New spy series on the horizon! Oscar-nominated Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi’s new series takes viewers to the eastern region of the Iron Curtain.
European television group Newen Connect and Berlin-based Flare Entertainment are joining forces to co-develop and distribute Balaton Brigade, a Cold War spy drama from Hungarian production company Joyrider, which Oscar-nominated filmmaker Ildiko Enyedi (“On Body and Soul”, “The Story of My Wife”) will direct.
Created by Gábor Krigler (“Terapia”), Balázs Lengvel (“Thos Janos”) and Balázs Lovas, the eight-part series was previously pitched at the Berlinale Series Market and was selected to be presented at Series Mania’s CoPro Pitching Sessions as part of the partnership between the two industry events.
The show, which is produced by Joyrider and Film Force, and co-produced by Martin Heisler at Flare Entertainment in Germany, garnered strong buzz at the Berlinale and sparked the interest of more than 50 companies. The story is set at the Hungarian resort of Lake Balaton in 1986, at the height of the Cold War.
It follows Berndt Reider, the leader of a Stasi unit stationed at Balaton and tasked with preventing East German holidaymakers from sneaking over the border to escape to the West. What his bosses don’t know: Reider himself is secretly preparing to flee with his family to protect his teenage daughter, a young swimming prodigy, from the East German doping machine.
Krigler said he first heard about the Stasi unit stationed at Lake Balaton from an Austrian producer a few years ago.“Growing up next to the lake and having spent all my childhood summers on its beaches, the idea of an invisible, dark underbelly to the magical summer location was immediately appealing to me,” said Krigler.
The co-creator said that while the show boasts several genre elements, there are “no stolen nuclear weapons, escaping deadly viruses, high profile assassinations;” and the “main emphasis is on the human drama, the emotional stakes. We want to show that being born on the wrong side of history, or subscribing to different ideologies do not make anyone automatically corrupt,” explained Krigler, pointed out the stereotypical depiction of communists in popular spy fiction.
“Balaton Brigade” will also boast some understated dark humor. “There’s something comic in the concept of ‘spies in Speedos,’ something very bizarre in the juxtaposition of the sun, fun and youthful energy with the sinister work of the Stasi agents.”
The acquisition by Newen Connect fits the company’s rising ambitions. Rodolphe Buet, who oversees the banner, recently outlined the company’s mandate to expand its scope and board premium international drama projects at an early stage. Since joining the project, Newen Connect brought in Flare Entertainment as co-producers.
A German writer, who is originally from East Germany and has first-hand experience of life in the 1980s, will soon be added to the team. “More than making another series with the theme ‘Stasi’ or ‘escape’ – there are already a few of those – we are planning to create a character-driven series against the background of the increasingly disintegrating GDR,” said Heisler.
Enyedi, who just presented her English-language debut, “The Story of My Wife”, in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, will direct. Principle photography is set to take place in Hungary next summer. Hungarian channel RTL Klub is already on board as a commissioning broadcaster. Flare will begin pitching the project to German broadcasters this autumn.
Newen Connect will handle international distribution and is presenting the project to buyers at this year’s Series Mania, which runs through Sept. 2 in Lille, France. Balaton Brigade is the latest expansion into small screen drama for Flare, which recently wrapped production on the German drama series “Paradiso” for Sky Deutschland. The Berlin-based company, which has been making feature films and documentaries since 2008, launched a TV drama division last year.
French group Newen, which brings together the commercial activities of Newen Group, TF1 Studio, and ReelOne International, is one of Europe’s leading producers and distributors of TV content, with a library of some 1,000 films and more than 6,000 hours of programming