Seriencamp 2024: The Year of the German Vampires and the State of AI - special report from our correspondent Lühr-Martin Lemkau

Seriencamp 2024: The Year of the German Vampires and the State of AI - special report from our correspondent Lühr-Martin Lemkau
Seriencamp, Germany's largest festival and conference dedicated to TV series, just took place in Cologne (June 5-7, 2024). Over 40 German and international series being showcased, including German and world premieres, like the second season of Kleo (Zeitsprung for Netflix) at the Festival. This year’s three-day Conference was attended by 800 TV professionals, discussing latest industry trends.

Next big hit from Germany following Dear Child and Maxton

Referring to the fact that the German hit series Dear Child (the most watched international series from June to December 2023 according to Netflix's most recent report) and Maxton Hall (Prime Video's most successful international original series ever) were presented at last year's “Work In Progress” session, host Thomas Lückerath, editor-in-chief of the German trade magazine DWDL, noted with a grin that “expectations are set”.

The upcoming bestseller adaptations Achtsam Morden(WT), which is like Dear Child produced by Constantin for Netflix, and A Good Girl’s Guide to Murder, produced by Moonage Pictures for BBC Three and ZDF, were presented as well as horror series Hameln, based on the German fairytale The Pied Piper of Hamelin, produced by REAL FILM for ZDF.

The big-budget near-future series Concordia, produced by Intaglio Film (The Swarm) for ZDF, MBC, Hulu Japan, and France Télévisions, was shot mainly in Italy and production designer Gaspare De Pascali shared that the most challenging part of his work was to “tell Sweden in Italy”, as the fictional town of Concordia is set in in the Scandinavian country.

Generation Z is set in Britain, and the premise of the dark zombie comedy, or “Zomcom” as development producer Alex Kazamia called it, is that a chemical accident occurs in front of a nursing home, turning the elderly into zombies, who unleash themselves on teenagers. ZDF Neo teamed up with Channel 4 and The Forge is producing. Jonathan Hughes, from distributor All3Media added: “Yes, it’s the end of the world, but why do we need to be so depressed about it”.
A similar humor also character the latest original of ProSiebenSat1’s streaming service Joyn called Der Upir (WT). Very entertaining first scenes of the UFA Fiction produced black comedy, which reminds of “What we do in the Shadows”, were shown during the presentation. Joyn’s head of program, Thomas Münzner, underlined the streamer’s strategy for original productions to focus on comedy in fiction, and reality TV. Showrunner Peter Meister shared that 10 to 20 per cent was improvisation during the 33 shooting days for the 8 half-hour episodes.
Lückerath noted that 2024 seems to be the “year of the German vampires”, as ZDF Neo will launch a vampire series as well, called Love Sucks starring Damian Hardung (Maxton Hall), pubcaster ARD released Oderbruch in January, and other vampire related projects are in the making.

The State of AI

Several presentations and discussions gave an encompassing overview over current status quo of AI in the film industry while tackling ethical and legal question.

Gerhard Maier, Founder and Artistic Director Seriencamp, shared current examples from previous days and stated during his introduction that “audience of one is not far away”.

Nikola Kohl, MD of All3Media’s German production company South & Browse, provided insights into how the factual producer is using AI. In almost every step of the production process, from research, pitch decks to AI dubbing, and automatic subtitles, to color correction and noise reduction, to become more efficient and reduce “boring work no one wants to do”, like AI speech reckoning to convert video into a text transcript. Via editing the text “everyone can know edit an interview without any knowledge in video editing”. For a science documentary for ZDF’s Terra X, South & Browse used the DNA information of a 9,000-year-old skeleton and fed it into the Unreal Engine. In collaboration with a forensic scientist, they created an avatar of the women and were able to recreate different things like the skin color and realized, that it was much darker than expected.

Kai Steinmetz and Pascal Schröder from VFX company Flappers Film shared examples and stated, that the main challenges in working with AI are consistency and getting exactly the result, you’re aiming for, as text prompts don’t give control. Even though, via combining classic VFX with AI, it should be possible “in the near future” to produce high quality feature films virtually only.

Drive Beta Co-Founder and CEO Hannes Jakobsen emphasized that it’s “still difficult to find the right people” when hiring staff, and shared different AI related projects for pubcaster ZDF and MDR. He pointed out that visualization is key, as usually there’s just a computer to record. On stage he did a live presentation of a science-fiction-style object called “IzzAI”, a chat bot from “Boom”, a dramedy series for ARD.

“Survive to 2025”

Johanna Koljonen, author of the Göteborg Film Festival’s annual Nostradamus Report* on the near future of the screen industries, presented the latest edition in an intriguing presentation. “Paradoxically, Hope” the first chapter is called and reflects very well the current mood of the industry. She raised several questions like “What happens, when content discovery and ad targeting once are really good?”

In the following lively discussion, hosted by Deadline’s Stewart Clarke, ZDF Studio’s Robert Franke spoke very frankly: “We work for our commissioners, not audiences. Because of the democratization of access, it might change”. Former Yes executive Danna Stern questioned, what brilliant means in terms of quality, and who defines, what that is. Discussing the state of the industry, she quoted, that it has become a saying among producers to “survive to 2025”, and emphasized that when “things are broken, new things can be created and figured out.”

Malko Solf, Gerhard Maier, Simone Schellmann and team have developed the 2025 founded Seriencamp Conference into a must-attend event for broadcasters, streamers, producers, and writers.


credits photos @JenrikMielke