Germany’s dynamic film industry has seen its share of change, upheaval, new beginnings and bursts of star power over the past year.
A number of troubled companies enjoyed promising fresh starts thanks to ambitious new investors, while two hardworking talents have seen their careers skyrocket thanks to astute film choices and growing fandom that has piqued the interest of the Hollywood majors and this year’s Berlinale.
Film House Germany is one of the country’s newest players. Launched last year by Frankfurt-based financial services and investment outfit ABL Group, the film production shingle is looking to develop, finance and produce independent German and English-language pics.
The company grew out of ABL’s ties to director Marco Kreuzpaintner’s Summerstorm Entertainment after ABL took a stake in Summerstorm in 2010.
Headed by CEO Achim Pfeffer, Film House also acquired Berlin-based Egoli Tossell last year after the production company behind such films as “Carlos” and “The Last Station” filed for insolvency.
The fresh injection of capital has not only provided Egoli Tossell with long-term stability, but also opened up opportunities. In July, both Egoli Tossell and Film House boarded Paul Andrew Williams’ “Song for Marion,” starring Vanessa Redgrave, and in November, Egoli Tossell joined Ron Howard’s Formula One racing film “Rush” as a co-producer.
In addition, Film House joined forces with Dutch powerhouse Lemming Film last year to create Hamster Film, a family entertainment production outfit. Originally a planned joint venture with Egoli Tossell, Hamster Film is looking to produce theatrical features and TV movies for young auds. The new shingle’s first titles include “Boy 7,” a thriller based on the novel by Mirjam Mous and adapted by German writing-duo Mario Giordano (“The Experiment”) and Andreas Schlueter, and “The Heirs of the Night — Nosferas,” an adaptation of Ulrike Schweikert’s book about a school for young vampires and the first film in a planned franchise being developed with Bavaria Pictures.
Another fast-rising new player on the scene is Berlin-based DCM Prods. Founded in 2007 by Swiss trio Dario Suter, Christoph Daniel and Marc Schmidheiny, DCM has moved into film development and production. In addition to co-producing Lancelot von Naso’s Iraq war drama “Ceasefire,” the company took a 50% stake in Claus Boje’s Berlin-based distrib Delphi Filmverleih last year, saving the company from insolvency in the process. In January, DCM acquired Boje’s remaining 50%, becoming the distrib’s single shareholder. Delphi is officially changing its name to DCM in February. The distrib’s current slate includes Robert Wilde’s local comedy “Jonas,” Michel Hazanavicius’ critically acclaimed French hit “The Artist” and Christophe Barratier’s “War of the Buttons.”
Meanwhile, actor Matthias Schweighoefer continued to solidify his role as one of Germany’s biggest stars last year, giving both Tom Cruise and local box office idol Til Schweiger serious runs for their money. Indeed, Schweighoefer looks poised to inherit Schweiger’s crown and become the country’s next king of romantic comedy.
The actor’s directorial debut, “What a Man,” was a success, taking in $16 million at the box office for Fox, which also co-produced.
Schweighoefer followed that with a starring role in Detlev Buck’s “Tootsie”-like laffer, “Rubbeldiekatz,” in which he plays a desperate actor who disguises himself as a woman in order to land a role in a big Hollywood Nazi pic shooting in Berlin.
Co-produced by Universal, which released the film on the same day as “Mission: Impossible — Ghost Protocol,” “Rubbeldiekatz” has so far made some $15 million, outperforming Paramount’s spy actioner.
Not one to be left out of Schweighoefer’s fast-growing filmography, Paramount is releasing his upcoming comedy “Russendisko,” by Oliver Ziegenbalg.
Yet Fox is sticking close to the 31-year-old multihyphenate and again partnering with him on his next project, “Schlussmacher.”
Produced by Pantaleon Films, run by Schweighoefer and partners Marco Beckmann and Dan Maag, “Schlussmacher” follows an employee of a professional agency that helps couples break up.
While he has yet to achieve Schweighoefer’s marquee status, Mark Waschke is one of Germany’s busiest new actors. Since starring in Heinrich Breloer’s 2008 bigscreen adaptation of Thomas Mann’s “Buddenbrooks,” Waschke has appeared in slew of features and TV productions, including Juraj Herz’s World War II drama “Habermann,” Brigitte Maria Bertele’s “The Fire,” Nick Baker-Monteys’ road movie “The Man Who Jumped Cars” and Hendrik Handloegten’s “Summer Window.”
Waschke also stars in Eran Riklis’ “PlayOff,” about an Israeli basketball coach who returns to his native Germany to coach the national team, and Christian Petzold’s upcoming Berlin competition screener, the East German drama “Barbara.”
In Claudia Lehmann’s upcoming “Schilf,” based on Juli Zeh’s 2007 novel (published in the U.S. as “In Free Fall”), Waschke plays a physicist researching parallel universes who is blackmailed into committing a murder.
“Schilf” producer Manuela Stehr says, “Mark immediately identified with the role in a wonderful way and absorbed the physics material so intensely that he was even able to hold lectures on it.”
Working with Lehmann may have helped: before attending film school, the director studied physics.
Adds Waschke: “Claudia understood what all the formulas on the chalkboard actually meant. She knows this world. She knows what this ethereal pursuit, the voyage into these worlds, can do to you.”