The Technical University of Munich (TUM) is blazing new trails with a web series intended to raise interest among young women for university studies in one of the STEM subjects (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics). Starting October 13, "Technically Single" will be available for viewing on the streaming platform Maxdome and the online channel Sixx. In an interview Klaus Diepold, Professor for Data Processing at TUM and the initiator of the series, and TUM alumnus Tobias Grabmeier, Creative Producer of the series, spoke with us about role models and working together with famous German actress Maria Furtwängler.
Our university has a wide range of offers intended to raise the interest of women in the STEM subjects: Trial programs, mentoring and workshops. A web series is something entirely different. Where did the idea come from?
Klaus Diepold: "Actually we had the idea over four years ago, during my time as Vice-President for Diversity and Talent Management. Since our role models are to a great extent shaped by what we consume in the media, we decided this would be a good approach. After all there aren't nearly enough heroes from engineering fields. There are even fewer women heroes, which gave us the idea of producing a series that depicts that kind of woman hero. We wanted to tell a story that addresses topics which move young people studying at university. And of course we also wanted to play around a bit with the existing clichés associated with studying engineering and show in an entertaining manner that the they really aren't all true."
The series focuses on two young women who are studying a technical curriculum.
Tobias Grabmeier: "It's basically a coming-of-age story: Juli enrolls in an Electrical Engineering degree program at the University of Technology and at the same time is left by her boyfriend of several years. By videochat. He thinks she's too emancipated and too nerdy. Then, together with her best friend Jäckie, Juli devises a plan for winning back her ex-boyfriend so that she can then dump him in grand style. Easier said than done…"
Diepold: "A third important female protagonist is Professor Bornholm, who teaches Control Engineering in the series. By the way, right now in our faculty we really do have two female professors for this subject. I think it's very important for young women to encounter female role models during their studies. On the whole we're doing pretty well at TUM in terms of this kind of role model – although the proportion of female to male professors still has to rise."
Professor Bornholm is played by actress Maria Furtwängler, also known as a detective in the popular police drama series "Tatort".
Diepold: "The producers and directors wanted to recruit Maria Furtwängler to play this role. She studied medicine at TUM and is also an active advocate for women's rights and equality. That all fit together well; nevertheless it was an ambitious goal to try to win over one of Germany's most famous actresses for our series. But that made us all the more thrilled when she agreed to play the role."
Each episode lasts about 10 minutes – Why use such a short format?
Diepold: "Tobias and I have already made several short videos together, including the image film "Typisch TUM" (Typically TUM) in 2013. The film was very well received and that was an indication to us that short video content works very well for a younger target audience at a university."
Grabmeier: "We were convinced by the web series format right from the start, a series episodes that are short but feature high-quality production telling a story and getting to the point in ten minutes. This format is a good fit to the changing media use patterns of young people and will certainly become more popular in the future."
How did the collaboration with the University of Television and Film Munich (HFF) come about and who else was involved?
Grabmeier: "At the very beginning of our plan I got in touch with Helena Hufnagel, who later became the producer, and Sebastian Stojetz, later the screenwriter and director. They both studied at the HFF and we developed the initial ideas for the story together. The rest of the core team included Lena Karbe as co-producer, Lena Klein as producer and Thomas Schiller as cameraman."
Diepold: "Including extras and minor roles, a total of over 100 people were involved in the production, most of all our fantastic cast with Alina Stiegler in the leading role as Juli. And at TUM the entire team from TUM Diversity."
Will there be a sequel?
Grabmeier: "The first season ends with the first semester. That was the period we wanted to cover, but of course there will be a couple more semesters as well..."
Diepold: "We still have several ideas. But first we look forward to the first season, sponsored financially by TUM, HFF and the movie and TV fund FilmFernsehFonds Bayern."
- „Technically Single“ is running on Maxdome and sixx.de. The entire first season will be available starting on October 13.
Screenplay and direction: Sebastian Stojetz; Cast: Alina Stiegler, Sebastian Schneider, Sarah Mahita Giese, Eugene Boateng, László Branko Breiding, Maria Furtwängler, Ella Maria Gollmer, Maxi Schafroth; Creative Producer: Tobias Grabmeier; Production: cocofilms GmbH, Helena Hufnagel and KarbeFilm, Lena Karbe; Executive producer TUM: Klaus Diepold
- Prof. Dr.-Ing. Klaus Diepold studied at TUM where he also earned his doctorate. He then worked in the video and television industry and participated in the development of MPEG standards for more than ten years. In 2002 he was appointed to the Chair for Data Processing at TUM, where he was Vice President for Diversity and Talent Management from 2013 to 2015.
- Tobias Grabmeier studied Electrical and Computer Engineering at TUM. After graduating in 2012 he founded a digital agency and in the meantime works as an innovation consultant.