A lot of people keep asking me how Dina Foxx actually came about – here is a chronology in three stages:
1. A talk in the mountains and a digital doppelganger:
It all started in the middle of 2005 with a discussion with our friend Dinah Flusser (daughter of philosopher Vilem Flusser) in the bavarian country-side, the Osterbuchberg. Walking through the green hills we speculated about a very simple guy who has never done anything wrong in his life but who would suddenly be targeted by digital profiling software and then be arrested as a terrorist.
He should be called George, Dinah said. "And he should be christian!" So the next three years I spent writing various proposals for films called "Being George". They went from a pure documentary format to fictional documentary to near-science fiction feature-format (taking place in 2020) about George being "hunted" by–what i called–a "digital doppelganger". Then it went back to a documentary format (leaving out all the expensive parts!) including discussions on the web with IT-experts about a digital doppelganger.
In the near-future scenario, George was the boss of an IT-company (the likes of google) that had developed a digital doppelgänger-system to manipulate people in real live. And George would become a victim of his own system because–it would get “hijacked” by outsiders.
2. ZDF-development, the first:
The last proposal must have ticked a box with a commissioning editor at ZDF. Burkhard Althoff, of the ZDF debut filmmaking department (ZDF-Das Kleine Fernsehspiel) showed interest. We met (early september 2008), talked about combining TV and Internet and from there it went into the first ZDF-development phase:
I think, it was him who suddenly suggested to not use the internet-part for the documentary side but turn it into a game: break up the TV-film and have the users investigate a case online. Sounded good!
After a few more meetings with commissioning editors from the ZDF-online department (Lucia Haslauer who first brought in the posibility of creating an ARG and Isa Ostertag) the ZDF decided to fund a small development team: Dörte Franke came onboard for writing the TV-script (with me), Christoph Falkenroth for working on the online part (with me). With Burkhard Althoff and Lucia Haslauer we were now five people working on the project.
We created a story based on the Amanda Knox-case about a attractive young woman (first we called her Natalie, then Dinah in (my) lovely memories of Dinah Flusser’s input during the previous three years–and as an hommage to her parents live-story) who would be found in a murder-scene with all the evidence pointing at her to be the murderer. We wanted her to be intelligent, attrativ, sexy. The audience should feel sorry for her and get activated to help her at the end of the film. In this version we still had 2 (classic) investigators taking on the case and getting into various fights. (One was called Keyser to keep as remembering that we wanted some “unheimlichkeit” (scary presence) through the digital doppelganger. (It was called Dixie in reference to the saved consciousness of cyber-cowboy McCoy Pauley, nicknamed “Dixie Flatline” in William Gibson’s Neuromancer. And Dinah went from Flux to Foxx in loving memory of our inspiration Amanda Knox.)
We aurrounded Dina with an international crowd of young people who were all to be suspects and we roughly lined out how the film could be prepared with social-media on the web (before the screening) and how some film-scenes could be reviewed for the inverstigation. Some of the sets from the film should be investigated by the online game–espacially the murder scene and the police department.
This propsal got greenlighted for proper script-development in the summer of 2009. But it's gotten pretty complex. We felt the need for a whole team of online-developers to cover all the complexities this project would bring along.
3. Final Development with ZDF, teamworx and Ufa-lab
This team came along at the very end of 2009 with the foundation of UFA’s laboratory for online-experiments, the Ufa-Lab. It opened early 2010 and they offered us 5 developers plus an online producer to work on the project: young, motivated, well trained (and all for the money of one developer...). At the ZDF, the online-part of our project was now managed by a new commissioning editor: Milena Bonse. Our TV-writer, Dörte, unfortunately had to leave. So we needed a new author as well. It turned out to be Boris Dennulat. And since the UFA is probably Germanys largest production company, the also have TV-production-companies. We endet up working with the UFA-daughter teamworx (now UFA-Fiction)
By the time we started working again we had basically exchanged the entire team except for Burkhard Althoff and me. (full list of people: Max Zeitler, Kristian Costa-Zahn, Leif Alexis, Burkhard Althoff, Milena Bonse, Boris Dennulat, Martha Friedrich, Markus Kaiserswerth, Maxim Kuphal, Drita Parduzi und Philipp Zimmermann)
The new team (now 11 people all together) started working in march 2010–entering the third and final development phase. And now we developed what would become the final version of Rescue Dina Foxx!.
We changed a lot–especially the world that Dina would live in. We turned her into a private (overly) motivated digital privacy activis running the privacy-ngo freidaten.org and taking on the role of privacy heroine “Datagrrrl”. For freidaten.org we created a whole new set of characters around her and the inventd a couple of new companies that we needed for the story-world. But we kept a lot, too–especially the key setup of Dina being accused of having killed somebody (her boyfriend Vasco this time) and her environment being manipulated by a digital doppelganger. (This time, we placed it in a start-up company called avadata pretending to work for their customer’s privacy rights whilst in fact the company’s boss, Holger, was putting together the secret digital doppelganger. It got more complicated than this, there was a whole secret society behind it, the “Aachener Circle”, but let’s not get into that… look it up on the trail.
When this (last) version of Dina Foxx finally went into production in October 2010 five years of development came to an end. Now it was time to direct...
Rescue Dina Foxx! was broadcast on ZDF on April 20, 2011 and the game began…
Update September 2012:
The team for working on the sequel has changed:
apart from the four employes of the companies (two from ZDF, one from teamworx, one from UFA-lab), and one writer (and me) we have a new team of now 12 people. let’s see where it takes as this time…