You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Wiedemann, Berg take risk with ‘Others’

Sony Pictures Classics at 20 - The Stories Behind the Movies

Rookie German producers Max Wiedemann and Quirin Berg took a big personal risk with “The Lives of Others,” the debut feature of their film school buddy Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

When shooting started, they realized the $2 million budget wasn’t enough to deliver the movie they all wanted to make. “We had huge overspends,” recalls Wiedemann. “It was not due to miscalculation, but because of numerous decisions where we decided to go for what the movie deserved to be, rather than what the budget said it should be.”

So they loaned the production several hundred thousand dollars from their own pockets.

“We were 26, and it was a lot of money for us,” says Berg. “It was total blind belief, but it did give us sleepless nights.”

The risk was key to their ultimate success. Not only because it meant they could do justice to von Donnersmarck’s vision, but also because the financial pressure forced them to hold out for a much bigger German distribution deal.

After several rejections, Buena Vista stepped up with an aggressive bid, which in turn meant the distrib had to go for a wide release to earn its money back. So instead of being confined to arthouses, “The Lives of Others” launched to international buyers at Cannes as a multiplex hit.

Sony Classics won a bidding war for the U.S. rights, and steered the pic to a foreign-language Oscar for Germany in 2006, and the highest-ever first-run gross by a Teutonic film in the U.S.

The pic continues to resonate in far corners of the globe. When Chinese poet Liao Yiwu defected to Germany last summer, he presented German Chancellor Angela Merkel with a pirated copy of “The Lives of Others,” complete with lovingly tailored Mandarin subtitles, to show how important the movie is in giving hope to China’s dissidents.

Steady as she grows | Shrewd handling yields real profits | SPC mines foreign gold | Despite illness’ gloom, Bloom integral to company
The Stories Behind the Movies
“Capote” | “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” | “The Fog Of War” | “The Lives of Others” | “Rachel Getting Married” | “Run Lola Run”
The Collaborators
Agustin Almodovar | Lone Scherfig

More Film

  • Sauvages

    Claude Barras’ ‘Sauvages’ Pitches Potential Partners at Cannes Film Market

    Claude Barras, director of the breakout Academy Award nominated hit “My Life as a Zucchini,” is returning to stop motion animation for his next feature “Sauvages,” a socially conscious tale set in the jungles of Borneo. Producer Rhea Plangg attended this year’s Cannes Film Market to foster negotiations with potential production partners. “Sauvages,” a working [...]

  • Pop Up Film Residency Announces New

    Pop Up Film Residency Announces New Talents, Partners for 2019

    CANNES–The Pop Up Film Residency, a mentorship program launched this year by former TorinoFilmLab artistic director Matthieu Darras and Slovak producer Juraj Krasnohorsky, has announced three new residents, four new hosts, and two new creative partners for 2019. Based in Bratislava, the program offers a three-week residency in Slovakia each month, along with a series [...]

  • 'Super Pets' Release Date Pushed Back

    Film News Roundup: 'Super Pets' Movie Moves Back a Year, Avoiding 'John Wick 4'

    In today’s film news roundup, “Super Pets” has moved back to 2022, “Into the Ashes” gets bought and veteran executive David Gale has a new gig. RELEASE DATE Warner Bros. has pushed back the release of “DC Super Pets” back a year, avoiding opening against “John Wick 4.” The studio announced Wednesday that “Super Pets” [...]

  • Quentin Tarantino

    Quentin Tarantino Documentary 'QT8: The First Eight' Scores Sales (EXCLUSIVE)

    Wood Entertainment has completed sales for France, Germany, Turkey, Italy and Russia for “QT8: The First Eight,” a documentary that chronicles Quentin Tarantino’s first eight films. The first buyers’ screening took place on Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival. Tarantino’s ninth film, “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” premiered at Cannes on Tuesday night. Producer [...]

  • 'Asbury Park' Doc Covers Bruce Springsteen,

    Film Review: 'Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock 'N Roll'

    A civic Phoenix story is promised and effectively delivered in “Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock ‘N Roll,” even if there’s little doubt that what much of the audience will be hoping for from this documentary is Bruce, the whole Bruce and nothing but the Bruce. The film satisfies a good portion of that craving with [...]

  • Timothy Olyphant Once Upon a Time

    Timothy Olyphant Explains Why He Did 'Hitman' Movie

    The 2007 film adaptation of the “Hitman” video game franchise is … not good. It received a score of 15% on Rotten Tomatoes, with many critics panning its incoherent plot and terrible dialogue. So, why did actor Timothy Olyphant take on the lead role as Agent 47? He had a mortgage to pay, he told [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content