Tag Archives: Jailers

Jail time

Brazilian series Carcereiros (Jailers) is building on the current trend for prison dramas by presenting events from the unique viewpoint of those charged with keeping the peace between inmates. DQ hears from the writing team behind the show.

With the success of Orange is the New Black and Wentworth, the return of Prison Break, and shows such as Spain’s Vis a Vis (Locked Up) and Brazil’s Supermax breaking out around the world, the current prison drama trend shows no sign of slowing down.

Last September, Brazilian network Globo launched Supermax, which blended reality and fiction as 12 people take part a reality show set in a former prison, all with one thing in common – they have committed a serious crime. When the production team suddenly disappears amid a series of strange events, they discover that in order to win the prize money, they will have to get out alive.

Globo is now following up that show with another prison-set series, Carcereiros (Jailers). It launched on digital platform Globo Play on June 5 and will air on the main network in 2018.

Fernando Bonassi (left) and Marcal Aquino

Inspired by Dráuzio Varela’s novel of the same name, it stars Rodrigo Lombardi as Adriano, a correctional officer who endures the difficulties of prison life – both his own and those of the inmates.

Adriano is charged with keeping the peace inside the jail but also faces pressures in his home life, from his wife who wants a baby, to his teenage daughter and his father, a former jailer himself. Tested daily with ethical and moral dilemmas, he lives between walls and prison bars, weapons, threats and conflicts – both human and psychological.

Writer Marçal Aquino explains: “The series revisits the prison system’s universe, but this time from the perspective of a correctional officer. We created characters who narrate the hardships of everyday life in prison, showing the clashes and tension between state and crime.”

Co-writer Fernando Bonassi adds: “The reality of Brazilian prisons – which manifests itself almost daily in the form of riots, massacres and prison breaks – influenced us more than the available fiction like books, movies, plays and series.”

Produced by broadcaster Globo and Gullane/Spray Films, Carcereiros is distributed internationally by Globo. It was the only Latin American production to be selected for this year’s MipDrama Screenings in Cannes and was subsequently awarded the Grand Jury Award (full episodes category).

Here, Aquino, Bonassi and Dennison Ramalho, who wrote the drama with Marcelo Starobinas, reveal more about how the series was developed.

Jailers stars Rodrigo Lombardi as correctional officer Adriano

What are the origins of the show?
The series was loosely inspired by the book Carcereiros, written by Dráuzio Varella.

How was the story developed for Globo?
To speak about a character who lives among prisoners, but not as one of the convicts, we worked with [writer] Dennison Ramalho to develop plots that show how such a stressful and threatening atmosphere lingers beyond the protagonist’s work environment, as he ends up ‘imprisoning’ his family.

How would you describe your writing process?
After the synopses were drafted, we wrote the scripts in collaboration with screenwriter Marcelo Starobinas.

How did you work with the director to develop the visual style and tone of the series?
The script served as the basis for the director and his team to work freely on the design of the series’ visual concept and also to guide them in setting its tone.

Who are the lead cast members?
The cast features Rodrigo Lombardi (Hidden Truths, India – A Love Story) as the jailer Adriano. Also cast in key roles are Othon Bastos (Empire), Mariana Nunes, Giovanna Ríspoli (Total Dreamer), Tony Tornado (The Enchanted Tale) and Lourinelson Vladmir. Other cast members include Leticia Sabatella (The Clone), Ailton Graça (Empire), Chico Diaz (Above Justice), Matheus Nachtergaele (Sweet Mother), Gabriel Leone (Hidden Truths), Caco Ciocler (India – A Love Story).

The show ‘presents the tragic reality of the Brazilian prison system’

Where was the series filmed and how were locations used in the script?
The series was shot in a yet-to-open prison located in the city of Votorantim, in the state of São Paulo.

In what ways does Jailers stand out from other Brazilian dramas?
Jailers presents the tragic reality of the Brazilian prison system from an original point of view, focusing on the perspective of the jailer – a character left aside in the previous productions on the subject. Our goal was to examine the prison universe, already deeply scrutinised in books, films and series, but from an unprecedented viewpoint. This enabled us to address the day-to-day work routine faced by such professionals and its implications for their personal lives. Do they carry the stress and savagery they are often exposed to at work into their homes? What kind of a father, son and husband can a jailer be? What about their families – how do they deal with the constant and intense concern of having a loved one exposed to such an insecure environment? These and many other issues have guided our work, and we hope they will bring about curiosity and arouse discussion among viewers.

What do you hope viewers take away from the series?
Our goal is to encourage reflection on what is a serious aspect of Brazilian reality, while always making it clear it is an entertainment piece.

What are you working on next?
Actually, the second season of Jailers.

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The Cannes selection

Andy Fry casts his eye over this year’s selection for the MipTV Drama Screenings and finds an eclectic mix vying for the awards on offer.

In 2016, MipTV organiser Reed Midem decided to celebrate the global boom in scripted TV by launching its own drama awards. Dubbed the MipDrama Screenings, the first year was such a hit with buyers that the event has been brought back for 2017.

Just like last year, 12 finalists have been pre-selected for the awards in Cannes by an advisory board made up of experienced buyers. These shows will now compete for three awards – one decided by a jury of producers, another by critics and a third by buyers, who get to vote for their favourite show after screenings.

There are a couple of points about the MipDrama Screenings that make them particularly interesting. The first is that they focus on non-US titles, meaning that producers from less high-profile markets get a better chance to stand out from the crowd.

This year’s 12 comprise dramas from the UK (three), Germany (two), Russia (two), Canada, France, Denmark, Norway and Brazil. This echoes the story last year when Public Enemy, a drama from Belgium, was selected as the event’s top drama.

Expectations are high for forthcoming German series Babylon Berlin

The second is that they are all new titles, which means many of them haven’t had much market exposure until now. A couple, like Babylon Berlin and Ride Upon the Storm, have been flagged up for a while – but this is not an awards programme for endlessly returning series like Game of Thrones or American Horror Story. In fact, around half the series being showcased are still in the middle of production.

So what can we learn from the 12 finalists? Well, in terms of subject matter, several deal with themes that have been pretty prominent in film and TV drama recently. Federation Entertainment’s Bad Banks, for example, is a new look at the world of big finance, while Sky Vision’s Bad Blood is a gangster series based on a true story.

All Media Company’s Russian drama Better Than Us (pictured top) is an exploration of AI’s role in our lives, while TV Globo’s Jailers is a new take on prison drama – this time from the point of view of guards, rather than inmates.

There are also a couple of cop shows, though perhaps not the kind we’re used to. The Territory, for example, is an eight-part drama from Sreda Production in Russia. The story is set in a town where a series of ritualistic murders take place. As a result, a pugnacious detective is called in to deal with the situation.

The Ride Upon the Storm main cast (L-R): Lars Mikkelsen, Ann Eleonora Jørgensen, Simon Sears and Morten Hee Andersen

There is also Germany’s Babylon Berlin, a high-end drama series based on the thrillers by Volker Kutscher. Set in 1920s Berlin with Tom Tykwer as showrunner, this could be one of the landmark series of the year if it lives up to the hype.

The rest of the finalists tackle an eclectic and unusual range of subjects. For example, Missions, distributed by AB International, is a futuristic thriller focused on a Mars mission that goes wrong. While we’ve seen Mars as the focus of films and documentary series, this is the first recent TV drama to come to market (though others are in the pipeline).

Ride Upon the Storm is another leftfield drama. From Borgen creator Adam Price and produced by DR Drama in coproduction with Arte France and SAM le Francais, this is a story about faith, both in the traditional religious sense and in the wider context of what it is that guides us through our existence. It centres on an alcoholic, abusive priest and his two sons.

Faith may seem like a tough subject for a TV drama, but after Borgen (politics) and Follow the Money (finance), DR Drama is as likely as any to pull it off. Speaking about the series, Price says: “Despite the fact the Danes might not see themselves as a religious nation, we are surrounded by faith in our daily life. Faith fills the public debate – when atheists encourage people to leave the church, when we discuss integration, the refugee crisis, terrorism or the US presidential election. But also when we nurture mindfulness, ‘hipster Buddhism’ or the familiar blend of superstition and spirituality.”

Russia’s The Territory follows the investigation into a set of ritualistic murders

Interestingly, the other Scandi finalist goes to the other end of the moral spectrum. Produced by HandsUp Stockholm for Viaplay Nordic, Veni Vidi Vici tells the story of a failing movie director who attempts to revive his career by working in the adult entertainment industry. However, this suspect career move forces him into a double life that threatens his family.

The show is part of Viaplay’s push into original drama. Explaining why his company backed the show, Viaplay CEO Jonas Karlén says: “We are convinced combining acquired TV dramas such as Empire and Blacklist with original Nordic drama is our future. Viaplay will take the lead on original productions in the Nordics, with 50 projects in the pipeline until 2020 with great stories that also have the potential to travel.”

A strong UK pool consists of ITV’s Fearless, Channel 4’s Gap Year and the BBC’s Clique – projects that all benefit from having strong writers at the tiller. Fearless, for example, is from Patrick Harbinson (Homeland). Starring Helen McCrory (Peaky Blinders), it tells the story of a solicitor who gets caught up in a political mystery while investigating the killing of a schoolgirl.

“Fearless is a legal thriller, but one that’s written in the crash zone where law and politics collide,” says Harbinson. “The so-called War on Terror has put serious stress on the workings of the law. National security justifies all sorts of police and state over-reach, and the majority of us accept this. So I wanted to create a character who challenges these assumptions.”

Missions is about a voyage to the red planet gone awry

The other two UK entries are novel attempts to appeal to a younger audience – something TV drama desperately needs to do. Gap Year, written by Tom Basden (Fresh Meat) and distributed by Entertainment One, tells the story of a group of young travellers heading off on a three-month trip around Asia.

All3Media International’s Clique, created by Jess Brittain (Skins), is about two best friends drawn into an elite circle of alpha girls led by lecturer Jude McDermid in their first few weeks at university in Edinburgh. “It is about the different ways ambition plays out in young women at university,” says Brittain. “It’s a heightened version of a certain type of uni experience, pulled from my time at uni, then ramped up a few notches into a psychological thriller.”

In terms of the mechanics of the above shows, a few have been set up as coproductions, but for the most part they are centred around a strong central vision that originates in one territory. The impression is that the advisory board favoured shows that seek to tell local stories with universal themes. It’s also noticeable that most of them have a limited series feel to them. While this doesn’t preclude them from returning, it confirms the impression that the scripted sector outside the US is most comfortable in the six-to-10-episode range, working with season-long narratives rather than story-of-the-week projects.

Fearless stars Peaky Blinders’ Helen McCrory

Some of the talent involved is well established: Tykwer, Harbinson, Basden and Price, for example. But the overall list looks like a serious attempt to give buyers some interesting new angles,rather than simply showcasing big MipTV clients.

Public Enemy’s victory last year proves it’s hard to predict which show will come out on top. But the three-pronged winner selection process means the shows will be scrutinised pretty rigorously. Expert judges include Filmlance International MD Lars Blomgren (The Bridge), showrunner Simon Mirren (Versailles), screenwriter Virginie Brac (Cannabis, Spiral), Mediapro head of international content development Ran Tellem (Prisoners of War) and Big Light Productions founder Frank Spotnitz (The X-Files). That’s an impressive line-up of global drama talent with a good eye for spotting winning projects.

Finally, of course, it’s worth asking: is entering worth the effort? Well, the experience of Public Enemy would suggest so. Barely known before MipTV last year, the show was later sold by Banijay Rights to a wide range of broadcasters including TF1 and Sky Atlantic. So the message seems to be that creative recognition at the awards can have a financial pay-off.

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