Tag Archives: Rafael Parente

Final countdown

The world is ending. As an asteroid hurtles towards Earth, showrunner Rafael Parente and director Stefan Ruzowitzky tell DQ why Sky Deutschland original series Eight Days chose to explore the dilemmas and decisions ordinary people face in a society with no consequences.

If you woke up one morning and discovered a 40km-wide asteroid was racing towards Earth, with no one expected to survive when it strikes the heart of Europe, what would you do?

That’s the question at the heart of German drama Acht Tage (Eight Days), a gritty eight-part thriller starring Christiane Paul, Mark Waschke and Lena Klenke that asks how ordinary people face up to the reality of their mortality.

As the Horus asteroid races towards Earth at 30,000km per hour, it is expected to wipe out the whole of Europe. Then, when US nuclear missile strikes fail to knock the rock off course, the entire continent is on the run.

Rafael Parente

With each episode of this pre-apocalyptic drama counting down another day until the time of expected impact, the story focuses on several people and families living in Berlin, where they suddenly find they can break the speed limit, have wild sex, do all the drugs they want, shop with no money, forget about working and live with no consequences. All that matters in the end is how they want to spend their final days and hours  –  and how they might try to escape the asteroid’s looming shadow.

Produced by Neuesuper for Sky Deutschland, the series originated from an idea by Korbinian Dufter, who produces with Neuesuper partners Rafael Parente and Simon Amberger. It is written by showrunner Parente, Peter Kocyla and Benjamin Seiler, and directed by Oscar winner Stefan Ruzowitzky (The Counterfeiters) and Michael Krummenacher (Wonderland). Florian Kamhuber is the creative producer, with executive producers Marcus Ammon and Frank Jastfelder. Sky Vision is handling international distribution.

While feature films such as Deep Impact and Armageddon have focused on political and military attempts to solve the crisis, from the outset Eight Days was going to focus on the way ordinary people either accept their fates or do everything they can to evade certain death.

“It’s a high-concept pitch but our idea was not to tell the story from the perspective of the people who can really do anything about it,” Parente tells DQ in Berlin, where the series received its international premiere as part of Berlinale’s Drama Series Days. “It’s not like somebody is flying to the asteroid and planting an A-bomb or the president in the Oval Office discussing strategies with all his generals. It’s from the perspective of people seeing this event but they can’t do anything about it.”

Eight Days looks at how ordinary people cope with an impending apocalypse

Sky Deutschland loved the idea in the pitch and picked it up, but then Parente and his co-writers were left to figure out the individual stories facing the characters in the series, who all come to intersect during the show.

Psychics teacher Uli Steiner (Waschke) and his wife Susanne (Paul), a doctor, want to flee with their children Leonie (Klenk) and Jonas (Claude Heinrich) over land to Russia, while her brother Herrmann (Fabian Hinrichs), with the help of his government contacts, tries to evacuate the family with his father Egon (Henry Hübchen) and Herrmann’s pregnant girlfriend Marion (Nora Waldstätten) to the US.

Meanwhile, Klaus Frankenberg (Devid Striesow), the father of Leonie’s girlfriend Nora, has built a bunker — but Nora wants to celebrate the last days of her life with one long party.

“There’s an asteroid and it creates a lot of tension, but then you have to create emotional stories that somehow break down all the different ways you can deal with this situation,” he continues. “We didn’t want to make a show where they’re just talking for eight hours about philosophical questions. For me, the asteroid is just a metaphor for a world where we face a major problem and politics can’t change it, like the climate crisis, the wars going on around the world and the refugee crisis. In the end, it’s about something else. It’s about what’s really important.”

Structurally, Parente says it was important that each episode contained its own story and themes, alongside the overarching serialised element of the asteroid moving increasingly closer to Earth. “There are different steps with dealing with such a thing,” he notes. “First you might have the denial phase, the aggressiveness, then at some point relief. So we have that in different episodes. In one episode we just have war going on; in another, it’s softer with more emotion.”

The show focuses on multiple separate characters whose stories converge

Known as a feature film director, Ruzowitzky decided to make the move into television in 2016. Eight Days, he says, was by far the “freshest” and most original script he read, telling a story about a society where, from the main characters to the extras in the background, every person has been stripped of their normal life.

“They are at the edge of a nervous breakdown because they know in a few days, their world is going to go down and they’re going to die, or their friends and family are going to die,” he explains. “When I first heard about it, there were no scripts but you could see right away this was very strong and you can make these characters larger than life. Because the situation is so special, you’re asking for extreme actions and reactions.”

The three writers wrote the scripts together, with Ruzowitzky and Krummenacher also giving notes. Filming then took place in blocks by location, with both directors often filming at the same time, each working on their own storylines that would then be pieced together in the edit.

“It’s very interwoven. That was very important because we didn’t just want to tell different stories,” Parente says. “You have beats from the A plot interfering with another plot. I really like that complex storytelling. With so many different stories, I think the audience can follow it. It’s something that is a lot of fun because you can create a whole world. Something like this happening would create a lot of different ways of people dealing with it. So we could go into different lives but always tell the story from the perspective of a single character.”

The Sky Deutschland drama came from an idea by producer Korbinian Dufter

The production process, which took place mostly on location in the German capital, actually made front-page news when the Gendarmenmarkt, a popular tourist destination in the Mitte area of Berlin, was turned upside down for the series to make it look like it had been the scene of major rioting. “We totally destroyed it,” Parente recalls. “People were calling me in the office, asking what is going on, is there a war going on?”

Ruzowitzky adds: “It really looked like a war scene but I think it was important we did it in Berlin and not on a stage. It wouldn’t have been that much fun.”

In the end, the show’s creators weren’t seeking to make a documentary-real take on what the end of the world would look like, instead heightening the characters and the choices they make. But they still wanted to make a series that spoke to viewers emotionally while sending them on a thrilling journey through eight hours of television. The drama launches on Sky Deutschland today.

“What we managed and what was important for me was even though the characters are flawed and make really bad decisions in this extreme situation, you like them and you can relate to them,” Ruzowitzky concludes. “You can understand why they are making these decisions and you can identify with them and have hope for them.

“I always have problems with series where everyone is an asshole – you wonder why you’re meant to watch that. Our cast and our characters, you can relate to them because you know about your own flaws and you imagine you wouldn’t make all the right decisions in a situation like that either.”

tagged in: , , , ,

Breaking Bavaria

Rafael Parente and Boris Kunz introduce DQ to Hindafing, a drama set in the fictional Bavarian village where mayor Alfons Zischl battles politicians by day and his inner demons by night.

Walter White and Alfons Zischl are both men whose good intentions lead to shocking consequences. They both also share a fondness for crystal meth – but that’s where the similarities end between the cancer-stricken chemistry teacher from Breaking Bad and the egotistical mayor at the heart of new German drama Hindafing.

The six-part series follows the rise and fall of the provincial mayor and the eponymous village found deep in the Bavarian backwoods that tries to project an idyllic image of family values but struggles with its inner demons. By day, people go to the local soccer club and practice Bikram Yoga. At night, it‘s off to the swingers‘ club or a rendezvous with the local meth dealer.

Season one also focuses on the German refugee crisis and skewers nepotism, ecological hysteria, clerical homophobia, political correctness and monogamy.

L-R: Hindafing producers Simon Amberger, Korbinian Dufter and Rafael Parente

The series has its German premiere today ahead of its debut on Bavarian public broadcaster BR on May 16. It is produced by Neuesuper and distributed by Global Screen.

Hindafing was first born two years ago when three writers, Raphael Parente, Boris Kunz and Niklas Hoffman, recognised their own inexperience was a stumbling block and took matters into their own hands to win a commission.

“We first shot a small teaser to get BR involved, as we’re very young filmmakers and it’s hard to get finance because normally they just want somebody who knows how the job is done,” Parente, who also produces, says. “So we had to shoot the teaser and, after that, we had one-and-a-half years of development.”

Having conjured the concept of a small Bavarian village and its megalomaniac, drug addict mayor, the writers then evolved the story, leaning on real-life events in Germany to come up with the idea of the polititican being given an opportunity to make money by opening a refugee camp.

The series stars Maximilian Brückner (right) as Mayor Zischl

“We realised during the development process that we wanted to make a statement about the refugee crisis, but we didn’t want it to dominate the whole story,” Parente explains. “It’s really not a story about refugees. It’s just one of the big topics in the first season.”

Kunz continues: “It’s quite humorous. It started out more as a comedy and, during the process and due to the influence of the main actor, it changed tone a bit, which we all liked. It became more serious. There are still classic comedy scenes and lots of laughs, but there’s a very serious story behind it all and serious moments, brutal scenes as well. It’s this thin line between comedy and drama.”

Parente, Kunz and Hoffman spent several months in a writers room breaking down the episodes and writing drafts, which were then passed between them until everyone was happy with the finished scripts.

“When the drafts rotate and everyone’s honest about their own skills and there’s not too much ego involved, it really improves,” Parente says of their writing process. “The good stuff mostly stays in the script and only the bad stuff gets redone. And because everyone’s reading different scripts, you can discuss if something isn’t working.”

Director Boris Kunz

It was during this time that Kunz, who also directs, was imagining how he would film each scene – but with the teaser already committed to film, so too was the look and style of the series.

“We really wanted to do something not very typical for Germany,” Parente explains. “Germany is very influenced by Berliner Schuler, a way of telling a fictional story in a documentary style, and there’s also a lot of very grey German crime. We wanted to change that and set it in a heightened reality.”

The cast includes Andreas Giebel, Katrin Röver, Petra Berndt and Ercan Karacayli, with Maximilian Brückner leading the line as Mayor Zischl, a complicated character whose desire to do good for the town he serves is muddied by his ego, his desire for fame and money and a meth addiction.

Parente says of the protagonist: “He’s always trying to do the right thing but always has to deal with the consequences of his wrongdoings. He also has some skeletons in his closet and he has to hide them, leading to more lies, so he’s struggling all the time. We tried to give him negative sides and flaws but he’s not a villain. We tried to make him sympathetic so you wish he somehow makes it through, even though some of the things he does are terrible.”

The part-serialised drama was filmed on location in Bavaria, where the production team – which also included Parente’s Neuesuper partners Simon Amberger and Korbinian Dufter – sought to present a different image of the region.

“If you’re a foreigner, you think of Bavaria as big beer glasses and people wearing typical German clothing – nice churches and a very rural setting,” Parente observes. “We tried to twist that around. The town hall is like this huge, concrete, ugly thing from the 60s, because that is also a part of Bavaria. And because the people [in Hindafing] are so detached, because Bavaria and [its capital city] Munich are so far from other cities, people want to seem innovative and trendy. We try to show that too.

The series was shaped by real-life events in Germany

“There are also themes that are very common in Bavaria that nobody talks about. For example, Germany has one of the biggest sex industries in the world because we have modest laws about that, so people from around the world come to Germany to brothels. One of the women in the show goes to sex parties, but it’s not in Berlin or somewhere urban, it’s in this really rural town. Stuff like that is normal in Bavaria but nobody talks about it.”

Speaking before Hindafing’s premiere, Parente and Kunz say there are no plans yet for a second season, “but we’re all eager to do it,” the director adds. “I have spent a lot of time now with these characters and I would be very excited to find completely new stories for them. We have an ending where we can go on, but if there’s no season two, it’s still OK. There’s no cliffhanger at the end.”

While they await news of a possible recommission, the Neuesuper team is busy working on Acht Tage (Eight Days), an end-of-the-world drama for Sky Deutschland that has Oscar winner Stefan Ruzowitzky (Die Fälscher) attached to direct. It is due to air in 2018.

tagged in: , , , , ,