‘It is a high-value drama from a major producer based on well-known IP’

Distributors Beta Film; ZDF Studios
Producer Schwarm TV Productions
Length 8 x 60 minutes
Broadcasters ZDF (France); France TV; RAI (Italy); ORF (Austria); SRF (Switzerland); Viaplay (Nordics); Hulu Japan

The Swarm is a multimillion-euro drama based on a best-selling novel by Frank Schätzing. Executive produced by Frank Doelger (Game Of Thrones) and produced by Mark Huffam (The Martian), it imagines a near-future world where a series of mysterious ocean-related events threaten the existence of humanity.

In Australia, jellyfish wash ashore by the thousand while in Canada, whales disappear. In Norway, a new species of ice worm blankets the continental shelf, while toxic algae swamps the African coast. As lethal ocean-borne bacteria spread through Europe’s waterways, a UN task force concludes that humankind is under attack from an intelligent ‘swarm’ life force that lives deep in the ocean. 

The series is a massive international undertaking involving partners from Europe and Asia, with German distributors ZDF Studios and Beta Film jointly handling sales. ZDF Studios vice-president of drama Robert Franke says The Swarm “immediately ticks a lot of boxes”.

“It is a high-value drama from a major producer based on well-known IP. But on top of that, it has found a way to tell a topical story in a non-lecturing way. The problem with a lot of environmental-themed drama is that it comes across as patronising. But the idea of humanity having to deal with an alien life force creates a powerful story engine that sucks you in.”

Beta’s Oliver Bachert says The Swarm is a rarity because “it isn’t easy to find a contemporary subject so many major broadcast partners are willing to invest in upfront. This kind of large-scale co-production is often restricted to period dramas.”

While having multiple partners bolsters the budget, managing conflicting editorial voices can be tricky, but Franke says that hasn’t been an issue.

“We have a strong creative team driving the project, and the production is based on powerful pre-existing IP. All partners were able to look at the source material and express their views on what was important to them.”

Though English-language, Bachert says The Swarm retains local flavours where appropriate: “This was not a market-driven decision.”

The show is currently in post-production, with delivery due in 2023. “Buyers [at Mipcom] will get to see enough material to understand the quality,” Franke says.