HomeTelevisionThe Creators of ‘1899’ Reveal (Some of) the Secrets Behind the New...

The Creators of ‘1899’ Reveal (Some of) the Secrets Behind the New Netflix Mystery Series

For followers who’re nonetheless making an attempt to determine season three of Dark — who was Noah’s dad once more? who wrote the triquetra pocket book? — the prospect of diving into one other twisty metaverse from the minds of Dark creators Jantje Friese and Baran bo Odar possible comes with equal measures of pleasure and trepidation. One could also be determined to see the world the duo has created for 1899, the group’s new Netflix collection, however may be barely fearful their mind won’t be capable to deal with it.

The collection definitely guarantees to be as mind-bending as Dark. The setting is a migrant steamship sure from Europe to New York, full of immigrants all “running away from something,” none of whom, we rapidly notice, are fairly what they appear. En route, they encounter a mysterious second ship, the Prometheus, which has been lacking for months, adrift on the open sea. When the crew decides to board the Prometheus, issues take a horrific, and decidedly bizarre, flip.

The present is the primary from Netflix shot completely in a digital studio, utilizing cutting-edge LED-Volume know-how with a online game engine that creates digital units and areas, permitting advanced visual-effects pictures to be carried out in-camera. The total first season was filmed on the Dark Bay LED studio on the Studio Babelsberg lot outdoors Berlin.

Friese and bo Odar spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about how the European refugee disaster impressed the present, designing meta-puzzles for hard-core followers and why Volume know-how represents “a new era” in visible results.

How did the thought come about for 1899? What was the unique spark?

Jantje Friese Actually, the thought and the spark for it occurred years in the past. It’s been fairly a course of attending to right here. It was initially a photograph that we discovered. We have been doing analysis for one thing utterly completely different, I really don’t even keep in mind what the analysis was for. But we stumbled upon an image of a person in a white shirt coated in blood, with a hammer in his hand and a very bizarre look on his face, standing on prime of what regarded like an previous boat. 

It was a kind of footage you’re drawn to, the place you instantly begin asking questions: What did he do with that hammer? Where does he come from? Where’s he going? What’s this all about? 

Immediately, I had the concept that this could be a migrant on a ship. But what occurred on that ship? That was the massive query. 

At the identical time, the refugee disaster was taking place in Europe [around 2015/2016] and it was a really unstable part. We have been really actually afraid of what was occurring. It felt like unified Europe was slowly breaking up, like each nation was doing its personal factor. There have been a lot of right-wing concepts effervescent up. Brexit occurred. All this we type of integrated into our story. 

We thought: We really need to try Europe, simply take it, put it on a ship, in a confined house, with a lot of ocean round, the place you’ll be able to’t escape, and have like just a little little bit of an experiment, virtually like a laboratory experiment. How do individuals deal with conditions once they’re not in a position to communicate the identical language? What occurs when you will have all these completely different cultural backgrounds, which are put into an area like this? That’s what triggered the method. Then, in fact, identical to in Dark, we’ve got a giant philosophical theme on the middle of all of it about notion and actuality.

Why set it on the finish of the nineteenth century? Is it as a result of it was a time of confrontation between know-how and custom?

Baran bo Odar Definitely. It was such an fascinating time, that, sadly, was the build-up for lots of horrible issues that occurred afterwards: With the First World War after which the Second World War, as individuals entered a brand new century, there was plenty of hope, but in addition plenty of concern, concerning new concepts and older concepts — the previous world versus the brand new world. Science and faith clashed quite a bit. 

It’s additionally an fascinating time as a result of there have been such excessive factors of view again then. I’m obsessive about historical past, seeing how all the pieces is expounded to one another, seeing the explanations for issues. Like if one stone begins to roll, and hits one other and that finally ends up resulting in the First World War. 

We’ve heard individuals say it’s good timing as a result of the problems in 1899 are very current in the present day. But in fact, the quantity can also be very magical: 1899. You can do plenty of issues with it. One plus eight is 9. So you will have 999. If you flip that the wrong way up, it’s 666, the variety of the beast, so it’s magical too. 

This collection, like Dark, is a large thriller, a thriller wrapped in an enigma. When you write, how do you plot issues out? Do you will have an enormous board on the wall with pink yarn linking up varied parts? Do you first have the themes after which drop in characters and develop the thriller out of that or do you will have the puzzle first after which see how the characters and themes match into that? 

Friese: There are at all times three key parts. One is theme, the opposite is character and the opposite is plot. Writing is absolutely about going backwards and forwards between all three of them. But normally, it’s the theme that begins the entire course of. We have to know what are we really speaking about. What’s the fundament of all of it? 

Then you begin placing characters into that concept, however they could really feel a bit one-dimensional, so that you get some concepts for the plot and you’re employed it in. But you retain checking: Is it nonetheless working with the theme or do it’s worthwhile to shift {that a} bit? And then one thing that’s fairly essential for collection, particularly in comparison with motion pictures, is the entire world-building course of. What’s the house through which you’re telling your story? 

Then it’s actually plenty of bouncing backwards and forwards between the 2 of us — in the beginning, throwing in random concepts at first and making an attempt to determine what concepts really stick. It’s a really lengthy and in addition very sophisticated course of. 

Andreas Pietschmann performs Captain Eye Larsen in ‘1899’


What have been a few of the dangerous concepts that received tossed out? 

bo Odar: We don’t have dangerous concepts. (Laughs.) No, we simply neglect them instantly. But we’re not afraid of placing dangerous concepts on the desk, as a result of generally there’s one thing small in a foul concept that’s really good that it’s best to use.

One dangerous thought we’ve undoubtedly mentioned shouldn’t be going to occur is that 1899 is expounded to Dark. We get that query quite a bit. So for all of the followers on the market: Sorry, there received’t be any characters from Dark immediately showing on the ship.

Did the worldwide success and fan response to Dark change the way you went about making 1899? Having watched the primary six episodes [of 1899], it seems to be a bit easier than Dark. Was that deliberate?

Friese: We didn’t need to copy precisely the way in which we structured issues in Dark. I believe the 2 ideas wanted two completely different sorts of storytelling. With Dark, the story is absolutely a lot about time, about utilizing one thing linear after which making a lot of knots, throwing it on the viewers and getting them to determine how one can untangle it again right into a extra linear logic. 

1899 simply has a special construction. But it’s not like what we thought: People didn’t perceive Dark, so we’ve got to make this one simpler. I believe it’s a really particular person factor. We’ve talked to lots of people who’ve had the chance to see the primary six episodes, and it’s type of half and half. Some mentioned: Oh, it felt extra relaxed, prefer it was simpler to grasp. Others have been like: This has so many extra sophisticated puzzle items, what are you guys doing? I believe it’s a person expertise. We didn’t attempt to make it simpler. 




We actually attempt to be very true to our core viewers, which simply loves puzzles but in addition is aware of each code and each cultural reference. They are superb at placing items collectively. We really need it to be an awesome expertise for them and never make it too simple. If you’re in that core group, and also you’ve figured it out, you have to be pleased with your self, it’s an superior expertise. 

bo Odar But let’s not neglect that Dark was three seasons. If you simply evaluate the primary season of Dark with the primary season of 1899, I believe they’re equally advanced. Dark solely actually received sophisticated in seasons two and three. The first season is definitely quite simple: It’s a small city, with youngsters disappearing, after which there’s a while journey occasions within the cave. Michael (Sebastian Rudolph) is Michael. It’s quite simple. But everybody now has seen all three seasons, and it will get actually sophisticated. We have already got concepts for a second and third season on 1899, and it will get sophisticated.

This is likely one of the first TV exhibits, after The Mandalorian, to make use of new LED Volume know-how to create digital units. What did you study utilizing the brand new tech? 

bo Odar I believe we discovered quite a bit to be sincere, as a result of it’s a new device. And we like to play with instruments, as a result of I believe as a filmmaker, particularly, you might be like a toddler. Even a digital camera is a device for me, I like to mess around with it, or with a lens. But this can be a huge, new toy and never lots of people have used it but. 

So, as I mentioned, we discovered quite a bit. At first, you suppose all the pieces is feasible, however it’s not. But these limitations are literally superb, as a result of it’s nonetheless a device to create phantasm. And I believe, particularly as a filmmaker, you like creating phantasm. Even 24 frames per second, creating movement from nonetheless frames, that’s the primary phantasm you create as a filmmaker. 

First Look image of Netflix series '1899' which will be shot on a virtual production stage at Studio Babelsberg.

Netflix collection ‘1899’ was shot completely on a digital LED Volume manufacturing stage at Studio Babelsberg.


What we discovered was that utilizing the Volume studio, the mid-ground is all the pieces. It’s a brand new type of pondering for filmmaking: You should suppose in layers and the way you mix these layers. Usually, the foreground is the actor after which the background is what you will have on the LED quantity display screen. But the mid-ground, the factor in between, that’s what really glues these two layers collectively, and it’s an important a part of the entire course of. Most individuals don’t perceive, that, as a result of they’ve by no means used it. But that’s what we discovered: So okay, what do we’ve got to place within the background so it glues this stuff collectively? Sometimes it’s only a desk or a column within the eating room, or in a panorama, perhaps a hill, to create depth. To create an phantasm that the digital house is a three-dimensional house — it’s fascinating. But additionally onerous as a result of it’s a must to rethink the way you’re used to taking pictures stuff.

How did the actors react to working on this new digital house?

Friese: I believe it’s a reduction for them in comparison with inexperienced display screen, simply because you’ll be able to really have a look at one thing. It isn’t only a huge inexperienced display screen the place it’s a must to think about a ship in your head, however you really see the waves, you really see the ship. It creates such a robust phantasm that, at first, the crew and actors have been really getting seasick as a result of the horizon was shifting on the amount display screen. It’s actually bizarre and fascinating know-how, however it’s very useful for the actors.

In phrases of the working course of, what was good for us was to speak to the individuals who labored on The Mandalorian and learn the way they did it. They’d shoot in a single course on the primary day, after which mainly flip the entire set round in a single day and shoot the opposite course. What we did is assemble a turntable in order that we are able to spin the set round in a couple of minutes. So you didn’t have to essentially change the way in which that you simply’re taking pictures; you are able to do the shot and the reverse shot in sooner or later, which was actually useful. 

bo Odar: When we spoke to the blokes behind The Mandalorian, we requested them what labored and what was actually sophisticated. They mentioned essentially the most sophisticated factor was really the logistics, scheduling when you’ll be able to shoot what, how one can get units out and in and the reverse pictures, all these types of issues. When we began, it was about what’s the subsequent step? Because I’m a really conventional filmmaker; I like to offer the actors plenty of house and never restrict them by saying, “We just have this angle. You can only stand here. You can change anything. I need 360 degrees.” That’s when the thought got here to make use of a turntable so you’ll be able to swap issues in simply. It takes 60 seconds to spin and it’s an enormous turntable. Netflix took over that concept and construct one other Volume set in Mexico utilizing a turntable device. 

It’s good that that is constructed upon one thing that we created and another person will give you a brand new thought and so forth. So I believe it’s actually fascinating as a result of that is simply the beginning. It’s prefer it was with the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park. This, this Volume know-how, is the start of a brand new period of visible results.

It undoubtedly has a brand new look: Not like inexperienced display screen but in addition not the identical as a basic set, one thing very a lot its personal factor. 1899 additionally has a singular sound as a result of, becoming with the theme of Europe you have been speaking about, you determined to have all of your actors communicate of their native languages. 

Friese: I believe it’s one thing about rising up in Europe, or rising up as a German, while you devour leisure, which, at the least in our expertise, is coming largely from Hollywood. There’s simply an underrepresentation of the completely different European cultures, the completely different narratives from around the globe. For a very long time, even already in movie faculty, we had this urge to alter that, to essentially have characters from explicit nations communicate in their very own voices, as a result of language actually defines character. If you need to have an genuine efficiency, it’s simply higher when actors carry out in their very own language.




How tough was it for you, Baran, on condition that I assume you don’t communicate all, what, 10-12 languages your actors do? How tough was it to work together with the actors while you’re performing in a language you don’t perceive?

bo Odar: It was a bit tough in the beginning. I had phonetic scripts, and I used to be always wanting on the monitor and studying alongside, making an attempt to comply with the dialogue, which is tough in French, as a result of they’re so quick, and is tremendous onerous in Cantonese, as a result of that language feels prefer it’s from another world. Then sooner or later, I advised myself: Let’s neglect about what they’re saying and take heed to how they’re saying it. Let’s have a look at them as music devices. It’s not each phrase however you learn the way a language sounds and, particularly should you do plenty of takes, you get actually used to it. And then, taking a look at expression and physique language, and all this stuff, you get an understanding of the efficiency. But that easy trick, listening to the music quite than making an attempt to comply with the phrases, that helped me quite a bit.

Was it a problem for the actors themselves, who are sometimes performing reverse somebody whose language they don’t perceive?

bo Odar: Yeah, they actually didn’t perceive one another. That was the fantastic thing about it. It was really easy for them to simply react.

Friese That was the entire level of the present. We can see that even should you don’t actually perceive what phrases are being spoken, you perceive what the opposite particular person is making an attempt to speak. You realize it by the emotional state, how they’re addressing you, their physique language and all the pieces. You know if one thing is pressing or not essential. In the top, the entire language factor was a lot simpler than all of us thought it might be at first. 




We actually needed to get each tradition, all of the languages, proper and never have individuals talking in clichés. Speaking how we predict French individuals would communicate. We put plenty of effort into getting issues proper. But in the long run, it turned out to be approach simpler than we thought, as a result of there’s a type of common language, with out phrases, occurring when you’re speaking with somebody.

How did the script work — did you write in German after which have issues translated?

Friese: Our scripts appear to be Frankenstein monsters. The total script was in English, however all the pieces was twin dialogue. So, you’ll have the English dialogue on the left facet after which the translated dialogue for that character of their language on the correct facet. And each dialogue portion had a script observe. And in that script observe, there could be a meta-conversation about language. 

So, a quite simple instance: In French, you’ll be able to handle somebody in a proper or a casual approach. And, in 1899, even spouses would have addressed one another in a proper approach when in a public place. So that’s like 5 pages of dialog between the author, the translator, the language skilled: “Here should they say ‘tu’ or ‘vous’?” It grew to become a very sophisticated course of. Just opening Final Draft took like 5 minutes due to all these script notes.

bo Odar: That’s a message to Final Draft: Work on that script notes operate. 

Did you study something stunning working throughout so many various languages? 

Friese: Oh, completely. I believe what was essentially the most stunning factor was that there are literally some phrases that you simply can not translate into sure languages, or they’ve a special feeling or nuance to it. And what I simply discovered so fascinating about that, or what grew to become much more clear to me, is that via language you’re really expressing tradition. 

Because should you can not categorical sure feelings via your language then they’re virtually non-existent in that tradition. I believe that’s actually fascinating. Especially engaged on Cantonese was fascinating, as a result of they construction the language utterly otherwise. They have one thing virtually like emoticons on the finish of each sentence, with the intention to perceive how that sentence is supposed. So there’s at all times a tone in the long run, which all imply one thing completely different. It might be a crying smiley face, or it might be a winking smiley face. And due to that tone, you perceive how the entire sentence is supposed. I used to be like, “Wow, it’s such a cool concept. Why don’t we have that?”


Isabella Wei performs Ling Yi in ‘1899’


Speaking as somebody with a German spouse who doesn’t get irony, I’d like to have an emoticon to finish my sentences.

bo Odar: Another good instance is the phrase bold. It’s the identical phrase in English and German. But in English, it means one thing constructive. In German, it’s so damaging. [The German meaning is closer to “unlikely to succeed.”] When we received the notes again from Netflix on Dark, they mentioned: “Such an ambitious project.” We thought they hated it. Then they have been: “No, no, we love it.”

Well, then how bold are you with this collection? Do you have already got the world of 1899 constructed out in your thoughts for the potential subsequent two seasons?

Friese: Yes. We at all times prefer to have an ending earlier than we begin. We need to know the place we’re going. We’re shifting via a narrative, and we need to know the way it will likely be resolved in the long run. In the center, there could also be some concepts which are extra loosely thrown in. And as we undergo the method, the concepts can shift and transfer into a special place. For instance, on Dark, the thought of the parallel universe was at all times deliberate to be within the second season. And then whereas we have been engaged on it, we determined to maneuver it to the third season. Stuff like that at all times occurs. You simply making an attempt to be versatile, to essentially permit the method to shock you when you’re going via it, however nonetheless type of realizing the place you’re crusing to.

What stylistically are you going for with this present? It evokes photos of the nineteenth century however combines them with virtually science fiction know-how and pop tunes on the soundtrack. What have been a few of the touchstones you used when designing the collection?

bo Odar: We at all times suppose any piece of popular culture needs to be a reference to another ingredient of popular culture. We had plenty of pictures from actually bizarre individuals with very unusual lighting setups that created a really fascinating isolation of the figures within the photos. Those have been a key reference. 

But in fact, motion pictures like The Shining or Alien, the place you will have a contained state of affairs like a ship or lodge the place individuals are caught and so they can’t escape it, that creepy feeling of corridors and the way a lot you’ll be able to see or not see, that was undoubtedly a significant affect visually. 




In Dark, we needed the photographs to be virtually like nonetheless pictures, which is why we’ve got these very blocked pictures, very very like photographs. With 1899, as a result of we’re on a ship, and it’s always shifting, the digital camera is simply too. I believe 95 % of the pictures are handheld to make it really feel alive and wild. People are always shifting within the body than quite the very stiff mise-en-scène we utilized in Dark

One reference we didn’t use, and never as a result of we don’t just like the movie, as a result of we liked it when it got here out, was Titanic. We mentioned from the beginning that 1899 mustn’t appear to be Titanic. It ought to really feel completely different, as a result of you will have this picture of a giant steamship going from Europe to America and instantly you suppose this have to be the dice model of Titanic. That’s not what we needed. 

The track White Rabbit performs over the opening credit. Is {that a} Matrix reference? 

Friese: It’s extra a reference to the mind, to psychology and the science of notion. The quote within the track from Emily Dickinson’s poem, at first, is absolutely about experiencing all this bizarre shit going via your mind. In the Eliott Sumner model we use within the title sequence, the road that options so prominently is “feed your head.” That was such an essential phrase for the complete present that it felt like absolutely the proper match. 

1899’s full eight-episode first season streams on Netflix beginning Thursday.

Interview edited and condensed for readability.



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