From 25 to 27 October 2023, Film University KONRAD WOLF opened its doors for the conference “Redefining Televisuality: Programmes, Practices, Methods“.
On the last day of the conference, Friday, 27 October, various TV formats were the focus of discussion. The panel “TV-Formats” gathered leading experts in media studies. Anne Marit Waade, a researcher at Aarhus University, is known for her work on media tourism and landscapes. Concepción Cascajosa-Virino of UC3M, an expert in Spanish television studies, provided insights with her in-depth analysis of television formats and their impact on society. Florian Krauß from the University of Siegen is an expert on innovative TV formats and has made a name for himself with his work on media convergence. Meral Ozcinar from Manisa Celal Bayar University brings her extensive experience in the Turkish television industry to the table, lending a global perspective to the panel. Together, they delved into the diverse world of TV formats and markets, each with a different focus. The panel was moderated by Aysegül Kesirli Unur from Istanbul Bigli University, Turkey.
Anne Marit Waade & Anders Gronlund: Televisual landscape technologies: Borgen: Power & Glory in Greenland
The opening of the “TV Formats” panel began with a captivating presentation by Anne Marit Waade. Together with her colleague Anders Gronlund from Copenhagen University, she delved into the world of televisuality by focusing on the use of cutting-edge drone technology. Using the Danish political drama Borgen: Power & Glory (2022) as a central example, Waade began her talk with a striking opening scene from Borgen, drawing attention to how Greenland is depicted in this sequence. The use of drone technology in the series demonstrated how new technologies involve the way we perceive television landscapes. Waade discussed the different aspects that these technologies affect, including elements such as camera movements, maps and, most importantly, drone technology.
The presentation took us through the historical and theoretical perspectives of viewing landscapes on television. There was a particular consideration of drone technology and its role in changing the way we experience landscapes. Waade highlighted not only the technological aspects, but also the political and social implications. These are complex in the context of drone technology. On the one hand, drones enable unique images and perspectives. On the other hand, the use of drones raises ethical questions, for example, in relation to surveillance and control, the protection of the environment or the impact on local communities. These discussions are closely linked to geopolitical issues, as the use of drones in certain regions can cause political tensions and debates.
Waade also spoke about drone technology and how it is being used in the television landscape. She explained how drones allow for unique shots such as the “god’s eye” or the “bird’s perspective.” She emphasised the ease, flexibility and cost-effectiveness of drone technology and compared drone technology to traditional techniques such as using helicopters.
The viewing of the stunning footage in Greenland is made possible by drone technology. Finally, Waade returned to the opening scene of “Borgen: Power & Glory” and emphasized the importance of drone footage in that scene. It was fascinating to learn that the scene was not shot in Greenland at all, but in Iceland. This underscores the transformative power of technology in television production. Her talk not only made me think about technological advances, but also opened up a new perspective on the connection between technology, aesthetics and televisuality.
Concepción Cascajosa-Virino: Critical prestige, globalisation, and transformation of the TV drama industry: the Spanish Peak TV canon
In recent years, the Spanish TV drama industry has experienced considerable growth, both in terms of the number of series produced and the critical recognition they are beginning to receive. This was the topic of the presentation by Concepción Cascajosa-Virino of Carlos III University in Madrid. Cascajosa-Virino brought a personal touch right at the beginning of her presentation, saying that she gave her first academic presentation in English some years ago at the Film University Babelsberg.
Cascajosa-Virino emphasised the importance of Spanish TV dramas and how they are gaining more and more recognition internationally. She explained that this success is due to the introduction of the original fiction strategy of the pay TV service Movistar+ and the emergence of transnational video services such as Netflix, Amazon and Disney+. Prior to this upsurge, Spanish TV drama was already in a process of renewal, improving both narrative forms and production values. Once despised, Spanish TV drama now enjoys critical acclaim and has even been compared to cinema.
Her presentation aimed to analyse the canon of Spanish TV dramas that has emerged in recent years. She conducted a comparative perspective between 2017 and 2022, examining which series have received international recognition. In doing so, she addressed genres, themes and aesthetic characteristics.
Below the trailer for Antidisturbios, one of the key dramas from 2020 which is indicative for the boom in Spanish TV fictions.
Particularly impressive, according to this analysis, was the consideration of 2020 as the year of Spanish fiction. The series Veneno (2020), Patria (2020) and Antidisturbios (2020) were highlighted as outstanding examples of excellence in Spanish television drama, showing different aspects and potentials of this medium. Cascajosa-Virino’s presentation provided an insight into the Spanish TV drama industry and highlighted its dynamic development in a global context.
Florian Krauß: “Screen-only format” and “chamber play”: production processes, aesthetics, and televisuality in the COVID-19 dramedy Drinnen – Im Internet sind alle gleich
The third presentation of the panel by Florian Krauß, lecturer at the University of Siegen, was dedicated to the creative challenge that the Corona pandemic posed for the production of television series. Krauß presented “screen-only format” and “chamber play” as innovative approaches to TV production and examined their impact on aesthetics and televisuality.
Krauß’s presentation focused on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the genesis of some TV series. He highlighted how the pandemic affected not only the content but also the production of shows. The research particularly focused on analysing the 2020 ZDF dramedy Drinnen – Im Internet sind alle gleich, a series that Krauß said stood out not only for its content but also for its unique production style, which was shaped by the pandemic and the contact restrictions it imposed.
The series was produced during the COVID-19 pandemic, which created special challenges. All crew members worked from home due to contact restrictions, which allowed the use of the “screen-only” format. Krauß explained how this format shaped the televisuality of the series and was created under the specific conditions of the pandemic.
Krauß examined the aesthetic approaches of the series through interviews with production members and practitioners. In doing so, he established a clear link to the concept of televisuality. Drinnen employed a “screen-only” format, showing the protagonist in front of her laptop while we simultaneously see her screen with various images, windows, apps, and messages. This technique illustrated the specific televisuality created under the conditions of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, Krauß emphasized the role of Drinnen as an innovative role model for the German film and television industry, highlighting the enormous challenges and efforts involved in producing in times of crisis. He thus illustrated the amazing adaptive capabilities of the television industry.
Meral Ozcinar: Aesthetic Structure of Turkish TV Series and International Audience Preference
The last presenter of the panel was Meral Ozcinar. She devoted her presentation to the aesthetics of Turkish television series and their success at the international level in the context of quality television.
Ozcinar emphasised that Turkish television series have enjoyed international success since the 2000s, reaching markets in different regions. She introduced the theory of cultural proximity, which states that audiences prefer content produced in their own local or national context. Melodrama as a genre was highlighted for its universal appeal, which facilitates Turkish television series to cross cultural boundaries.
The presentation made a connection between Bourdieu’s concepts of field, habitus, and cultural capital and Turkish television series. Ozcinar showed how these concepts influence the audience’s reception of these series. The main research questions of the study focused on the narrative and visual codes of Turkish television series, their specific genres, and the reasons for their great international success. Interviews with industry professionals revealed that the most important aspect of Turkish television series is a compelling story. The importance of well-executed production, elaborate sets and detailed attention to every aspect of the series was also emphasised.
One example of Turkish TV dramas that have found international success is Bir Samanlar Cukurova
It was made clear by Ozcinar that some Turkish content does not have a set genre. This allows them to move seamlessly between different genres such as romantic comedy, drama, love story and thriller. A striking example of this is the series Bir Samanlar Cukurova (2018-2022).
In her conclusion, Ozcinar emphasised how the international success of Turkish television series has permanently changed the television series landscape. They have created a new genre that influences audience preferences. Their influence has redefined the way television series are produced and consumed.
Concluding remarks: insight into the world of television research
The conference provided a fascinating insight into the diverse world of television research. The presentations provided in-depth analysis and insights on a wide range of topics, from the use of new technologies in television production to the cultural significance of TV dramas in different countries.
The diversity of approaches and perspectives presented by the speakers was particularly striking. From technical innovations, qualitative analyses and cultural studies interpretations, each presentation contributed in its own way to expanding our understanding of television.
As a newcomer to this type of scholarly environment, it was impressive to see how meticulous and dedicated the researchers were to their projects. While the time constraints in the presentations resulted in some speedy presentation style, it also allowed for an amount of information to be conveyed in a short amount of time. As a student, I am taking away many insights and suggestions from this conference. I was particularly impressed by the importance of innovation and adaptability in the ever-changing media landscape. The diversity of research topics showed me that the world of television still holds many undiscovered facets that need to be explored. I found Concepción Cascajosa-Virino’s presentation on the panel particularly interesting. As I personally love watching Spanish series, it was exciting to learn more about the development of the Spanish market in a global context. But the presentation on drone technology also made me think, as I was previously unaware of some aspects, such as the impact on local communities.
Overall, the conference was an enriching experience that provided me with insight into the vibrant and dynamic world of television research. I look forward to delving deeper into this fascinating field of research in the future and perhaps being among those who contribute exciting insights here myself one day.
Alison Winter is a 24-year-old student studying for a master’s in media studies at the Film University in Babelsberg. Before that, she studied Journalism and Corporate Communications at the HMKW University of Applied Sciences in Berlin. Alongside her studies, she worked in a German television production company, where she gained practical experience in the media sector. Before that, she worked for two years in a large media company in Berlin in the field of project management.