German audiences love series. Regardless of their distribution channel, on television or streamed on the internet, they are right on the top of the rankings, directly behind sports events. And while there are specialised festivals for just about every film genre, almost no film festivals are held that focus on series. At best you may find sidebar events at TV film festivals or one-off specials – such as “Shayne” from bboksz and “Club Splendida” from the UdK University of the Arts Berlin in Oberhausen – yet for that barely any dedicated competition sections.
The reason is obvious and is of course physical in nature. At least with episodic series, it is assumed that they should be seen and appreciated over a related season. With genuine series junkies consuming the complete episodes from a season in one go. But such binge watching is, as a format, just not compatible with festival competition sections. And while there are some film markets and fairs out there, such as the LA Screenings and the New York Upfronts, complete series are not screened at them, but rather backdoor pilots mostly that are almost as long as feature-length films.
Yet for that, there are individual organisers who have specialised in series and found a different solution here. For their competition sections, the first or the first two episodes in a series in short-film lengths can be submitted.
These festivals include “die Seriale”, which is held in Giessen in central Hesse and has just ended (13 to 16 June 2019). The four-day festival in provincial Hesse has already been held for the fifth time. This year, 60 series and pilots from 18 countries were screened at the festival. Five juries consisting of international experts judged the submissions in the remarkably apportioned competition sections of “Series”, “Animation”, “Documentary” and “Pilot”.
Like in other film festivals, Q&As and panel discussions were held in Giessen. What makes “die Seriale” truly unique is its Conference Programme (“The Educational”) on format questions and issues for digital series, as well as its film market (“Digital Market Giessen”) for professionals from the industry.
“Die Seriale” is part of a loose international network centring around the Italian blogger Chiara Bressa, who was a member of a jury in Giessen, among other activities. Two further German festivals belong to this international network: The Hamburg-based web series festival “Wendie”, that was first held in 2017 and then in 2018 in the FilmFabrique co-working space, but which has not continued since then, as well as the second oldest such German festival, “Webfest Berlin”.
This year’s “Webfest Berlin” is already in the starting blocks and is also due to be held for the fifth time. It has a somewhat stronger market focus than the festival in Giessen, with its unique selling point being its competition section for “Branded Series”, i.e. series that typically consist of very short episodes intended to promote or advertise products or companies.
In 2018, “Webfest Berlin” presented 60 digital short films and web series from more than 20 countries. In each case, three to six single episodes in programme slots of just 45 minutes were shown as representative screenings. In addition to panel discussions, the festival held the exclusive premiere of “Klicknapped” from the “funk” (ARD/ZDF TV broadcasters’) digital content for young audiences, as well as hosted the “Digital Short Form Series Pitch Contest” from Deutsche Telekom, for which the winner (Kim Nguyen with the project “Feline Dion”) was awarded €20,000 in development funding.
“Webfest Berlin”, which was a two-day event last time around, is being held in 2019 from 12 to 14 September under the motto “Powerup”. The programme has been available online since 28 June.
die Seriale Giessen https://www.die-seriale.de/
Webfest Berlin https://www.webfest.berlin/
A good address for further international web series festivals is the blog mentioned above, https://www.worldwidewebserie.com