"When I arrived in Brussels I was told that Eurocrats don't really live in Belgium. Well, the truth is: They don't even live in Brussels." Accompanied by electronic beats, the 43-second-trailer of the Eurobubble series manages to draw an ironic yet authentic picture of the atmosphere in the microcosm of young professionals working in the capital of Europe. E&M looks at the development of what is currently becoming the first comedy series on Eurocrats.
In spite of the impact which the EU's legislation has on its citizens, Europeans are only marginally interested in what is happening in Brussels. The daily political processes in the European capital are perceived as too technical, too distant and irrelevant. This is both a cause and a consequence of the media's lack of reporting on it. Documentaries shedding light on EU affairs are rare and only reach a few viewers. Against this background, it is not surprising that European politics has not yet inspired moviemakers either. There does not seem to be an audience.
|Photo: Eurobubble (all rights reserved)|
|Yacine Kouhen, producer, screenwriter and lead actor of the series|
The genre itself has inspired many artists and has always found audiences. Great writers of all ages have fictionalised the use and misuse of political power. Political dramas, thrillers and comedies entertain millions. The creators of TV series were the first to portray the daily politics as well as the lives of the people involved. The 1970s series Yes Minister remains one of the most popular sitcoms in the UK and even created one of the most resistant Euromyths: The Eurosausage. Meanwhile, quite a few people on both sides of the Atlantic would name Jed Bartlet, protagonist of Alan Sorkin's The West Wing, as their favourite US president.
Are Eurocrats too boring for fiction?
Despite the apparent appeal of political fiction for readers and viewers, books, movies, and TV series don't tend to be set in political Brussels. Are Eurocrats simply too boring for fiction? A couple of months ago, this magazine suggested that Europe needs Aaron Sorkin. Well, we have not yet been successful in convincing him to make a European version of "The West Wing" but we might have found an alternative.
Actually Yacine Kouhen, the 30-year-old producer, screenwriter and lead actor of the Eurobubble series never watched The West Wing or Yes Minister. In fact, he was inspired by an entirely apolitical show, the French series Bref, which shows life in Paris from the perspective of a thirty-year-old unemployed antihero. In one to three minutes and at an intense pace, each episode depicts the protagonist's banal daily experiences and turns them into rapid-fire images and dialogues. Launched in August 2011, the show went viral on social networks, attracting 1.5 million likes on facebook in three months.
The Eurobubble series follows a similar concept. "The idea was to make it short but intensive," explains Yacine. Seen from the perspective of a 'policy officer' who remains unnamed, the series portrays the lives of young professionals working on European affairs in Brussels. Located around the European institutions, countless lobby firms, public affairs companies, NGOs and think tanks attract graduates from all over Europe. "It is a specific elite" explains Yacine, "they speak various languages, have studied European politics, law or economics at some of the best universities in Europe and they are all doing the same things here, the same kind of jobs with the same kind of profiles. But at the same time they are so diverse with their different national backgrounds. It is sociologically interesting to observe this".
We live in a city within the city…
In real life, Yacine works as a coach, training young professionals in public speaking. About a year ago he had the idea to create a series based on his experiences in the Eurobubble. After seeing various expat bubbles while working as a French diplomat in Africa, the United States and Latin America, he became fascinated by "the most impressive bubble" he had experienced so far. “We live in a city within the city” says Yacine. Indeed, the Eurobubble is a parallel society within Brussels. Its members speak a language almost incomprehensible to outsiders – full of abbreviations, technical terms and outrageous distortions of the English language. And they have a rather troubled relationship to Belgium and the Belgians.
|Image: Eurobubble (all rights reserved)|
|Charlelie Jordan (left), Director and Roch Postel, Director of Photography|
The series introduces us to the different 'castes' of the Eurobubble - from the unpaid intern at a random consultancy to the honourable Member of the European Parliament. The protagonist ranges somewhere in the middle of this pecking order. In the first episode, he comes to Brussels to find work. He applies for various jobs with meaningless and exchangeable job titles (project officer, programme manager or policy coordinator) at companies with meaningless and exchangeable names (ECCF, EEB or F&P). After convincing the boss of the EOOA - the 'European Olive Oil Association' - of how important olive oil has always been to him, he gets a job as a policy offer and becomes part of the Eurobubble.
The series follows the policy officer and his colleagues into their professional and social lives. We see them desperately trying to attract attention at conferences. We join them to salsa parties where South European dancing instructors outperform them. We observe unpaid interns stealing sandwiches at receptions. We join the policy officer in his team meetings where he and his colleagues discuss the 'Olive Oil 2020' strategy and politely laugh at their boss's bad jokes. We follow him to Place du Luxembourg where newcomers, particularly interns, mingle every Thursday to participate in the most cherished activity in Brussels: networking.
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