Seri­al Eyes: Working in tele­vi­si­on and get­ting paid for it

Begin­ning of April, MIDPOINT – a trai­ning and net­wor­king plat­form for script and pro­ject deve­lo­p­ment ope­ra­ting under the auspi­ces of the Aca­de­my of Per­forming Arts in Pra­gue – invi­ted Ben­ja­min Har­ris, the Head of Pro­gram­me for Serial Eyes, to sit down tog­e­ther and to talk about what the 9‑month resi­den­ti­al pro­gram has to offer and how to app­ly for the April 15 dead­line.

The ori­gi­nal inter­view can be found here. Have a good read!


MIDPOINT: What would be the typi­cal back­ground of a Seri­al Eyes par­ti­ci­pant? Who is the pro­gram tar­ge­ting?

Ben­ja­min Har­ris: Seri­al Eyes is aimed at up-and-coming Euro­pean TV wri­ters who have work­ed pro­fes­sio­nal­ly in their home mar­ket and are now rea­dy to step up to an inter­na­tio­nal level. The ide­al can­di­da­te thri­ves on team­work and will want to work in a wri­ters’ room set­ting. We accept twel­ve peo­p­le per year, so it’s a pret­ty inti­ma­te set­ting. You have to be wil­ling to work with ele­ven other peo­p­le in clo­se quar­ters for nine months! Appli­cants should have at least 1–3 years of pro­fes­sio­nal expe­ri­ence as a screen­wri­ter and should ide­al­ly have writ­ten at least one epi­so­de for a dra­ma or come­dy series for a TV chan­nel in their own coun­try. Alter­na­tively, can­di­da­tes may also have suc­cessful­ly com­ple­ted a TV wri­ting pro­gram such as MIDPOINT TV Launch. Very important: can­di­da­tes must have a high level of fluen­cy in writ­ten and spo­ken Eng­lish. Seri­al Eyes is taught enti­re­ly in Eng­lish.

MP: Are Cen­tral and Eas­tern Euro­pean appli­cants wel­co­me?

BH: Yes, very much so. We encou­ra­ge appli­cants from Cen­tral and Eas­tern Euro­pe, espe­ci­al­ly MIDPOINT TV Launch alum­ni. We now offer tui­ti­on scho­lar­ships for appli­cants from so-cal­led low-capa­ci­ty count­ries (for a com­ple­te list of qua­li­fy­ing count­ries plea­se check our admis­si­ons web­page).

MP: How does the Seri­al Eyes trai­ning work? Is it a day-to-day “school”?

BH: Seri­al Eyes is a full-time, resi­den­ti­al pro­gram. That means par­ti­ci­pan­ts com­mit to living and stu­dy­ing in Ber­lin for the full 9 months. We car­ry a pret­ty packed, five-days-a-week sche­du­le, espe­ci­al­ly in the first semes­ter, with all-day work­shops, semi­nars and wri­ters’ rooms. The­re are wri­ting peri­ods at regu­lar inter­vals in the cour­se. But par­ti­ci­pan­ts should expect to be tog­e­ther with their peers on an almost dai­ly basis.

MP: What topics does the 9‑month pro­gram cover?

BH: Our focus is the wri­ters’ room expe­ri­ence. That means par­ti­ci­pan­ts learn the dyna­mics of the wri­ters’ room and prac­ti­ce lea­ding a team of wri­ters. But we’re also a pro­ject incu­ba­tor that encou­ra­ges a col­la­bo­ra­ti­ve work­shop set­ting. Par­ti­ci­pan­ts are trai­ned in nar­ra­ti­ve tech­ni­ques in seri­al wri­ting and the various modes for con­cei­ving new series con­cepts. Each par­ti­ci­pant deve­lo­ps his/​her own TV series from initi­al idea all the way to finis­hed pro­ject pro­po­sal and pilot script. They also col­la­bo­ra­te on group pro­jects that are often writ­ten to a spe­ci­fic brief from one of our indus­try part­ners. Final­ly, our par­ti­ci­pan­ts must under­stand the exi­gen­ci­es and demands of the mar­ket­place and learn about various Euro­pean mar­kets and their spe­ci­fic deve­lo­p­ment and pro­duc­tion methods.

MP: What spe­cial seg­ments apart from the trai­ning at Berlin’s dffb does the pro­gram offer?

BH: Our stu­dy trips are meant to intro­du­ce par­ti­ci­pan­ts to dif­fe­rent mar­kets and the TV pro­fes­sio­nals working the­re. Through our col­la­bo­ra­ti­ons with the Lon­don Film School and the Natio­nal Film School of Den­mark, we spent time in Lon­don and Copen­ha­gen respec­tively and explo­re the local TV indus­tries, learn about their working methods and meet with other wri­ters, pro­du­cers and com­mis­sio­ning edi­tors from tho­se mar­kets. We attend the Ber­li­na­le Dra­ma Series Days and the Series Mania TV fes­ti­val in Lil­le and con­fe­rence in Lil­le, France, and host net­wor­king mixers at tho­se events so that par­ti­ci­pan­ts can build their pro­fes­sio­nal net­works.

MP: What skills, cont­acts, know­ledge do the par­ti­ci­pan­ts gra­dua­te with?

BH: Seri­al Eyes is a pres­su­re coo­ker. So one of the most important qua­li­fi­ca­ti­ons that our gra­dua­tes are reco­gni­zed for in the indus­try is their disci­pli­ne and their abili­ty to work well under pres­su­re. In addi­ti­on, Seri­al Eyes gra­dua­tes have built up a sharp under­stan­ding of series sto­rytel­ling. They know how to mana­ge a team of wri­ters and are very com­for­ta­ble in a wri­ters’ room. Final­ly, they have amas­sed a net­work of indus­try cont­acts across Euro­pe. They will know how to speak to agents, pro­du­cers and com­mis­sio­ning edi­tors and will be able to pitch their sto­ries with ease and cla­ri­ty.

MP: What are some nota­ble suc­ces­ses of the Seri­al Eyes alum­ni?

BH: Some nota­ble alum­ni include Jana Bur­bach (Wri­ter of Bad Banks for ZDF/​ARTE, Co-Crea­tor of Tri­bes of Euro­pe for Net­flix), Den­nis Schanz (Crea­tor of Sky­li­nes for Net­flix), Alex­an­der Lindh and Julia Pen­ner (Head Wri­ters of Druck/​aka Skam Ger­ma­ny for ZDF­neo), Lau­ra Grace (Wri­ter on Das Boot for Sky Ger­ma­ny), Wik­tor Piat­kow­ski (Crea­tor of Wata­haThe Pact for HBO Euro­pe), Isau­re Pisa­ni-Fer­ry (Co-Crea­tor of Vam­pi­res for Net­flix), and Ivan Kne­ze­vic (Wri­ter on Hacker­ville 2 for HBO Euro­pe). The­re are many more who are doing fan­ta­stic work. The main thing is that pret­ty much ever­y­bo­dy is working as a wri­ter and/​or pro­du­cer in tele­vi­si­on and get­ting paid for it. That’s a big suc­cess in my book!


The appli­ca­ti­on dead­line for Seri­al Eyes 2019/​2020 is April 15, 2019. For more infor­ma­ti­on, plea­se visit the admis­si­on web­page.