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Austria / Italy

Matthias Hartmann • Creator of The Net

“We don’t want to spoil the game for the fans; we are just going to open the curtain a bit”


- We talked to the creator of the global event series, setting out to expose football’s darkest secrets

Matthias Hartmann • Creator of The Net

The Net, produced by Netz GmbH (a joint venture between Red Bull Media House, Beta Film and local producers), is a cross-border series project which will interweave different stories about corruption in the world of international football. Set to launch before the World Cup in Qatar, the first of four planned projects, Austria's The Net – Prometheus, is directed by Andreas and Daniel Prochaska. We talked with Matthias Hartmann, creator of the series.

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Cineuropa: Now that the results of the Ballon d’Or are in, I was thinking about football fans. I am not sure if they really want to know all the nasty goings-on. How are you planning to tackle it?
Matthias Hartmann: That’s the crucial thing – we don’t want to spoil the game for the fans. We are just going to open the curtain a bit and give them a peak behind the scenes.

First of all, we are talking about three standalone series, and the fourth is already in development. Each will work on its own, locally, with their respective broadcasters and producers. They have to be independent, that’s very important. In the Italian series, there will be crooks and drug addicts, and journalists, but one thing that combines it all is that they all love football. And you love them for loving football! We don’t want to damage this beautiful game, but whenever a lot of money is involved, there is corruption. There are bribes, cheating, human trafficking and doping.

What happened with the Super League implied that there are things that fans do not want. They don’t want to feel it’s all about the profit.
This was a horrible moment, when this came about. I came up with this idea of “world league” three years ago! I started writing about it and then I was just scared it would feel completely old fashioned. Thank God it didn’t happen. In The Net, the boss of WFA (World Football Association), which is like FIFA, although I can’t say it, is still working on trying to create it.

This idea of having separate series makes sense; this way, you won’t overburden one storyline. But do you see it grow even more in the future?
I believe so, yes. In my other work, as an opera and theatre director, I always have to think of something other people haven’t thought of just yet. Red Bull Media House employs me to have these crazy ideas [Hartmann is the creative director of content development]. They said we needed a partner, so I went to Beta. These people, they let me speak for an hour, didn’t say a word, and then went: “It’s crazy, but let’s do it.”

All the teams want to protect their respective stories and then I come along, suggesting some things. In the end, they were inspiring each other. But it has never been done before, so we are all learning. This process calls for brave people.

I guess audiences are more open towards more complex universes now, interacting with each other like in Marvel productions.
Our stories are interwoven through the characters and through the storylines. You have this international football star who gets injured in Italy, he gets stitched up in Austria and has to play in the place we are not allowed to name because if we did, all the attorneys of the world would come for us right away. But if you want to think of Qatar, you may do so. He is just one of the characters that appear in all of these series.

Also, we don’t really show actual football here. It just doesn’t work, it never does. If you want to see someone committing a foul on purpose, to get expelled and not be selected for a doping sample, this you can show. But you don’t show the game. In The Net, you are in the universe of football, but it’s not about what’s happening on the field. It’s about what’s behind it.

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