19 APR 2024

Drama in the CEE region: innovation for the global market

Last NEM Zagreb awarded the best TV drama series from the CEE region, highlighting shows from Warner Bros. Discovery, RTL Hungary, and TVP. Executives from those companies explain the power of these titles and the characteristics of producing in the CEE.

19 APR 2024

  • Facebook
  • X
  • Linkedin
  • Whatsapp

The last NEM Zagreb held the competition for the best drama TV series in the CEE, the "NEM Awards" for the first time. Warner Bros. Discovery took first place with "Spy /Master;" RTL Hungary took second place on the podium with "The King," and TVP got third place with "Moth Hunting." "I am truly grateful and honored by the NEM Zagreb jury for choosing 'Spy/Master' as the best show in the CEE region. I've been excited about this story since it was just a spark of an idea, and, for me, this award shows that 'Spy/Master' has touched the viewers' hearts and minds with its powerful narrative, exceptional acting, directing, and high-value production. It feels great to see a Romanian show making waves internationally, from the Berlinale TV Series competition in 2023 to the NEM Zagreb," commented Adina Sadeanu, "Spy/Master" co-writer.

"It is always a magic moment when a film or a series sees the light of day and meets its audience. Will they like it? Will they see what you, as co-creator, saw in it? To win the best drama TV Series is an amazing honor and confirmation that the story we have built is entertaining and resonates with those watching it," added Kirsten Peters, series' co-writer. "The recognition and positive placement are a tremendous honor for us, and this result is the fruit of persistent work, passion, and dedication. We are grateful to our fantastic RTL team, which did everything to ensure the project's success, and we also thank our viewers, who supported us on this journey. The success of the series also signifies recognition for Hungarian-language content and streaming services, where the company leads in Hungary with its local content offerings and internationally advanced technology," said Peter Kolosi, Chief Content Officer of RTL Hungary, and Balazs Szabo, Chief Content Management Officer of RTL Hungary.

"It's a huge honor to have been recognized, especially given the outstanding quality of all the competing titles. What makes us especially proud is that 'Moth Hunting' is the only series produced by a public TV organization to have reached the top three. That proves that public broadcasters can hold their own against major players and privately owned heavyweights," mentioned Marek Solon-Lipiński, Director of International Relations at TVP Sales.

Jury members chose the NEM Awards winners from countries outside the CEE (mostly high-capacity production countries) to ensure fairness in rating the submission. "I can only guess what the jury found compelling in 'Spy/Master,' but I think our blend of a complex spy narrative, a heartfelt family drama, and the allure of an impossible romance makes it interesting and fun to watch. As for the show's global appeal comes with universal themes, exploring survival, betrayal, and the sacrifices we are willing to make for freedom," explained Sadeanu. "'Spy/Master' is set during the Cold War, a time that fascinates the world. In its exploration of themes that touch and affect us all, topics like regret and betrayal, and what we would do to survive, I think 'Spy/Master' is universally relatable with the potential to appeal to audiences around the globe. And with its very cool costume and set design, it is a delight for audiences everywhere to watch and be transported to the late 70s!" Peters stated.

For RTL’s Kolosi and Szabo, "A Király" ("The King") provides valuable cultural insights into Hungary and its music scene, offering viewers from other regions a chance to explore and understand a different cultural context. "The series features compelling storytelling, well-developed characters, and a narrative structure that captivates viewers. Furthermore, the production quality of the series, including cinematography, direction, and acting, is outstanding and captivating," they stated.

For Solon-Lipiński, "Moth Hunting" is a sprawling period drama about when The Russian Empire had parts of Poland under hostile rule, and Poles had to go underground to resist the occupation and preserve their national identity. "This was over a century ago, but it still feels timely. We have three very different but equally empowered women at the heart of the story, navigating a corrupt, male-dominated world. It is a multicultural and multilingual production. Our characters speak Polish, Russian, Yiddish, and French and represent a variety of ethnic backgrounds and social classes. That has proved to resonate with the viewers. I believe there is always a place in the market for a well-executed, visually striking historical drama, especially as narratively ambitious as this one," he remarked.

Despite being a diverse territory, TV dramas in the region have some factors in common that make them attractive to the entire region and the rest of the world. "Although defining the TV drama in the CEE region is quite challenging given its diversity, a few words could capture this genre: unique, glowing, and growing. This region has much to offer due to its richness in stories that blend universal themes with distinct local narratives, drawing inspiration from a wealth of legends, past or present events, and social issues. History, with all its dramas, offers plenty of stories to inspire from – from those speaking of social issues, corruption, and injustice to legends that you can't find in any other part of the world. I find this strong local flavor quite unique and valuable for the TV drama in the region, something the TV Series industry shall and could capitalize on more and more," said Sadeanu, "Spy/Master" co-writer.

"TV dramas in the CEE region often incorporate social and political commentary, reflecting the local communities' challenges, transformations, and experiences. That includes narratives about post-communist transitions, identity, and social issues," Kolosi and Szabo from RTL Hungary indicated.

"'A Király' is a good example of this, as it goes beyond Zámbó Jimmy's life to depict the communist regime and the political environment in which the young singer embarked on his challenging career. In the second half of the series, we glimpse Hungary in the post-transition era, during the 1990s and 2000s. But this is just one aspect of the TV drama genre in the CEE region, encompassing various facets, including literary adaptations, character-driven storytelling, cinematic quality, and international collaboration," they added. "The CEE region and our TV drama output are incredibly diverse. But if I were to identify one unifying element, I would say that CEE creators excel at exploring their history, identity, and cultural heritage and turning them into strong TV narratives," concluded Solon-Lipiński from TVP.

By Romina Rodriguez