German show Cruise Into Happiness films in Dubai

The cast and crew of the German show  Cruise Into Happiness filming one of their episodes at the Al Qasr Hotel in Madinat Jumeirah.  

Lee Hoagland/The National
The cast and crew of the German show Cruise Into Happiness filming one of their episodes at the Al Qasr Hotel in Madinat Jumeirah. Lee Hoagland/The National

Christmas is a favourite time of year for Christian Stocklov, an executive producer at the German production company Polyphon. In charge of two of Germany’s longest-running television programmes, The Dreamboat and its spin-off series Cruise Into Happiness, Stocklov relies on the long winter months at home for peak ratings.

“It’s all about bringing dreams into people’s living rooms,” he says. “When it’s raining, snowing and dark by 4pm in Germany, we show viewers palm trees, turquoise waters, white beaches and luxurious hotels.” The cinematic destination he describes is Dubai, where last month he filmed a 90-minute episode of Cruise Into Happiness with a 57-strong crew. The programme – now in its ninth year – will be shown as a double feature, on December 26 and January 1, alongside Dreamboat, which has run for more than three ­decades.

“Every episode of Cruise Into Happiness features two newly married couples and a pair of wedding planners. This episode has one couple who rushed into marriage after three months and then found out they had little in common,” says Stocklov in between takes at Jumeirah’s Al Qasr hotel. “We also change the location every programme, from Europe to Papua New Guinea to Namibia and Egypt.”

Which might have explained why the cast appeared unfazed by the 38-degree heat as they repeated scene after scene on an exposed terrace of the beachfront resort. All was not as it seemed, however, revealed Stocklov.

“We have some little tricks to prevent too much perspiration,” he says. “One is to put an ice-cooled piece of leather cloth against the actors’ necks before we shoot.”

Stars align

One thespian seemingly not in line for the freeze treatment was the 36-year-old German TV presenter and actor Jochen Schropp.

“I’ve heard about the leather, but it’s not on my back,” he says. “The heat is a problem because of the layers; we’re not just wearing shirts, we have undergarments, too, otherwise we’d sweat through.”

When the mercury rose too high, Schropp chilled out with his on-screen wife and real-life best friend, fellow actress Birthe Wolter.

“Dubai is amazing – I love malls, so it’s perfect for me,” said the 32-year-old Wolter. “I don’t have any money left now because I’ve been shopping every day.”

As for buddying-up with Schropp to practise lines for their scenes together, there was almost no point, chuckled Wolter.

“It’s really easy, it’s not Shakespeare. We’re normally given the dialogue the evening before the shooting day and that’s enough time to learn it.”

Local support

After nearly a month of filming, the shoot wrapped on April 20, but not before a long list of landmarks had been secured on tape. From the Burj Khalifa and Wild Wadi to Dubai Creek and Burj Al Arab, no location was left unexplored.

“After having hosted English, Arabic, Mandarin, Hindi and even Malayalam productions in Dubai, we are proud to host Cruise Into Happiness, which is the first German production to be filmed here,” says Jamal Al Sharif, the chairman of Dubai Film and TV Commission [DFTC].

“Through our collaborations with various Dubai entities, we have worked to ensure that the production ran on schedule and the team had access to every facility we have to offer.

“Dubai is emerging as a premiere production destination for local, regional and international filmmakers with its mix of diverse locations and talented professionals, and here at DFTC, we are committed to ensuring seamless end-to-end services are made available to them.”

Exposure and promotion

Stocklov says: “The show will be a major promotion of Dubai as around Christmas time German people, especially families, are planning their holidays.

“We estimate that German tourist bookings abroad rise around 10 per cent as a result of where we film. I can’t prove the link of course, but a small commission would be nice as budgets are rather low,” he quipped.

The purse strings may be tight, but the reach of the series is sizeable, with an estimated 8 million viewers tuning in over the festive period to catch Cruise into Happiness and Dreamboat on the German broadcaster ZDF. While cult followings of the romantic-drama programmes continue to grow in Austria and Switzerland, it’s often Stocklov’s generation in Germany who hold the most nostalgic view.

“I’m 52 this year and I grew up watching the shows, especially Dreamboat. It’s an institution. And it looks like Cruise into Happiness is also becoming one, too.”

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Published: May 6, 2014 04:00 AM


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