Lena Schoemann is the producer behind two of Germany’s biggest home grown hits: Bora Dagtekin’s 2013 high-school comedy “Fack ju Goehte” and its sequel “Fack ju Goehte 2.” The 2013 breakout hit, which sold to more than 40 territories with the international title “Suck Me Shakespeer,” grossed $66 million in German-speaking markets, while the 2015 sequel, which was released in September, has minted $78 million so far in German-speaking regions.
Schoemann joined Christian Becker’s production company Rat Pack in 2000, while she was a college student in Munich, and has produced earlier Rat Pack hits such as 2009’s “The Crocodiles,” which won best kids movie at the German Film Awards; and Dagtekin’s 2012 box office hit “Turkish for Beginners,” which grossed $21 million.
In 2014, she moved to Rat Pack’s parent, Constantin Film, where she produced “Fack ju Goehte 2.”
High-school comedies used to be a staple of German cinema, but the genre had been neglected for many years when Dagtekin and Schoemann revived it. In “Fack Ju Goehte,” the conventions of the teen comedy are turned on their head. “Our premise was: What would happen if the teachers are the ones who are having problems becoming adults and taking on responsibility, rather than the teenagers?” Schoemann says. She describes Zeki Mueller, the teacher at the center of the films, as a “big kid.”
Both Schoemann and Dagtekin are the children of teachers, and say they were sympathetic to educators’ plight. “It wasn’t the intention to make fun of the teaching profession, but instead to show their commitment and the challenges they face,” she says. The two did a great deal of research, talk-ing with teachers and students about the films, and going so far as to read them the scripts and show them rough cuts in an attempt to portray the classroom realistically.
Of course, in the name of comedy, there are limits to realism: Mueller is not your typical teacher. He’s a criminal who’s just been released from jail, and the reason he becomes a teacher is to retrieve some buried loot on the school grounds. In the second film, he goes in pursuit of a stash of diamonds.
Yet Schoemann says the overarching message is that the passion of teaching overcomes his baser instincts. “He has to learn again what it means to be a teacher,” she says. “He has to take responsibility, and take care of his students rather than be a criminal.”
Ultimately, she says she remembers her parents telling stories about life in school. “You learn very early on how teachers tick,” she says. “I learned that teachers are pretty ironic in private, and not the lame people they may appear to be.”