Creating a Series is an Art Form: Interview with television and film producer Beatrice Kramm

07. September 2016

Creating a Series is an Art Form

Interview with television and film producer Beatrice Kramm

Beatrice Kramm. Bild: © Adlershof Journal

Beatrice Kramm is the manager of the production company “Film- and Fernsehgesellschaft Polyphon” and has been president of the ÍHK, Berlin’s chamber of commerce and industry, since March. She has not given up on linear television and gives answers on the television formats of the future.

How long have you known Adlershof and which memories do you have of starting out here?

Beatrice Kramm: I’ve been personally aware of the site since 1991. Back then, Studio Berlin asked me to see whether we could all benefit from being in one place. We had a strong sense of being pioneers at the time.

What do you think of Adlershof as a site for media production today?

I actually think it is not that much easier now for a movie and TV production company on this site than it was in the past. We work with creative people who require inspiration. Their ideal, creative environment is not necessarily one filled with research institutes, but a urban and lively one. It can be hard to find this in Adlershof, but it works. The atmosphere has changed completely. 

In what way have you left your mark on Polyphon?

On almost all of our projects (laughs). On many great series, new series. And simply by staying curious for new programmes. A programme which is very closely connected to my name and the Polyphon name is the “Doctor’s Diary” series, which was something completely new in Germany. “Familie Dr. Kleist” or “Magda macht das schon!” are high-quality projects which I developed myself and which added to our spectrum. I would also name the productions with a long tradition, like “Das Traumschiff”, or one of our precious, new treasures, “Familie Braun”, which we developed and produced in Berlin.

What would you personally describe as new and innovative with regard to the movie and TV landscape?

I would handle the term “new” less restrictively. Every series that is newly aired is per se new. The people have put some thought into which stories haven’t been told yet and on how to get others to watch linear television. New, to me, is to look at new forms of dissemination or new types of narratives, and to think outside the box in terms of cast, directors, and the other creative people involved.

Is linear TV for a past generation?

I believe linear TV is for people who don’t want to be interactive. People, who work a lot, and who don’t feel like looking for their own programmes online. Linear TV will stay relevant for a long, long time. I call it laid back television.

Would you say that the way content is developed depends on the format?

According to popular opinion, short formats belong on the internet. That is not very well put. Short formats need the context of short formats, i.e. YouTube, Facebook, or other platforms. But the internet is also suitable for long formats – think of on-demand streaming. The type of content really depends on the platform. When we aim to get a platform with a specific target group excited, we try to develop the material and formats accordingly. Regardless of the format, a good idea is what counts.

How does Polyphon react to the audience’ changing viewing habits?

It is no secret that less and less people watch linear television. However, many are watching the exact same programmes online. We carefully consider which content we can produce for Sky, Netflix, and other online platforms. Without neglecting our mainstream TV programmes. These are programmes which still get a lot of response and have a large audience. At the end of the day, quality prevails.

The FAZ wrote: “Television, that wrinkly old aunt, is trying to squeeze into a sexy digital dress. An old medium swallowing up a new one, can’t help but feel zombie-like.” To you, what are the TV formats of the future? How will new and classic media complement each other?

I think for a long time both forms of media will continue to coexist. I want Polyphon to cater for both forms of broadcasting. “Familie Braun” was made for the internet, was broadcasted on TV and online and was successful on both. They are not mutually exclusive. We use these small projects to attract attention and to show that Polyphon has a diverse portfolio.

RTL recently launched a call for sitcoms. 330 ideas were sent in. Only three will actually be produced. One of them is the Polyphon production “Magda”. Were you surprised that only 3 out of 300 were chosen?

I am very proud that we are able to do this and happy that our partners at RTL were brave enough to do like “Magda”. It is different to what we are used to in terms of comedy in Germany. When a channel does a call for ideas, they get a huge amount of concepts. They produced five pilots. Three will be turned into a series. It is important that channels continue to produce. I am not surprised by the acceptance quota.

The series “Deutschland 83” was highly acclaimed outside of Germany, but got bad ratings.

Nevertheless it is good and important to try and find new ways of telling stories. It is still complex and difficult to have the audience keep watching after the first episode. That’s why I say: making a series is an art form.

By Rico Bigelmann for Adlershof Journal

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