Marc Lorber has filled the role of senior VP of original programming and production and executive producer at HBO Central Europe for a little over seven months. Here he gives realscreen the lowdown on HBO CE’s programming strategy and what’s on the slate.
What is on HBO Central Europe’s upcoming slate of documentaries?
We’re gearing up quickly to produce 16 to 20 feature length docus across the region – primarily from Hungary, Poland, Romania, Czech Republic and Slovakia and, to a lesser degree, Bulgaria.
A few examples [of subject matter being tackled] include, from Poland: the provocative Catholic priest who is also a vocal sex educator and sex workshop coach; the controversial issue of pregnancy surrogates and the baby who has six sets of parents now claiming it and the story of the most well-known Polish transsexual as he undergoes both a name and a physical change to become a woman.
From Hungary, we have the story of Roma who currently are or want to become police and the prejudices they face on a daily basis; the stories of immigrants from across Europe, the Middle East and Africa stuck in local internment camps at the gateway to the European union; a heartwarming tale of a theater troupe and its director as they cast, rehearse and put on a new play, with the twist being all the actors are mentally challenged adults; and the dramatic story of three sisters, two who are now renowned violin virtuosos and the third middle sister who tragically passed away.
From Bulgaria, we have two documentaries about the Roma – [the first featuring] one clan’s unusual, never before seen burial rituals as they create pharaoh-like tombs to their dead; the other, the story of the only apartment block ever built in that country for the Roma and its tragic current condition – yet amidst the squalor humanity and joy survive.
What is the programming strategy for the channel?
To air at least one original new docu per quarter in each of our four key countries and to also use as many of those projects as makes creative sense – either subtitled or dubbed – [and] to run them in each of our other 10 countries. Similar to HBO [USA], we too seek to produce projects you would rarely see on commercial television networks in the region; those projects which can be any combination of risqué, provocative, controversial, inspiring and aspirational. [We're looking for] character-driven projects, and with an eye to being award-winning as well.
Where does the majority of HBO CE’s documentary and non-fiction programming come from?
We have the first premiere of HBO USA’s non-fiction programming in the region but our original docu projects largely do and will come from local producers and directors and production companies in the key countries. It doesn’t mean we won’t occasionally coproduce with other non-HBO CE countries and/or in our non-native languages but it’s not my first priority. [My first priority is] to produce the best local language documentaries we can.
How can producers get their work on HBO CE?
We have commissioning execs who report to me in all of our major countries: Hungary, Poland, Romania, Czech, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia and Croatia. They’re the first [people to contact] with treatments, footage, rough production budgets and timelines, CVs of all key individuals involved, and any past work examples assuming we don’t know them or their work well yet. These are for the local docus – pan-regional projects can come to these execs as well or to me.