EXCLUSIVE: Netflix’s first German original series Dark was always going to be a tough act to follow for its creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar. The mind-bending, time-weaving show debuted on the platform in December 2017 and attracted a global fanbase across a run of three taut, satisfying seasons until it concluded in June 2020. Alongside critical acclaim, the series is also understood to have been a viewing hit for Netflix, which doesn’t disclose specific numbers but did reveal back in October that it was the streamer’s third most watched international series in America.
In 2018, Friese and Odar inked a significant overall deal with Netflix that sees them exclusively create projects for the streamer across an initial five-year period. Post-Dark, their next show will be 1899, an ambitious period mystery set on a migrant boat sailing from Europe to the United States. As Deadline revealed today, the project will star Aneurin Barnard, Andreas Pietschmann, Miguel Bernardeau alongside Emily Beecham. We can also now confirm exclusively that the show is on floors at Studio Babelsberg in Germany, and that it is being filmed on a brand new, state of the art ‘virtual production’ facility known as a ‘Volume’.
Aneurin Barnard, Andreas Pietschmann, Miguel Bernardeau & More Join Epic Netflix Series ‘1899’ From ‘Dark’ Creators
The stage, similar to the tech notably used on Disney’s The Mandalorian, is 75ft across and 23ft tall, with 4,500 sqft of shooting space. It is surrounded by a dynamic LED backdrop that is rendered in a video game engine (Unreal Engine) in real-time, moving with the camera to simulate a realistic background and sky that creates the illusion of shooting outdoors. Because the whole process is captured in-camera, with effects added in real time, the technology eschews the need for green screen and drastically reduces the post-production process.
The facility, which is operated by Friese and Odar’s sister company Dark Bay (their production company is Dark Ways), has cost a significant amount of money to build, with backing coming from sources including the Investment Bank of Brandenburg and Netflix. Raising that funding was possible because Netflix has also committed to house multiple series on the stage, including at least one season of 1899 (more on that later), over the coming years, the streamer tells us. Dark Bay is Europe’s largest virtual production site and will be bookable for exterior producers once 1899 wraps in November.
“Going forward we have the opportunity for any filmmakers around the world to come to Babelsberg and use the facility. I envision that Germany can become a European leader in virtual production,” Netflix’s director of International Originals Rachel Eggebeen tells Deadline.
Those involved in 1899 are keeping plot details close to their chests, but the premise is that the passengers on the boat, who hail from a diverse mixture of cultures and backgrounds but are united in seeking a better life in the U.S., encounter another migrant boat adrift on the open sea that turns their journey into a horrifying nightmare. Deadline can also today unveil a first teaser for the project:
The series has been in the works since 2018 and began to gain momentum at the beginning of last year, when the pandemic had yet to really register in Europe. As Friese and Odar explain to Deadline from the Babelsberg studio in their first interview about the show, virtual production was not a consideration at that point.
“We are very old school filmmakers. We’re used to going on real locations, using real sounds and stuff like that, that was the plan for this show,” says Odar. “The pandemic really hit us, and we had to discuss how we could do a pan-European show…