by Tim Free
Mr. Blanche*, you made your first public appearance as head of literature on Thursday at a media breakfast organized by SRF Kultur. You did not show any tension. Is this impression wrong?
I knew the header of the novel was a barebones job. But what happened on Thursday with Mike Mueller and Susan Wylie was really a new situation for me. So this obviously makes you a little nervous.
Her predecessor, Urs Fitz, wanted to make “intelligent entertainment for a wide audience”. What is your vision
My vision is closely related to that of Urs Fitze. I can recognize his wording. Our mission is to reach a wide audience. But not only with any content, but with subjects that have a certain sense and intelligence that we treat imaginatively. This means that we relate to the living environments, the facts, and the questions of the population. The bottom line is that our stories should be relevant to the German-speaking Swiss population. At the same time, we must not forget that we enjoy entertainment. However, both sides can be easily combined.
Again, where do you want to put your stamp on imagination?
On the other hand, the width that we have to achieve with our formats is important to us. On the other hand, we also have to have the courage to dare something new or experiment in order to reach a younger audience – at the risk that we don’t always reach that scale. This drive on bars is, of course, tightrope walking, but that’s exactly what makes my job as a fiction master so interesting. I’m not the type to think in black and white. I want to push innovations forward, but at the same time realize that our primary mission according to the franchise is to reach the general public. Finding the golden path between mainstream and innovation is my vision.
Speaking of experiences: to what extent is the new series Emma Lies an experience?
With “Emma Lies” we can talk about a completely new approach. If we always need three to four years to realize a project, it’s a pity, because you miss the opportunity to fantastically tell current topics within a reasonable amount of time. We developed and implemented “Emma is lying” in less than a year. This allowed us to delve into current events, such as the Ukraine war. This series is SRF’s first fast-paced fantasy project, which means: Develop and realize an existing topic so quickly that the topic is still sufficiently topical when it airs.
A movie that makes it possible to tell a story ‹Undertakers› To proceed in a different way »
With the six-part crime series “Die Beschatter,” SRF is introducing another new series this fall. It will premiere on October 30 and will air in just three weeks. What is a rush?
There are two reasons. On the other hand, broadcast slots are no longer as fixed as before. With Neumat, we broadcast it on TV very compactly and posted it on the Internet, which worked very well. This encouraged us to try the same thing with The Bastir. The FIFA World Cup, on the other hand, kicks off in mid-November – and we wanted to air the series in the fall.
Michael Steiner directs “Die Beschatter,” making it the first director of the SRF series. Did you have to do a lot of persuasion?
Michael Steiner was really looking forward to it from the start. Since he had never done a chain before, he really wanted to. I think it’s great that we can win a character like Michael Steiner, an exceptional talent in Switzerland. In this respect, I am completely non-Swiss: Excellence must be promoted, it is on the podium. And I don’t want anyone to interpret that as a vote against the other directors we’ve worked with or worked with. I appreciate them all very much. By the way, my plea for excellence also applies to the actors: it must be exciting for them to participate in our projects.
The return of “Bestatter” and Mike Müller caused a particular stir – with a 90-minute feature film co-produced by SRF. Did you have to jump over your shadow at SRF?
The Undertaker’s termination after seven seasons was painful. But it was also true, which is why we still support it today. We wanted to stop at the climax – also realizing that it was difficult to successfully continue the stories in series form. But since many viewers wanted Mike Muller and “Bestatre” back, we decided to do something cinematic with him. A movie that makes it possible to tell a story «Undertakers» to be updated in a different way than the string format. I would like to stress that this is not a sequel to Season 7.
Another aspect of your vision is to enhance cooperation and co-production with public broadcasters in German-speaking countries. why?
Close collaboration makes sense because everyone faces the same challenges; To be able to keep pace with digital change and reach the target audience of youth.
“I would be lying if I said the initiative doesn’t interest us mentally.”
More co-productions to get hung up on: Is SRF lacking in its own ideas?
not at all. On the contrary: we have a complete development pipeline. We are consciously developing more than we can realize. Because the truth is that not every development can lead to success. On the other hand, we will continue to rely on minority co-productions, which we are doing this fall with the international productions “Das Netz” and “Riesend Höhle”. This means: we participate, investing a certain amount in an exciting and cost-effective program with a Swiss connection. In addition, we will increasingly rely on the majority of co-production. This means that the productions we started in Switzerland are so good that we are winning international co-production partners.
Acceptance of the so-called halving initiative, which calls for the SRG fee funds to be reduced to CHF200, will have a significant impact on these plans. How important is the initiative on which signatures are collected in your daily work?
I would be lying if I said the initiative didn’t bother us mentally. At the same time, it is our duty to do our work as much as possible to convince the public that we are creating indispensable added value through our cultural programme. At the moment – and until the initiative is realized – we make no statements about what admission means in the imagination of the SRF.
The Fantasy Division is one of the eleven multimedia teams that SRF Kultur is working with on repositioning themselves from this fall. Strikingly: You are the sole manager in charge of the show and the coach of the team. Would you rather be in control?
not at all. Since my predecessor Urs Weitzy deservedly retired, the process of appointing his successor went ahead before the new multimedia teams were finalized. Additionally, as Head of Fiction at SRF, you are very exposed in the film industry. This requires someone to represent the company to the outside world. I share the philosophy we have in multimedia teams 100 percent: teamwork and shared leadership. I’m not someone I’m very controlling. On the contrary: I am an advocate of participatory leadership. I love to stand up to present SRF to the outside world in difficult moments. If we succeed, I want my colleagues to stand up.
What movies or series do you like to watch outside of the SRF world?
I really love the “Sex Education” series, and it’s now in its fourth season. If I had to pick one thing off Netflix all the time, it would be The Crown – I love epic storytelling. As half French, “Dix pour cent” (“Call my agent”) remains one of my favorite series.
*Baptiste Blanche He has been the new Head of Literature at SRF since May 2022. Previously, as Production Manager for Literature, he was responsible for production since 2018 for films and TV series co-produced by SRF and for commissioned productions such as the Swiss “Tatort”. Prior to joining SRF, Blanche worked as an independent film producer and founded an interactive film startup. He studied social sciences and has a master’s degree in management and leadership at ZHAW since 2021.