Studio employees voice concerns to Schroeder

Babelsberg committee sez big film projects in danger

BERLIN — In a vociferous protest against Vivendi Universal’s sale of Studio Babelsberg to investors Carl Woebcken and Christoph Fisser, studio employees have appealed to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder to insure the legendary facility remains intact.

In an open letter to Schroeder Thursday, Studio Babelsberg’s employee committee warned that Woebcken and Fisser lack the financial resources and industry know-how to effectively run the studio.

“In their previous businesses, both have left a trail of litigation and bankruptcies, and neither has any knowledge of the film business,” committee chairman Jan-Peter Schmarje wrote in the letter.

Schmarje said the big film projects needed to keep Babelsberg in business were now in danger, adding the local region stands to lose some $120 million in annual revenue related to film production. He also expressed concern for the future of Babelsberg’s 220 full-time employees.

Schmarje said neither Woebcken nor Fisser had provided any evidence that they have the necessary capital to give the studio the financial boost it needs to remain a viable player.

The investors have declined to comment on the letter, but are due to meet with studio employees this week to outline their plans.

Woebcken heads Berlin Animation Film, a production outfit and film fund with production volume of more than $100 million, specializing in international animated television and theatrical projects.

Although the buyers are looking to attract more TV productions to the studio, upcoming titles set to shoot at the facility, including “Mission: Impossible 3” and Charlize Theron starrer “Aeon Flux” still are scheduled to shoot there next month.

But the change of ownership could mean a sharp decrease in international productions at the studio without its current management and production team. Headed by Thierry Potok, Henning Molfenter and Udo Happel, that team has succeeded in attracting such major productions as Roman Polanski’s “The Pianist”; “The Bourne Supremacy”; Kevin Spacey’s “Beyond the Sea”; and Jackie Chan starrer “Around the World in 80 Days.”

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