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Babelsberg’s new role

Studio discovers niche as foreign hub

With films like Jaume Collet-Serra’s Berlinale screener “Unknown” and Roman Polanski’s Silver Bear and European Film Award-winning “The Ghost Writer” to its credit, Studio Babelsberg continues to solidify its position as a major European co-production partner and full-service studio.

Indeed, while “Unknown” and “The Ghost Writer” have become the studio’s latest calling cards, Babelsberg is already underway on its next major international production, Paramount’s “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.”

Directed by Tommy Wirkola, the fairytale-actioner stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the grown-up hag-bashing siblings. Babelsberg is co-producing with Gary Sanchez Prods. and is securing federal and regional subsidy funding for the pic.

Babelsberg also co-produced “Unknown,” which stars Liam Neeson. The film, which received some $6.2 million in local support, shot at the studio and around Berlin last year.

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Germany’s reputation as a friendly and supportive filming location — thanks in large part to its generous regional and federal film subsidies — has brought plenty of business to Babelsberg in recent years.

“The Ghost Writer,” which picked up some $5.4 million in local coin, proved an especially impressive co-production for the studio. While set largely on Martha’s Vineyard and London, the film was completely shot in Germany — at Babelsberg as well as on the islands of Sylt and Usedom. The pic went on to sweep last year’s European Film Awards, picking up six prizes, including best film, director, screenwriter, actor and production designer.

Babelsberg CEO Charlie Woebcken, who also served as the film’s co-producer, says the studio has “earned international recognition, as the film, which is set in the U.S. and in England, was completely shot in Germany. … A great performance regarding locations and production design.”

The studio is also co-producing Joe Wright’s action-thriller “Hanna,” starring Saoirse Ronan, Eric Bana and Cate Blanchett. The pic, which landed some $6.4 million in local coin, shot last year at the studio as well as on location in Berlin, Bavaria, Finland and Morocco.

Other recent Babelsberg co-productions to shoot at the studio include Constantin Film’s “The Three Musketeers,” by Paul W.S. Anderson, and “Chicken with Plums,” Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud’s live-action follow up to “Persepolis,” starring Isabella Rossellini and Mathieu Amalric.

The latter is a co-production between Paris-based Celluloid Dreams Prods. and TheManipulators, the new joint venture established last year by Babelsberg, Celluloid Dreams and Munich-based equity group Clou Partners.

As a co-production partner and studio facility, Babelsberg serves as a one-stop shop with its wide range of services that include production services, stage rental, set construction and production design.

One of Europe’s largest studio complexes, Babelsberg boasts 16 sound stages with a combined 270,000 sq. ft., including the 80,000-sq. ft. Neue Film 2 and the 60,000-sq. ft. Marlene Dietrich Halle. The studio also offers an expansive 4.2-acre back lot for your exterior filming.

Babelsberg recently added a new indoor water tank for water and underwater filming. Originally built for “Unknown,” the tank holds 500,000 liters at 4-meter depth, making it the largest in Germany. Another recent addition is a hydraulic aircraft interior set.

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