Die Ibiza Affäre_Sky Original

"Die Ibiza Affäre": Why do true stories fascinate us so much?

The miniseries "Die Ibiza Affäre" has just been launched on Sky. In four episodes, it sheds light on the background of the Ibiza video, which caused a huge scandal in May 2019 and brought down the then Austrian Vice Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache.

The series is one of many in the series camp 2021 program that deals with true events and that's why we talked to the two screenwriters Florian Iwersen and Stefan Holtz about why these series have such a special appeal for us.

Die Ibiza Affäre is still relatively fresh - just 2.5 years lie between the publication of the scandal video of H.C. Strache, his party colleague Johann Gudenus and the invented oligarch on the finca in Ibiza and the start of the series. That is rather unusual for such film adaptations. When did you dare to tackle this material?

Die Ibiza Affäre_Sky Original

Florian Iwersen: With a story like this, it's always difficult to wait and see when you're offered such a real-life opportunity. And of course we were very interested in it from the start. Even though we were aware that there were still a lot of events and information and everything to do with the contexts that would really unravel, it was of course very appealing to approach this task. But we did that very carefully.

Stefan Holtz: We were contacted by the producer and he was in contact with Sky and that's when the idea came up. We were aware at the time that it was still very early. Very little was known. The dramaturgical work was then also the uncovering of the individual sources or the individual things that could be researched bit by bit, or came to light.

And above all, the story is still developing, it is not a closed case. Right now the detective Julian H. is on trial in St. Pölten. How do you deal with this uncertainty as a scriptwriter?

Die Ibiza Affäre_Sky Original

Stefan Holtz: This is not yet finished, indeed. The detective who made this video together with the lawyer has been arrested - but not because of the video. But he is accused of dealing drugs and that is still open. There were already two days of trial (as of 22.10.2021) and to what extent that has to do with the video or not, that remains to be seen, depending on how the trial ends.

But when we started working with the director, and it went into the shoot, we could still work on the script and also make changes. There was the Ibiza situation - that is, who made the video, under what circumstances, how they came together on the finca, how Strache and Gudenus came to Ibiza - that was actually already relatively clear.

Now this is a super complex material that stretches over many years. You can see that in the first episode, which jumps through many time levels and confronts us with many people involved. How did you first untangle this web for yourselves and how did you then find this structure for yourselves?

Die Ibiza Affäre_Sky Original

Florian Iwersen: It was of course clear from the beginning that the work of the journalists was highly exciting. They did a lot of reconnaissance work. We had to find a structure for the series and for the episodes and it was also clear to us that this could not happen chronologically. And we had to come up with something for that, also because there were a lot of people. In the research - which we did very extensively - we had to decide on some of the characters that best conveyed the story for us. And it became clear relatively quickly that this could not be chronological, but in principle had to follow a certain dramaturgy, the narrative. And for that, of course, we had to reduce ourselves to a certain number of characters.

Compared to film adaptations, real life usually does not follow a fixed dramaturgy, which it needs for a series episode or season. How did you solve this problem with Die Ibiza Affäre?

Die Ibiza Affäre_Sky Original

Stefan Holtz The basic material already had so many exciting elements. Some of them are bizarre, but some of them are threatening for the main characters. There was actually enough material there that the reality is big enough to tell. But what we find pleasant about working on a story like this now is that there are also empty spaces. Normally, when there are gaps in the book, that you don't always know why a character does something, then the question comes from all sides: why does the character do that, I don't understand the character? Here it was also sometimes pleasant to say: we don't know that, there is also a gap and a secret in the character. I think that's often good for characters, too, that you don't always try to explain everything down to the smallest detail.

At the very beginning of the series, a hint is inserted that some characters and storylines are fictional. How far are you allowed to stray from reality, so that it still remains a true story?

Die Ibiza Affäre_Sky Original

Stefan Holtz: We actually oriented ourselves to the course of reality. But for example how the detective and the lawyer got to know each other, that took place in real life over a longer period of time, over several meetings. So we dramatized and fictionalized it, and put it together in time. But if you look at all the steps, that's actually the sequence of events, at least what you could know and what we know. Sometimes, of course, characters are fictionalized in such a way that we said, this character is now not so in the public eye as, for example, Strache, we have then changed the character.

Were the discussion that you then also led, how far you can alienate things?

Die Ibiza Affäre_Sky Original

Stefan Holtz: So we were of course from the beginning of lawyers advised and completely accompanied. From the beginning, actually from the treatment phase on, they have read everything and looked at it. That is always the balancing act between: what is public interest and known to the public and what must be subordinated to that. Also ultimately, to be able to present the process.

That is, in advance, the legal framework had to be clarified first - also in terms of personal rights, I suppose.

Die Ibiza Affäre_Sky Original

Stefan Holtz: So for the production, there is a lot to clarify, indeed. The simplest example is of course that the production got the rights to the book of the two journalists and also involved the two journalists in the work, so that we could talk to them. Then there were other things that the production had to clarify contractually, but we have no insight.

Florian Iwersen: It was also a very long development time of the scripts. And for a while it wasn't clear to what extent we could handle the names of the two video producers - that is, whether the names of the lawyer and the detective could be mentioned or not. So it was of course very nice that the media coverage of the whole case around "Ibiza" finally allowed it. Because of course that contributed enormously to the credibility and is also an important part of the story. If that had not been the case, we would not have been allowed to mention these two names.

Does working with journalists also bring challenges? They certainly look at their research very differently than screenwriters look at their material.

Die Ibiza Affäre_Sky Original

Stefan Holtz: That's where the two journalists from the Süddeutsche Zeitung, Bastian Obermayer and Frederik Obermaier, actually trusted us. What was always very important to them was, of course, the protection of sources and that everything is processed in such a way that falls within their area as journalists, stands cleanly there. But they were aware that it is a fictional series.

Florian Iwersen: We were of course faced with the task of bringing something that is in the book, something very factual into a form that entertains the viewer. And of course that's a balancing act you have to perform in a screenplay: on the one hand, to stick as closely as possible to what happened in reality and, on the other hand, to fill the blanks Stefan mentioned in such a way that they make sense for the story and, in the end, entertain the viewer in the best case. That is our goal - with all the research we have also done, this must of course also be in the foreground and has also succeeded extremely well, for example, through the work of the director, Christopher Schier, as we find.

We observe this year at the Series Camp Festival 2021 a boom in series based on true events - and also with ourselves a certain fascination for it: these stories have a special weight because they really happened and move us to deal with the subject. What fascinates you about it?

Die Ibiza Affäre_Sky Original

Stefan Holtz: I think so too - if I know that something happened, then it also has a certain greatness and I look at it differently, more interested. For the broadcaster and the producers, of course, it's also a point that a basic attention is there, even if it's big and interesting in terms of contemporary history. But interestingly enough, we also observe this in our fictional work. We also write a lot of crime thrillers, for example Tatort. And there, too, it's always good as an author to have examples from reality. It's always difficult when I, as an author, come up with something completely my own and write this course of events, people always say: I don't believe it, it can't be! If you can then compare that with real criminal cases, it helps enormously with the writing. That's probably the case internationally, but especially in German television as far as crime fiction is concerned, there has always been a lot of grounding and a very strong connection to reality.

Florian Iwersen: You can also see it the other way around. If we had made up a story, in this case the Ibiza affair, and had gone to a broadcaster or a production with it, we would never have got away with it. You can't make up the absurd conditions - well, you can make it up, of course, but probably nobody would want to do it. When you have such inconceivable situations that reality offers you, then of course it's great fun to work with it, because even so, as Stefan says, you can just relate to a real situation. And that sometimes offers possibilities that you don't get as a writer when you come up with something fictional yourself.

When you're presented with these true stories dramatized again, they convey the real events to you on a completely different level than, say, the news. Does that also play into the fact that these stories are so popular with the audience?

Die Ibiza Affäre_Sky Original

Stefan Holtz: That probably depends on the true story. Here with the Ibiza affair is certainly this multiperspektivische ranging again really an aspect. If I see that then on four episodes, this concentrated information from different perspectives told out, so that one gets again a completely new picture, although everything is known. But I guess there are also true stories that are very much in the drama and follow a character, where it's then really about strong emotionalization and not about this whole picture. Sorum it can also work.

What makes a good true story from your point of view, in terms of a film adaptation. So what is suitable there, and what is not suitable at all, for example?

Die Ibiza Affäre_Sky Original

Stefan Holtz: I think that I can not say so generally. As I said, there are stories that are so contemporary and so big, so close to us as well, like "The Ibiza Affair" for example. That's interesting to work through. But for me as an author, if I don't need the big stage and the big attention, I also find it totally exciting to retell small stories that are not so well known.

Florian Iwersen: Like everything in life, it has a lot to do with personal feelings. It can also be a very small story, which really only affects a few people and which was also not so much in the public eye. But when you then approach a story and discover little things, that is, something that makes the characters involved suddenly very personal and graspable for you as the author, so that you develop a personal bond, just as in real life - then the story also begins to live for yourself. That can be a small story, or in that case such a big story, like "The Ibiza Affair."

"The Ibiza Affair" is available to watch on Sky Ticket. In the series camp Watchroom you can already watch the first episode from 11.11. - for free! Here it goes to the program . And for the Watchroom, you can sign uphere

This week's Series Camp Podcast Very VERY SERIES is all about the allure of true stories and the series from the Watchroom program that are based on true stories.


Die Ibiza Affäre

from 21.10. on Sky

What is it about?

The Austrian vice chancellor, an alleged Russian oligarch, a private detective and lots of coke: How a party island meeting turned into a state affair.

Where can I watch it?

from 21.10. on Sky