ACE Project Spotlight: DAVOS 1917

DAVOS 1917 by Jan-Eric Mack, Anca Miruna Lăzărescu and Christian Theede will premiere at Zurich Film Festival 2023. The project was developed during the ACE Series Special 2 by Ivan Madeo, and produced with his colleague and business partner Stefan Eichenberger (ACE Switzerland)

As World War I ravages Europe, the noble resort town of Davos seems like an oasis of peace. Behind the scenes, however, a relentless battle between secret agents of the world powers is raging in neutral Switzerland. The young nurse Johanna Gabathuler unexpectedly gets caught between the fronts of the spies. To save her illegitimate daughter, she becomes embroiled in a deadly game with the German secret service. Set against the breathtaking mountain panorama of the Grisons, the spy thriller DAVOS 1917 unfolds a politically explosive chapter in European history.

How did the ACE Series Special benefit you as a producer, and your ACE project?
The Series Special 2 Programme was a great benefit for DAVOS 1917 both on the development level and on the project presentation level with our series bible. I will never forget the valuable dramaturgical exchange with Emmanuel Oberg. He was a tremendous blessing that I was happy to share with our head writer Adrian Illien. With my fellow producers, I was able to discuss a variety of financing scenarios even before we knew how the final financial setup for our high-budget series would come together. Another extremely valuable aspect was the exchange with colleagues from the programme about the production challenges we face day by day, not only on a legal, financial and negotiation level but also on a psychological and emotional level. Because our profession is truly extraordinary and affects our personal lives profoundly.

What was the most challenging in getting this series from script to screen?
The first difficulty for us and our writers’ room was to tell a story that is set in a small village in the middle of the Alps but is still as internationally relevant as possible – and in a way that never feels constructed. I think we succeeded quite well thanks to numerous research on the true events during World War I as well as the cross-national cooperation of dedicated writers, producers, and commissioning editors from Swiss Television SRF and German Television ARD Degeto. The second major difficulty was the endless script revisions that were necessary due to the constant inflation, be it because of Covid, be it because of the Ukraine war. We finished financing and writing our series DAVOS 1917 half a dozen times before we had to tap additional sources of funding and face simplifications and cost reductions at the script level.

What’s ahead for you and your company? What are you currently working on?
The variety of films we are currently working on at Contrast Film is as large as inspiring. In Locarno, we have just premiered OF LIVING WITHOUT ILLUSION by Katharina Lüdin, a first feature that is now touring the festivals. At the other end of the budget scale are two big productions that we will premiere at the Zurich Film Festival: our TV series DAVOS 1917 starring Dominique Devenport, Jeanette Hain and David Kross as well as the co-produced feature film STELLA. A LIFE by Kilian Riedhof, a multi-country co-production led by Letterbox Filmproduktion Hamburg and starring a mesmerising Paula Beer. Furthermore, we are in post-production of our historical feature THE TRAITOR by Michael Krummenacher with Luna Wedler, Fabian Hinrichs and the fascinating new talent Dimitri Krebs as well as in post-production of the documentary CAN LOVE BE SIN by Martin Witz, a Locarno veteran. We are also involved as a minority partner in STRAY BODIES, a film by Elina Psykou as a co-production between Greece, Switzerland, Italy, and Bulgaria. On top of that, several co-productions are in the pipeline and new series are in development. So, there is some work, but also excitement ahead for the company.


More information on the ACE Series Special can be found here.