Netflix Expands Joe Berlinger’s ‘Crime Scene’ Doc Franchise to Germany Under International Push

Netflix Expands Joe Berlinger’s ‘Crime Scene’ Doc Franchise to Germany Under International Push

Joe Berlinger’s hit Netflix “Crime Scene” franchise has expanded to Germany. “Crime Scene Berlin: Nightlife Killer” marks the first international local market produced version of the true crime doc series, which is being released globally on April 3.

“Nightlife Killer” is a German language docuseries that was produced in Berlin and managed by Netflix Germany. Berlinger served as an executive producer on the three-part series that reconstructs the case of several mysterious murders in Berlin’s nightlife that became nationally known as the “Coma Killer” in 2012. Like the three previous U.S. versions of the franchise, “Night Life Killer” explores not just a story of crime but how the geography and social values of the crime scene location contributed to the crime itself.

“We were looking for a crime story in a location whose history and social values contributed to the crime,” Berlinger says, who is in year four of a multi-year deal with Netflix. “Berlin is world famous for its all night party life and that electronic music and whatnot. That’s a function of its history. So, it’s how the history of Berlin directly relates to how these killings took place. We are always looking for a story that has those social and geographic aspects to them. That’s why it makes sense to go around the world with this series.”

The idea to take the franchise to international territories came about in early 2021 after the first season of Berlinger’s “Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel” debuted. About the real-life mysterious disappearance, subsequent death and conspiracy theories surrounding tourist Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, the inaugural series drew in, according to Netflix, 45 million households in the first four weeks of its debut.

Those numbers convinced Netflix, specifically the company’s VP nonfiction sports and former documentary series director, Gabe Spitzer, to not only greenlight three additional seasons of the “Crime Scene” franchise, but also explore taking the series to Netflix’s international markets for global consumption.

After Berlinger’s “Crime Scene: The Times Square Killer” (2021) and Jessica Dimmock’s “Crime Scene: The Texas Killing Fields” were released in 2021 and 2022 respectively, Netflix Germany became the first international market to jump on the franchise for local audiences. German-based Netflix executives hired Beetz Brothers Film Production’s Georg Tschurtschenthaler, Florian Fettweis and Christian Beetz as well as directors Caroline Schaper and Jan Zabeil to make “Nightlife Killer.”

Tschurtschenthaler says that the decision to focus on the several mysterious Berlin nightlife murders took some time but ultimately made the most sense.

“We were originally looking at something (that happened) during October Fest, but at the end of the day we decided to go into nightlife and into something that Berlin is world famous for,” says Tschurtschenthaler. “It was a story that would speak to not only German audiences, but also to an international audience.”

Subsequent German-based “Crime Scene” series could be on the horizon depending on how well “Nightlife Killer” performs on Netflix, says Tschurtschenthaler.

As executive producer, Berlinger weighed in on not only the execution of the story, but also the style of the series.

“My whole philosophy on giving a series a unified look is not to overdo the formatting issues,” Berlinger says. ” ‘Cecil Hotel,’ ‘Times Square Killer,’ and ‘Texas Killing Fields,’ they each have kind of their own look based on what the story is about,” he says. “Things that I do want consistent are the title sequence, which need to feel the same. The approach to graphics needs to feel the same and even the signature look of how we do interviews needs to feel the same.”

Berlinger is also behind the successful true crime Netflix docuseries “Conversations With a Killer,” about famous serial killers. The director says that Netflix has no plans to take that franchise to international local markets, explaining that the streamer is looking for subjects, serial killers or otherwise, that viewers around the world have heard of so that the program will resonate with them.

“Once I pitched them a guy named Johann ‘Jack’ Unterweger, who was from Austria, but they felt the name wasn’t big enough for it to work,” Berlinger explains.

As for “Crime Scene” expansion into foreign territories beyond Germany, Berlinger would only say that “a global range of countries” are interested and that there are “several conversations going on.”

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