Germans to H’w’d: Look past Berlin

'Speed Racer,' 'Valkyrie' shot in other areas

COLOGNE — The number of international film projects shooting in Germany has reached a peak this year, but local industry reps are concerned that locations throughout the country are largely ignored in favor of the Berlin-Brandenburg area.

An array of Hollywood productions, including the Wachowski brothers’ “Speed Racer” and Bryan Singer’s “Valkyrie” have been attracted, mainly by the government’s new $80 million-a-year Federal Film Fund (DFFF). The fund awards 20% of the costs spent in the country — up to $13 million in the case of “Speed Racer.”

But some bemoan that most of these projects are made at Babelsberg Studios in Potsdam outside Berlin, and thus absorb the lion’s share of the fund. “Half of the total money allocated has been spent for Babelsberg,” complains Michael Schmid-Ospach, topper of Filmstiftung North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW), a large funder based in western Germany.

Other industryites tend to share this view, such as Matthias Esche, head of production giant Bavaria Film, which operates a studio complex in Munich. “I do wish the distribution was more regional,” he says. But he also points out that intensive Stateside marketing by Babelsberg Studios and Berlin’s mayor Klaus Wowereit probably had some effect.

Helmer Jeanine Meerapfel, spokesperson for directors’ federation Bundesverband Regie, underlines the federation’s good relationship with the Directors’ Guild of America, and adds that U.S. helmers “probably compare the costs and conditions of offers from different locations.”

Both NRW and Bavaria say they are striving to improve international awareness for locations in the two states. Bavaria Film has just paid a visit to the U.S. to woo partners, and Filmstiftung NRW is planning a Stateside presentation in January, similar to the one set up by Berlin’s mayor in Los Angeles a year ago.

Filmstiftung is already reporting more action, recently announcing NRW will co-finance $2 million to shoot Stephen Daldry’s “The Reader” in its western German region. Filming for the Nicole Kidman starrer had been confined to Berlin and it surroundings.