EXCLUSIVE: German documentarian Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion is preparing feature film projects on former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and another from the UK. Lucy the human chimpanzee Director Alex Parkinson.
The madoverbrandmay reveal the Reeperbahn Special Unit 65 The producer, who we reported last week had sold to Leonine Studios, is working on The Netanyahu Paradox Y Lost at sea – The longest night (Work title).
The company has also confirmed a second season of Reeperbahn – Special unit 65. It’s already partially funded, with the award-winning documentary series about German cops fighting organized crime in the 1980s moving to the 1990s for a new run.
The news came in a wide-ranging interview with Gebrueder Beetz co-founders Christian and Reinhardt Beetz, in which they discussed how being part of an established group would impact their independent approach and revealed a deep development background that will allow them to do up to 15 series of premium documents and/or one-offs per year. You can read the full interview down.
“It’s a big step, going from a family business to an established business,” Christian Beetz told Deadline. “After 20 years in the market, we know the challenges and changes in the space, and Leonine will help us grow and do what we love: premium crime documentaries, series and true events.”
The Netanyahu Paradoxcurrently in pre-production, is a documentary feature film Inside the MossadIt’s Duki Dror. It is based on the best-selling biographies of Netanyahu chronicler Ben Caspit, who has unrivaled access to the inner circle of politicians.
The paper will look at how Netanyahu’s personal demons and abusive relationships within his family affected how he brought Israel and the Middle East region to the brink of disaster.
Netanyahu, who led Israel from 1996 to 1999 and then from 2009 to 2021, is attempting another tilt to power. However, reports this week suggest the bloc he leads will not form a new coalition government after failing to win the required number of seats.
Lost at sea – The longest night is also a feature-length documentary. Parkinson, who was Emmy nominated for Channel 4 and HBO Lucy the human chimpanzeeis in charge of the project.
It tells the story of how French skipper Kevin Escoffier was rescued during the 2020-2021 Vendée Globe, known as the world’s toughest sailing regatta, or the ‘Everest of the Seas’, in which sailors sail the world solo , without scales and without assistance.
He got into trouble when the ship’s hull split in half and sent out an emergency message before going silent. Fellow seaman Jean Le Cam later found Escoffier alive and brought him aboard another ship. Earlier this year, Deadline revealed that Parkinson is doing another sea rescue feature, Last breath, starring Woody Harrelson, Simu Liu and Djimon Hounsou. That was based on his acclaimed 2019 documentary of the same name, co-directed with Richard da Costa.
Read on to find out more about Gebrueder’s future.
DEADLINE: How did the deal with Leonine come about?
Christian Beetz: More than a year ago, [Leonine Studios CEO] Fred Kogel asked us to meet. We thought it would be about collaborating on documents, since Leonine is already strong in drama and fiction, but she was surprisingly asking about a deeper partnership. Many international players told us about similar partnerships, but we thought the meeting with Fred went so well that this was the right deal.
DEADLINE: How do you feel about it now that the line has passed?
CB: It’s a big step, going from a family business to a consolidated company. After 20 years in the market, we know the challenges and changes in the space. Leonine will help us grow and do what we love: crime documentaries, series and premium facts. An important point to note is that we are the only ones who make premium documentaries at Leonine, which is different from other companies and that was the difference with those other offers. Working with Fred, we want to build a new documentary powerhouse.
Reinhardt Beetz: It’s a big change but not a change either. We wanted to grow alone, but now we have an association that facilitates part of that process; and we meet Fred and Leonine and their goals internationally.
DEADLINE: In the short term, what does Mipcom Cannes look like for you now?
CB: We’re doing it on our own so we can explain what this all means and how people can work with us. I would call it a ‘classic Mipcom’: back to back meetings.
We continue to work with our traditional distribution partners, such as Fremantle, Off the Fence, One Gate Media and Blue Ant International, and want to do distribution on a case-by-case basis. We’re doing so many different documents: unique cinematic documents like eternal selfthe next film from the directors of the cleanersand that is with Dogwoof because they are the right partners internationally. A century of sex education is with Off the Fence — a two/three-part series that will be sold at Mip. We don’t want to build our own distribution brand because our collaborations with partners are very good.
TERM: Reeperbahn Special Unit 65 was nominated for a Series Formats award at the Hamburg Film Festival. How did the idea come about?
CB: Reeperbahn is just as entertaining as fiction, but it’s a true story, with real characters. At its core, it’s still an archive but it’s as entertaining as fiction would be. we won the [Special Prize] the Producers Award, which is a great example of how the world is changing; There is no big difference between the so-called prime documentary series and fiction. It was the first time we were in a fiction contest and we won. We are already working on a second season, from the perspective of the cops fighting organized crime in the 1990s in five parts. The first one started in the 1980s. It is already partially financed by film funds and is in pre-production.
DEADLINE: What other projects are underway?
RB: We’re going to come out with a series called The Netanyahu Paradox, working with partners in Israel. We’ve done a high-level series on Mossad and current affairs with them and this is a new one with insights into the Netanyahu family network. We will have the first talks in Cannes. We are also working with Sky Originals, we have a project with NBCU and another with Fremantle.
DEADLINE: What does success look like for you a year from now?
CB: The big change right now is that we have a multi-year development fund with Leonine, which means we can develop 10-15 main documentary series and one-off series a year, or at least the possibility if we find the right partners. For example, we are currently working with Alex Parkinson from the UK, who did Lucy the human chimpanzee. We are developing a main document, Lost at sea – The longest night, about a great rescue story based on the Vendee Globe in 2020: one person, one boat. Kevin Escoffier was lost in the ocean 1,000 km from land and the last message from him before his rescue was an SOS. We had the idea, we called Alex and told him we had the development fund, and now we’re getting it ready for market.
DEADLINE: This is a very international project. German television is sometimes considered quite insular, but Gebrueder seems to have always taken a different approach. Is that a fair criticism of German television and how have you avoided falling for it?
RB: Perhaps because we have always focused on the international market since minute one, 20 years ago. We have always developed stories with directors and talent from all over the world. Here in Germany, we work with public broadcasters and those stories need a local angle. That’s the same if you’re working outside of the US and anywhere else in the world. It’s always the challenge, but we’ve been good at telling general stories that work for an international audience.
CB: We have always felt a bit strange here in Germany. Our brains have always been more outside Germany than inside it.
RB: We are working with the international community and we will continue to do so in any case, and Leonine facilitates it in certain aspects. The international market is more challenging than ever, but we believe this is the right step for us. We want to open our arms and invite people to work with us.
The development fund is very important to us. In Germany, only small development funds are available and we have often paid people out of pocket to develop shows. We hoped those stories would work, but it was difficult. Overall, this is a great partnership.