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German Film Funder Medienboard Celebrates Decade of Backing Festival Favorites

There are few major film festivals that don’t feature pics backed by Medienboard Berlin-Brandenburg in their lineups, and Cannes is no exception. This year, the German film funding and media biz development org celebrates its 10th anniversary under the guidance of Kirsten Niehuus, having invested during that time in films from “Inglourious Basterds” to “Pina” to “Cloud Atlas.”

Six international co-productions at Cannes this year boast Medienboard coin: competition titles “Winter Sleep” from Nuri Bilge Ceylan, “Clouds of Sils Maria,” by Olivier Assayas, and “Le Meraviglie,” from Alice Rohrwacher; Un Certain Regard films Kornel Mundruczo’s “White God” and “Amour fou” from Jessica Hausner; and omnibus pic “The Bridges of Sarajevo,” which is a Special Screening.

The support of arthouse films is a major part of Medienboard’s work.

“I see that as Germany’s capital region’s contribution toward world cinema,” says Niehuus, who, as the company’s managing director of film funding, works alongside Elmar Giglinger, managing director of media business development.

A good chunk ($27.8 million) of Medienboard’s funding budget of €25 million ($34.7 million)  is spent on development and production.

A decade or so ago, the term “stupid German money” was used to describe the amount of Teuton cash (almost $2.8 billion in 2003) that was being poured into Hollywood movies, with little benefit realized by the German film biz.

Those days are long gone. Now those who dole out German money keep a keen eye kept on how it is spent. A recent study from Ernst & Young found that for every euro Medienboard invested, €5 were generated in spending in the Berlin-Brandenburg region.

The benefits to the region can vary. Medienboard does not insist that films shoot in the area, although some do, such as “Amour fou” and “Clouds of Sils Maria.” Others complete their post-production in Berlin, which was the case with “The Wonders” and “Winter Sleep.”

Niehuus says that the feedback from Hollywood talent who’ve spent time shooting in Berlin, including Quentin Tarantino with “Inglourious Basterds” and Tom Hanks on “Cloud Atlas,” is that they like the city’s creative vibe.

The next challenge for the local biz, she says, will be to adapt to the convergence of film, TV and digital. The contest, she notes, will be a survival of the fittest. “There is no simple solution. We support the audiovisual industry to establish new business models for exploitation of content,” she explains.

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