Show of the week: Brussels


Novelist Leon de Winter demanded complete freedom from Dutch telco KPN in order to create European political drama Brussels, the show’s director, Arno Dierickx, tells TBI Scripted

With telecommunications companies increasingly desperate to retain their subscribers and willing to pay for exclusive content to encourage their continued custom, yet another avenue for writers and producers and their ideas has opened up.

Dutch novelist Leon de Winter identified this opportunity when he had a plan to write what Arno Dierickx describes as “the European House of Cards”, a concept that ultimately became Brussels.

“Leon wanted the series to be written like one of his books,” says Dierickx. “He didn’t want a producer or commissioning editor telling him what to do.”

That’s why he approached Dutch landline and mobile phone provider KPN, which wanted in on high-end drama. It had created an on-demand channel as an add-on for its telecoms subscribers, but was to that point populating it only with music and sports content.

The result was a 10-part commission, with director Dierickx drafted in to work up the ideas in De Winter’s head into a series that draws together the Machiavellian political dealings of House of Cards with a wider story about the capital city. Endemol Shine Netherlands was called in as the producer and Endemol Shine International took sales rights outside the Netherlands.

De Winter’s concepts headed “in all directions, meaning I thought I would have to film in all directions”, says Dierickx. The director made early headway on the task by creating a musical edit, which he made the writer listen to. “This went from opera to slaughterhouse,” says Dierickx, reflecting the various tones in the series.

Dierdickx says producing and directing the series was like no other experience he has had: KPN played just a small role in the production, only ensuring the multi-million-Euro budget didn’t spiral out of control, and De Winter’s fluid writing style meant script changes could be made almost on the spot with the actors. “I got from Leon the complete freedom that he had demanded from KPN,” he adds.

Format: 10x60mins; binge-viewing friendly… “Binge watching is like consuming a book, so we worked on ‘chapters’ rather than episodes,” says Dierickx
Plot: “The story of the collision of the powerful and powerless against a backdrop of a city that pulsates with tension”
Starring: Johanna ter Steege, Alexander Lazarev, Carolien Karthaus-Spoor