“We have always liked to work as a team,” says Rafael Parente, one of the three producers along with Simon Amberger and Korbinian Dufter, who set up the Munich-based NEUESUPER Filmproduktion during their studies at Munich’s University of Television & Film (HFF) in 2010.
Even before their graduation from the HFF, the trio had produced several short films such as Benjamin Pfohl’s TOTES LAND and Susan Gordanshekan’s EISBLUMEN as well as a couple of feature films – ADA by Mirjam Orthen and the international co-production EASTALGIA by Daria Onyshchenko.“
“And from the outset, we thought that it would be better to work as three producers together rather each of us trying to make it on our own,” Amberger recalls. “We were also very clear in our minds of the goal of wanting to make films for a wide audience,” Korbinian Dufter adds. “With some of our films, we have gone in the direction of arthouse. As in the collaboration with the latest feature film by Hans Weingartner, 303, which had its world premiere in the Berlinale’s Generation 14plus section in February. We will always search for both things: relevant content and an audience. That’s why we’re so enthusiastic about the current momentum in television industry.”
The young company – which also works for clients in the advertising world as well for cinema and TV – did the rounds of the offices of TV commissioning editors with story ideas for series and TV movies, but that all important green light to go into production wasn’t forthcoming. However, the newcomers had their lucky break into the TV market when they pitched an idea for a sitcom series to the fledgling public channel ZDFneo as part of its TV Lab in 2014. “The three finalists from the pitches were each given a budget to produce a pilot episode of their series,” Amberger explains. “The pilots were then broadcast by ZDFneo over the course of one evening in August 2014 and the audience voted on its favorite of the three, with the overall winner getting the commission to produce a whole series.”
NEUESUPER’s pilot of what later became the quirky sitcom BLOCKBUSTAZ about an unemployed rapper (played by Eko Fresh) in a Cologne high-rise housing estate went down a storm with the ZDFneo audience and paved the way for the company’s subsequent development as a purveyor of high-end television.
“I think it was a good fortune for us as a young company that the viewers were the ones deciding on the winner,” Dufter says. “It was much easier than having to follow the classical path of needing to convince a commissioning editor as newcomers to the industry. The audience made it very clear that they wanted to see a series based on the pilot and we received five times as many votes as the next finalist,” he continues. “The pilot fitted in with the image ZDFneo was wanting to promote and our success was also partly down to our strategy of using YouTube stars like Eko Fresh and Joyce Ilg who already have their own fan base.”
Aired in 2015, the six-part series proved to be one of the most successful series ever commissioned by ZDFneo and prompted the broadcaster to order a second season – this time with 12 episodes – which came on air at the end of March 2018.
Another pitching competition organized by Bavarian Television (BR) and the HFF – “Free TV!” in autumn 2014 – landed the producing trio their next big commission – for HINDAFING, although their proposal was not the final winner!
“Reinhard Scolik, Bettina Ricklefs and Elmar Jaeger at BR recognized the series’ potential and said what we had shown in a specially produced trailer would be a perfect fit for Bavaria right down to the story and the actors we had cast,” Parente recalls. This satirical six-parter about a crystal meth-addicted mayor (played with relish by former European Shooting Star Maximilian Brückner) in a Bavarian backwoods was “something fresh and new, unlike any other Bavarian series being shown on television at the time.”
“It was also important for us as a company at the time that we had people who supported us and believed in the potential of our projects,” Dufter notes.
Airing on BR from mid-May last year after premiering on the web (br.de/hindafing) and in BR’s online mediatheque, HINDAFING has since gone on to garner nominations from the prestigious Grimme Institute and the German Academy for Television. In addition, the SVOD rights for Germany were sold last autumn to Netflix and the US remake rights to the series were snatched up by Fox 21 Television at the beginning of this year. “We are now in talks to produce a second season of HINDAFING,” Amberger adds.
As HINDAFING went on air, NEUESUPER embarked on production of its third series project, EIGHT DAYS (ACHT TAGE) – this time as a commission for the pay TV platform Sky Deutschland. “We had been developing the project for some time and at a point when Sky hadn’t yet decided to begin getting involved in co-producing local TV series,” Amberger recalls. “Sky really put their trust in us and believed that we would be able to tackle such an ambitious project as EIGHT DAYS,” he continues. “This production was another significant step, both in terms of budget and production value for us as a company.”
The doomsday scenario focuses on what will probably be the last days of humanity as a giant asteroid rushes towards Earth. “It was also a conscious move by us to have an experienced director working with a young one on the series,” Dufter explains. “With someone like Stefan Ruzowitzky [who received the Foreign Language Film Oscar® for THE COUNTERFEITERS], we brought someone onboard who has lots of knowledge of working on TV series and also is adept at directing action. And he has a reputation and standing recognized by the broadcasters. At the same time, we wanted to have a young voice being represented here, a filmmaker from our generation at the HFF,” he continues. “So we picked Michael Krummenacher who studied Directing at the HFF in Munich from 2006 to 2014.” EIGHT DAYS is set to air in Germany, Switzerland and Austria later in 2018.
The past seven years have seen NEUESUPER’s producing trio evolving and adapting as its production output expanded. “At the beginning, we developed, financed and produced the projects together, but with time, we realized that things would be more efficient if each one of us had specific responsibilities,” explains Dufter who, for example, now oversees the company’s day-to-day administration and the financing of the projects as well as personnel issues.
“We have always seen NEUESUPER as a vehicle to realize story ideas that we had developed ourselves,” he notes. “We see ourselves as creative producers working together in a team with the creatives: we are as much involved in helping to develop the screenplays for the shorts at the beginning of the company’s history as in brainstorming ideas for the pitches to advertising clients or to broadcasters.”
“Our goal is to be involved creatively from the earliest stages of our projects,” Amberger says, pointing out that NEUESUPER is always open to becoming a production partner on third party projects. From the outset, the trio have sought to foster long-standing working relationships, particularly with screenwriters, to collaborate on their projects, like Niklas Hoffmann, Peter Kocyla, Benjamin Seiler, Frederick Schlofield and writer-directors like Boris Kunz, Jakob Lass and Jakob Erwa.
Niklas Hoffmann, for example, has worked with NEUESUPER since 2014 as he studied Screenwriting at the HFF: he wrote the screenplay for the pilot for BLOCKBUSTAZ and then wrote three episodes of the resulting series as well as serving as head writer for the sitcom. In addition, Hoffmann devised the concept and script for HINDAFING together with Boris Kunz and NEUESUPER producer Rafael Parente and returned to BLOCKBUSTAZ last year for its second season where he penned four episodes and was responsible again as head writer.
He is now working with Parente and another NEUESUPER “regular”, Peter Kocyla, on developing the screenplay for another TV series in the making, LUDEN (HAMBURG HUSTLING), with Jan Mojto’s Beta Film as co-producer. Meanwhile, writer-director Kocyla, who is also a graduate of Munich’s HFF and worked in the past on scripts for the ZDF series DIE CHEFIN, devised the concept and penned the scripts for EIGHT DAYS.
“Our core team of writers is very open to the idea of working in a writers room,” Dufter says. “Previously, you would have an author working all alone and then getting occasional feedback from the producer or a commissioning editor. However, our strategy is to involve our authors increasingly in the decision-making process about, say, the casting or the choice of director. I think they can have a really positive influence because they are so close to the story.”
NEUESUPER may be focused on working for television for the moment, but that doesn’t mean that they have turned their backs on cinema – indeed, a number of feature film projects are in development. “At the same time, we have developed considerable expertise in high-end TV and have an edge over other companies,” Amberger explains. “We all share a great passion about staying active in this particularly exciting segment for the foreseeable future.”