×

Agency topper flies German flag in U.S.

Toronto Daily Spotlight 2012: Hanns Wolters Intl. @ 50

Besides Hanns Wolters Intl., Oliver Mahrdt is also the North American rep for German Films Service + Marketing, the official body that promotes Teutonic films and filmmakers worldwide.

Per Mahrdt, he “answers all questions German! I get new films into fests, get them exposure, help facilitate directors, promote the max out of them!”

Given the multi-voiced shareholders behind GFS+M, this is not always easy: “Sometimes,” says Mahrdt ruefully, “I see films that don’t cross my desk and I wonder why. But then again: Germany produces so many films each year.”

Mahrdt has even managed to get the word on films where there was no critical consensus, such as “Lollipop Monster,” which he introduced to MoMA’s senior curator for film, Laurence Kardish, who slotted the Ziska Riemann feature into the museum’s Kino! 2012: New Films From Germany series as the opener.

“The New York Times recommended as its weekend choice with a picture but there was still a backlash from some who felt the attention shouldn’t have gone to a first-time filmmaker,” says Mahrdt. “I also got ‘Kaddish for a Friend’ to be seen by programmers at MoMA.”

Among the slew of films that have received Academy Award nominations, including “Downfall,” “Sophie Scholl — The Final Days,” and “The Baader Meinhof Complex,” two have taken home statuettes: “Nowhere in Africa” and “The Lives of Others.”

” ‘Nowhere in Africa’ was our highest grosser,” says Zeitgeist Films’ co-prexy Nancy Gerstman. “Several distributors had passed, (then) Oliver called us. Michael Weber, then at Bavaria Film, was also very encouraging. We made $6.2 million box office; it won the Academy Award. We couldn’t ask for more.”

In representing a country’s output, Mahrdt has noticed a sea change in attitudes.

“When Americans like a film, the world wants to see what there is to like about it,” he says. “Selling to the U.S. might attract only a low price, but when a film breaks then you can make great money. Six-figure (minimum guarantees) are very, very rare, but with smart marketing, the money can come in over a film’s life. If you can sell to the U.S., then do it! It also increases the price in other markets.”

Since German Films Service + Marketing operates with a budget of $6 million a year (“not nearly enough!”), Mahrdt looks for strategic partners.

“We have an ongoing gig with MoMA, the consulate and the Goethe Institute. I look for sponsors. We do German premieres. I work closely with the CEO, Mariette Rissenbeek, where we select one film for special sales. Our last premiere was Tim Fehlbaum’s sci-fi horror film ‘Hell,’ which went down really well. Beta Film then sold it at AFM. That’s how to do it.”

Related Links:
Marlene’s rep to 21st century firm

Popular on Variety

More Scene

  • Debra-Messing-Donald-Trump

    Debra Messing Lampoons Donald Trump in Play Based on Mueller Report

    Debra Messing portrayed President Donald Trump in an all-star play based on the Mueller report on Monday at Beverly Hills’ Saban Theatre. Wearing a light pant suit and sitting with legs spread confidently, Messing nailed Trump’s mannerisms in the one-night-only play, “You Can’t Make This Sh*t Up,” which raised funds for a Barbara Boxer-led PAC [...]

  • Kathryn Hahn Mrs. Fletcher

    Kathryn Hahn Talks Working With an Intimacy Coordinator on 'Mrs. Fletcher'

    HBO’s new comedy “Mrs. Fletcher” follows the journey of an empty-nester divorcee who embarks on a journey of self-discovery and sexual exploration following her son’s departure for college. At the series premiere on Monday night at the Avalon Hollywood in Los Angeles, Kathryn Hahn discussed playing the titular role of Eve Fletcher, a middle-aged woman [...]

  • Taika Waititi Natalie Portman SDCC 2019

    Natalie Portman Weighs in on 'Thor: Love and Thunder's' Possible Breast Cancer Storyline

    Natalie Portman doesn’t know if “Thor: Love and Thunder” will include a breast cancer storyline for her character Jane Foster, but she’s definitely intrigued by the possibility. “It’s just very rare that these kinds of big entertainment films look at more serious, real-life issues,” she told Variety at L.A. Dance Project’s 8th annual fundraising gala [...]

  • Julie Andrews

    Julie Andrews Recalls Husband Blake Edwards' Battle With Depression

    The line to see Julie Andrews at the 92nd Street Y wrapped around the square of a sprawling New York City block. Seventy years since the start of her career, 60 since she asked “Wouldn’t It Be Loverly?” as Lerner and Loewe’s first Eliza and 50 since she sang “The Sound of Music” before the [...]

  • Bombshell Charlize Theron Megyn Kelly

    'Bombshell': Why Charlize Theron Was Terrified of Playing Megyn Kelly

    Charlize Theron is getting some of the best buzz of her career for channeling Megyn Kelly in “Bombshell,” but the Oscar-winning actress admits she almost turned down the role. “I was shit scared,” Theron said during a question-and-answer session following a Manhattan screening of “Bombshell” on Sunday. Partly, she was worried about portraying someone who [...]

  • Natalie Portman Benjamin Millipied LA Dance

    Natalie Portman, Benjamin Millepied Help Raise Over $1 Million For L.A. Dance Project

    Natalie Portman may be joining Chris Hemsworth in Marvel’s “Thor 4: Love and Thunder,” but as the petite, Dior-clad actress struck a range of poses on the carpet inside downtown Los Angeles gallery space Hauser, Wirth & Schimmel on Saturday night, it was impossible to imagine her wielding an enormous hammer. But then, the Oscar [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content