While it owes much of its international renown to an illustrious history that spans more than 90 years, Bavaria Film Group has in the past decade focused more on television production than film. The vast entity, one of the biggest media companies in Europe, is eager to change that by embracing its roots and boosting domestic and international film production.
Headquartered at the famed studio complex in the Geiselgasteig area south of Munich, Bavaria boasts a long list of iconic productions that have shot at its facilities and backlot, including Alfred Hitchcock’s debut film, the 1925 silent pic “The Pleasure Garden”; Stanley Kubrick’s classic “Paths of Glory”; Billy Wilder’s Cold War laffer “One, Two, Three”; John Sturges’ “The Great Escape”; Bob Fosse’s “Cabaret”; and Wolfgang Petersen’s “Das Boot.”
BFG hopes to leverage its network of more than 30 subsidiaries and partner companies to draw more international projects to the studios, which have undergone nearly $40 million in modernization, renovations and technical upgrades over the past two years.
“On top of that, we are aiming to expand on studio capacity and to enable easy access to equity financing elements for international projects,” says Bavaria co-managing director Achim Rohnke, who notes that production and services are two of the four main pillars that form Bavaria’s foundation, along with sales and licensing and home entertainment.
Recent domestic films that have shot at Bavaria Studios include Peter Sehr and Marie Noelle’s “Ludwig II,” a lavish biopic about the eccentric 19th-century Bavarian king famous for building Neuschwanstein Castle (which went on to inspire the design of Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle and the Mouse House logo). Warner Bros. will release the Bavaria Pictures production on Dec. 26.
Constantin Film shot two of its biggest upcoming English-language productions at the facility this year: “Tarzan,” Reinhard Klooss’ modern retelling of the Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic featuring Kellan Lutz as the vine-swinging ape man and Spencer Locke as Jane, and Sherry Hormann’s “3,096 Days,” which stars Antonia Campbell-Hughes and Thure Lindhardt in the true story of Natascha Kampusch, the Austrian girl who was kidnapped and held hostage in a basement for more than eight years.
The 3D computer animated “Tarzan” shot in Bavaria Studios’ 3,150-sq.-meter (33,906 sq.-ft.) Sound Stage 12 in June in what Constantin said was one of the biggest motion-capture sets in the world, including a 150-person crew. Constantin will release “Tarzan” on July 25.
Constantin and Bavaria share a long history that has seen some of Germany’s most memorable films, including “The Neverending Story,” “Downfall” and “The Baader Meinhof Complex.”
“Bavaria Studios has been the most trustworthy partner for Constantin for several decades,” says Martin Moszkowicz, Constantin’s head of film and TV.
“Bavaria Studios offers a wide variety of advantages — from being located close to our home base to a modern and technologically up-to-date environment with one of the best crew basis in the world,” Moszkowicz says.
He adds, “if the studio keeps the eye on this ball that will translate into more productions. We at Constantin Film need a strong, advanced and reliable studio in Munich.”
Bavaria Studios’ most current production is Bernard Rose’s “The Devil’s Violinist,” a historical biopic about 19th-century Italian violin virtuoso Niccolo Paganini that is also shooting in Soundstage 12, the facility’s biggest studio. Cellist David Garrett will make his feature debut in the film, which is produced by Summerstorm Entertainment, Bavaria Media Italia and Vienna-based Dor Film.
Earlier this year, Bavaria Film formed a production joint venture with Berlin-based producer-distrib Senator Entertainment with the aim of bringing more Hollywood films to Germany and to Bavaria Studios.
The state of Bavaria is supporting the company’s renewed focus on film production with a recently announced increase of nearly $10 million in subsidy coin in its 2013-14 budget, including $7.7 million specifically for international productions.
The subsidy will be overseen by the Bavarian Film and Television Fund (FFF), which also received an extra $2.3 million from the state. The FFF provides some $36 million a year for screenplay, production, distribution and sales, games and theater funding.
Bavarian media minister Thomas Kreuzer says the new budget strengthens Bavaria as a film and media location, especially in the competition with other German states.
Kreuzer says international productions, in particular, give the region a boost. “The entire Bavarian film industry benefits, from filming to service providers, post production and special effects.”
“The Bavarian film industry — that includes us — has lobbied for it for some time,” Rohnke says. “We’ve long said that we also need a special funding pot for international film. When a project arrives that brings prestige to the region, then it has to be possible to compete against other international offers and not that projects end up going to other countries because they have attractive tax credits. It should also be attractive to shoot in Bavaria.”