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German indies band together on pic sales

Some 40 features, 130 TV telepics included in deal

BERLIN — Known for their cautious approach to business and long-term outlook, it’s not surprising that German filmmakers are banding together in the face of an increasingly merging market.

“We want to protect our independence and our freedom in a market that is becoming ever more consolidated,” says Claus Boje, one of the partners of Berlin-based production outfit Boje Buck.

The company and its Delphi distrib have become the latest Teutonic players to join the Producers’ AG. Launched last year, PAG seeks majority stakes in indie film and TV outfits while simultaneously bringing the owners on board as new shareholders in the parent group.

“It’s not a takeover, we haven’t been bought up,” insists Boje. “It just makes sense for us to join PAG.”

Org recently inked an output deal with Peppermint, the licensing and marketing subsidiary of Helkon Media, to handle international rights to projects produced by PAG members, which also include Berlin producers Box!; Munich outfits Hager Moss Film, MTM, TV60 Film; and Cologne-based Zeitsprung Film + TV.

So far, the agreement includes some 40 feature films, 130 TV movies and 120 hours of programming.

“In addition to our partner’s international reputation, the important thing for us is the fact that Peppermint will be marketing the entire range of rights, from cinema and pay TV to free TV, DVD and video,” says PAG finance chief Dietmar Thiele.

Peppermint topper Michael Knobloch says the companies may later form a joint firm to handle the operation.

PAG is looking to increase the number of companies in its fold from six to around a dozen before going public. Group will eventually seek to bring in European and U.S. indies into the fold following the IPO, scheduled for later this year or early 2002.

For Boje Buck, the association has meant an injection of capital for the company, which produced the 1999 surprise hit “Sonnenallee.”

Boje Buck is set to start shooting “NVA” (short for National People’s Army) early next year. Pic will be written by “Sonnenallee” scribe Thomas Brussig from an idea by “Sonnenallee” helmer Leander Haussmann, who will again direct.

Boje says “NVA” won’t be a sequel to “Sonnenallee,” but will be another screwball comedy set in the former East Germany, this time about kids serving mandatory stints in the East German army.

Boje Buck will also start lensing “Der 24” (The 24th) later this year. Pic, to be directed by Marc-Andreas Bochert, is an episodic drama about the effect of the holiday season on people, focusing on various characters during the holiday season.

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