So much reality is in the ZDF series

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LuxembourgPaula Beer has her eye-catching experience during a panic attack. Agitated, the young woman sits in her car in an underground car park in Frankfurt's financial district. Her eyes are wide open. Tears run down her cheeks. She pulls out her phone, gasps, gasps. "They kicked me out," she sobs into the phone. During the conversation she starts to hyperventilate again and again.

Beer is the leading actress of the ZDF hit production "Bad Banks". The panic attack – only acting. In the series, the 24-year-old mimics the young ambitious investment banker Jana Liekam, who works for the fictitious "Deutsche Global Invest" – and is initially released.

For her acting performance Beer has received, among other things, the German Television Award. But until then it was a long way for the actress. In the beginning, she says openly, she often had problems understanding the acts of her role as a banker.

Just the second "Bad Banks" relay is off. In addition to the financial metropolis of Frankfurt, this time Berlin, Luxembourg and the Caribbean are locations. In season one, when it came to explaining how the financial crisis broke out in 2008, the second season begins six months after the crisis and plunges into the European start-up and fintech scene. At the beginning of the year 2020, the first new episode will start.

Beer is sitting in her caravan on the set near the University of Luxembourg. Instead of pants suit, as in the series, she wears leggings and fleece sweaters. "I really did not understand a thing the first time I read the script," she recalls. When she took on the role, she was just 21 years old.

Before the scene with the panic attack from season one, Beer wondered: Why does a termination cause such a violent reaction in a person? Why does the young banker apparently want to belong?

Answers gave her young, aspiring financial experts, whom she met in preparation for the shoot in lectures at the university. They made it clear to them that anyone who flies out of the ambitious industry breaks not only their own career, but also a world together.

Series becomes a hit

"Bad Banks" was the surprise on German television in 2018. And even if the series in the linear ZDF program was only a modest success, she scored in the ZDF-Mediathek ordinary polling numbers. In the first week after publication ZDF recorded 1.3 million sightings, there was not a single episode on regular TV.

The series also became a hit because the creators managed to trace the pre-crisis banking world in great detail: somewhere between cool, competitive and cocaine stereotypes. Despite these oversubscription, even some bankers in the series attested a surprisingly high reality factor.

And that is not coincidence. Not only Beer meticulously studied for her role. The two other leading actors, Barry Atsma and Desirée Nosbusch, also spoke with a number of financial experts. Among other things, they flew to the financial centers of London and New York, watched documentaries, paged interviews in business newspapers and learned the banker's vocabulary. All of this should help the actors understand the highly complex decisions that make their roles in front of the camera.

Barry Atsma, for example – in "Bad Banks" Liekam's smart, but choleric boss Gabriel Fenger – recalls a taxi ride in London, which he used to prepare. At that time the actor had about an hour to poke a banker with questions. That's how long it takes from Heathrow Airport to downtown, where the banker had the next appointment. The insider did not give him more time. The contact had been made at that time director Christian Schwochow.

Sudden role reversal

On the way, they talk easily about everyday life in the financial industry. Suddenly the banker puts pressure on him. Every second, his counterpart fires a salvo of personal questions at the actor, trying to corner him: what's that series you are playing in? "Asks the banker. Why are you doing there? What is your goal?

The intent of the banker: Atsma is to feel the constant pressure to perform in the banking industry itself to remember later on the camera can. "They test how fast their people can think and how much pressure they can withstand." He then used this tactic for his role as an investment banker Fenger.

Paula Beer, who had "hardly any contact with the banking sector" apart from a few savings bank visits, noticed at the financial squad, which she had visited in preparation, how enormously the pressure had already been in the lecture hall. The students were classified in rankings, from the beginning it was about being one of the best, explains Beer. "I knew that I would never understand what they are doing professionally. But that was not my claim, "she says. At that time she was more concerned with the emotional world of the career-driven young bankers she wanted to understand.

Even during the shoot for the second season, the actors are real financial experts to the side. Producer Katharina Haase is in contact with the industry professionals on the set via WhatsApp. She scrolls through the conversations of the last few days of shooting on her mobile.

6:43 pm, Haase asks, "In our story, the Lead Engineer breaks away, whereupon Jana hires a troupe of coders without discussing it with her co-CEO. What can go wrong? What happens if somebody does something with you? "
19:46 clock, a banker response: "So without agreeing with the co-CEO does not work, that would be usually [usually, note of the Red.] Mega pissed. And if something goes wrong, you have a bad code with bugs etc. Or they are scammers and they are building a backdoor ".

With WhatsApp and coaching the team behind "Bad Banks" shimmy through the script of the second season. A method that seemed to work well in the previous season. The first contacts came about a lot on the former director Schwochow, who had gained access partly through their own research in the scene. The "Bad Banks" team still benefits from this – even though the director has since changed.

Women in the male domain

Desiree Nosbusch, who plays in the series Liekams former boss Christelle Leblanc, describes the shooting and the preparation "as the picture book variant of a job". Unlike Beer, who looked at young bankers at the beginning of their career, Nosbusch mingled with top bankers to play the bank manager as authentically as possible. She met with successful women from the financial sector in New York and London.

One of them, she says, is practically the template for the character in the series. Who the real banker is, does not betray her. Only so much: "This woman could wonderfully explain the motivation of my character: the greed for power and the panic before the fall out of the career wheel." The 54-year-old also learned a lot about how women find their way in the male-dominated world of finance. "When I play Leblanc, my posture changes: I grow up and my voice goes a little deeper."

"A woman who wants to have a say in the floors at the top has to suppress the feminine, the sensitive and the understanding in advance," she says. A challenge for the actress: "When I take off my wig in the evening, I am glad that I do not really live such a life."

Atsma has also taken from the shooting additional practical tips for their own investment: "If you use your money, you must be willing to play these games and really deal with it. I was too naive, "he explains. That's why he sold all his shares after season one and invested the money in houses. That was safer.

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