt like there was this personal touch for people. There’s nothing I want more than to be able to make this show, and it feels like we’re getting closer to that possibly happening.

Michele Giannusa is revealed as last year’s Drama Series Script Competition winner

“As a writer, you just want people to respond to your work and feel like they get it and see something in the story that connects them to their own lives. Once I knew I won, I felt, ‘I think I have a chance to make this show.’ It was one of the most incredible feelings ever.”

Her winning script, Ripple, follows four different people going through different stages of grief – one character loses his wife suddenly, another is going through a divorce, one suffers a miscarriage and the fourth has lost their job. It was an emotional state shared by Giannusa when she first conceived the idea, having come out of a “brutal” divorce shortly before she moved to LA.

She found comfort in a support group, something that is also featured in Ripple, which examines how people can find support from strangers. As the plot progresses, “it shows how we can be hopeful and things can start to turn around,” Giannusa explains. “That’s the biggest part of the pilot for me, and that’s where it came from.”

Her prize for winning the competition was a deal with eOne. She worked with Jeff Boone, eOne’s global scripted development manager (now head of development for Jane Tranter and Julie Gardner’s transatlantic production company Bad Wolf), who Giannusa says became her “partner” on the project.

“We went into meetings with production companies, we did pitches together with networks,” she says. “He has to get the accolades because he was constantly checking in. We were always on the same page. Jeff never made me feel intimidated or felt he had to speak for me. He let me do my thing. There was a lot of respect there for each other and, having had other experiences with people from other companies, it’s not always the case. Sometimes you get someone you don’t pair with so well. I’m very grateful to have had someone who initially just believed in the project and who saw exactly what I wanted to do.”

With the project now being considered by several networks and streaming services, Giannusa would likely be paired with an experienced showrunner to steer the drama through production should it be picked up to series. “I just want to be as involved as I can be,” she says. “For the most part, writers want to run their own show. I just want to learn from someone who’s been in the business, who knows what they’re doing and can appreciate what I’m trying to do with this show.”

Originally from New York, Giannusa has lived in LA for the past four years. She has an agent, recently signed a manager and has been busy with meetings about potential writers room opportunities that crop up with the avalanche of new series debuting in the US every autumn. Prior to the C21 Drama Script Series Competition, Giannusa had also won a place on an NBCUniversal’s Writers on the Verge scheme, as well as becoming a finalist in similar competitions organised by HBO, Disney/ABC and Fox.

She has several other scripts in development, but while Ripple is very much about friendships turning into family, Giannusa’s other properties look at a different aspect of family – siblings. Ladies of Cambridge is about four sisters who, 10 years earlier, suffered the shock of their father killing their mother and then himself. Now these women, aged between 19 and 22, are facing separating from each other for the first time.

The second project, Lucid, deals with a father suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and his adult children who are dealing with their past.

This year’s finalists (L-R): Samuel Garza Bernstein (The Secret World of Danny Rizik – US), Alice Burden (On Solstice Hill – UK), Carolyn Kras (The Second City – US), Phil Mulryne (Switches – UK), and Jan Smith (Parasomnia – UK)

“There’s always an underlying grief tone in the things I write because I’m really fascinated by the way people handle it,” Giannusa says. “Every one of us is going to face it at some point. Do you accept what it is or try to fight it and prolong the whole experience?”

But while the subject matter might be dark, for the writer, these series are all about creating characters who are relatable, whatever situation they might face. “I just love writing characters and what makes them tick,” she says. “Any time you watch something, if you’re disinterested 15 minutes in, the guarantee is it’s because the characters are not written well. You just don’t care about them. My goal is to make you want to tune in next time. Are you going to care enough to want to know what’s going to happen? Grief is a theme but it’s just about the characters.”

From more than 200 entries, five new finalists have been chosen for the C21 Drama Series Script Competition 2018, produced in association with Script Angel. They will pitch their scripts during this year’s final today before the result is announced during C21 Media’s International Drama Awards tomorrow. The winner will collect a US$10,000 prize and development option through C21 WritersRoom.

Giannusa’s message to this year’s finalists is, simply, open up to the whole experience, rather than focusing on the pitch itself. “I went in, did my best and then let it go. Because once you do the work, once you’ve written the script, once you go up there and do your thing, at that point just let it go and be able to take it in,” she says.

“There were many times through the competition where I would stop and be like, ‘I need to take in the fact I’m in London talking to people about a television show I wrote and, regardless of the outcome, appreciate the fact I’ve got here.’

“There are so many writers I know who work for decades and just don’t get a break. If you’ve got there and you’ve got to that competition, that’s huge.

“Appreciate the fact that has happened because that means something and it certainly should help to validate your writing and let you know you’re on the right track. Just don’t have expectations. Go and take it in.”

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All at sea

Inspired by Wolfgang Petersen’s iconic film and Lothar-Günther Buchheim’s bestselling novel, Das Boot brings the reality of the Second World War to life with two storylines running parallel on land and sea.

In autumn 1942 in occupied France, U-612 is ready for its maiden voyage, preparing to head into the increasingly brutal battle with its young crewmen, including new commander Klaus Hoffmann (Rick Okon).

Meanwhile, at the port of La Rochelle, the world of Simone Strasser spirals out of control as she is engulfed in a dangerous liaison and forbidden love, torn between her loyalty to Germany and the Resistance, and causing her to question everything.

In this DQTV interview, Okon (Tatort) and Tom Wlaschiha (Game of Thrones) set the scene for the story and how it reinterprets Petersen’s movie.

They also discuss the mental and physical challenges of filming in claustrophobic conditions, and explain why they believe this is an exciting time for actors in international television.

Das Boot is coproduced by Bavaria Fiction, broadcaster Sky Deutschland and distributor Sonar Entertainment, which has sold the series into more than 100 territories worldwide.

The drama debuts on Sky in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, the UK and Ireland tomorrow and in Italy in December. It will air in the US on Hulu.

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Six of the Best: Oriana Kujawka

The head of series development at Polish broadcaster TVN reveals her top half-dozen dramas, including a childhood favourite, an Israeli thriller and some award-winning US series.

4 Alternatywy Street
This is one of my childhood memories. There were only two programmes on TV and the whole family watched them – nobody had even dreamt of Netflix. A wonderful series from Stanislaw Bareja, 4 Alternatywy Street is a portrait of Poland in the 1980s, shown in a distorting mirror, but at the same time a hilarious metaphor for the world of that time. It’s about a block of flats and the people living in it, all different and distrustful of each other, and a janitor who becomes the self-proclaimed king of the whole building. When it was on, the streets of the cities were empty and fragments of dialogues entered the colloquial language. It is still repeated on various TV channels and continues to be funny.

Your Honor
It was a real shock to me when I watched this outstanding Israeli series at the Séries Mania Festival in Paris. Each scene was better than the last. I am sure that I will never forget it. A teenage son of a respected judge causes an accident and after only 15 minutes we know perfectly well that he’s in big trouble, and whatever he or his father does makes the situation even worse. There seems to be no good choice or solution for them. There is astonishing storytelling discipline, with not a single unnecessary shot, nor a single unnecessary word. Thrills guaranteed.

The Night Of
A crime story with a balance of humour and drama, The Night Of was thorough at picturing people. It keeps the viewer present and waiting until the very last scene, although it has quite a reasonable pace. You will remember the details of the scenes even after many years. There is no rush, just enough time to move away from the intrigue for a moment so that the viewer can stay with one of the characters outside the main plot, understand who they are and what drives them – a great inspiration for thinking about the motivations of characters.

Big Little Lies
Take everyday life, mix it with male aggression and a woman’s powerlessness, add problems with bringing up children and unfulfilled professional ambitions and you have what you need: a world-class series that keeps your attention from the first to the last shot. However, you’ll only be able to see the whole picture after watching every episode. Each female character has a beautiful coat, devoted partner and wise children. But underneath, there is a whole lot of poignancy, fighting among the parents and the worst secrets ever – a punishment for being a woman.

Curb Your Enthusiasm
There are no limits for Larry David’s jokes. What’s more, they are really great. Curb Your Enthusiasm has now aired for nine seasons, with a 10th on the way. And that, I hope, is not the last. It makes me laugh to tears – Larry and his friends who always offer advice and, of course, only plunge him deeper into trouble. I’m impressed with the precision of the scripts, as although much of the dialogue is improvised, I can see the iron structure of each episode and the whole series.

Veep
Politics with the beautiful smile of Julia Louis-Dreyfus. I love this weird world, full of awkwardness and the realistic streams of dialogues. How well it is done! And although it is so close to us, it still maintains this perfect distance. Absurd life in a nutshell. An outstanding series.

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Speaking Frankie

Canadian period drama Frankie Drake Mysteries sees Lauren Lee Smith star as the titular Frankie, who sets up a detective agency with her friend Trudy Clarke (Chantel Riley). The show follows the city’s only female private detectives as they take on the cases the police don’t want to touch.

In this DQTV interview, Smith (This Life, The Listener) reveals how she accepted the role of Frankie after reading just five pages of the script and why she was drawn to starring in a show that is female-led both in front of and behind the camera.

She discusses how becoming a mother has changed her tastes in television and why she was looking to play a part in a more light-hearted and fun series when Frankie Drake Mysteries came along.

The actor also talks about how the role brought her out of her comfort zone, from learning to ride a motorbike to taking up boxing training, and why the series appeals to international audiences.

Frankie Drake Mysteries is produced by Shaftesbury in association with CBC and UKTV, and distributed by Kew Media Distribution.

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Bi the way

Desiree Akhavan (The Miseducation of Cameron Post, Appropriate Behaviour) co-writes, directs and stars in The Bisexual, a comedy-drama that offers a raw, funny and unapologetic take on the “last taboo” – bisexuality – and the prejudices, shame and comic misconceptions that surround it.

Akhavan, in her first television project, plays Leila, who has decided to take a break from her long-term relationship with her girlfriend and business partner Sadie (Maxine Peake). She then begins sleeping with men and comes out as bisexual to her gay friends, as the series explores the differences between dating men and women from the perspective of someone who is doing both.

In this DQTV interview, Akhavan talks about the personal story behind the concept for the series and explains why she wanted to see greater representation of bisexuals on screen.

She discusses her role behind the scenes and the female-led team she put together to make the six-part series, and outlines why she believes storytelling is seeing “a new wave” as viewers no longer want to see the same stories, narratives and faces time and time again.

Akhavan also opens up about the types of stories that interest her and how she is striving for greater diversity on screen.

The Bisexual is produced by Sister Pictures-owned Hootenanny for Channel 4 in the UK and Hulu in the US, and distributed by All3Media International.

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Educating on Informer

Character-driven thriller Informer tells the story of Raza, a young, second-generation Pakistani man from East London who is forced to go undercover in the fight against terror after being arrested.

The show follows the fall-out for Raza, his family and those around him as he works as an informer for a counter-terrorism officer.

In this DQTV interview, Sunetra Sarker, who plays Raza’s mother Sadia, discusses her character and explains why she was drawn to a script she says is layered with “loyalty and deception.”

Executive producer Nic Brown also talks about why the series focuses on the war on terror at street level, and the decision to set the story in an unfamiliar London not usually seen on screen.

Sarker also discusses how television drama is becoming more representative and the “refreshing” types of stories and characters now being portrayed on screen.

Informer is produced by Neal Street Productions for BBC1 and Amazon Prime Video and distributed by All3Media International.

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