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AFM: German Money Boosts Projects Across Borders

Germany has long been the powerhouse driving the economy in Europe, and in recent years its film and TV industries have likewise developed into major players at home and on the international scene.

The country’s sales agents are becoming more involved earlier in the production process due to creators’ financial needs and the agents’ financial connections, says Mariette Rissenbeek, managing director of German Films.

“Projects of well-known independent filmmakers can only be financed by involving international distributors or producers at an early stage,” Rissenbeek says. “German TV series with a high creative level and a high production level also demand international financing in order to be able to get started. Accordingly, German sales agents are more and more involved with this type of pre-sales and co-financing as they are well-connected to the international film and TV industry.”

In the TV arena, she notes, “a number of larger sales companies are primarily involved with series and miniseries for which they find international partners at an early stage. Due to a decrease in the financial commitment of German broadcasters and to the generally complicated situation of independent film production, the sales companies play an important role in making films possible by pre-selling and co-producing with international partners of both independent films and TV series. Their engagement has become a vital element in putting together a project’s budget.”

For Constantin Film, international television is a strategic expansion market. “Even though this is a crowded area, we see improving market conditions for our German language high-end productions, such as Oliver Berben productions’ ‘Guilt,’ ‘The Verdict’ or the upcoming miniseries ‘Perfume,’ not least because of [subscription] VOD and other new services to reach our audience,” says chairman Martin Moszkowicz.

Even though local product is becoming more important, he says, “we still see English-language serialized content as the major business driver.”

Constantin has been active in this field for a couple of years, concentrating on established properties, such as “Shadowhunters” (currently in production on season two for Freeform and Netflix) and the upcoming television series based on ‘Resident Evil” and “The Infernal Devices.’”

Constantin and its subsidiaries, including Peter Nadermann’s Nadcon, are also involved in serialized co-productions such as “Havana Quartet” with Spain’s TVE or “Greyzone” with TV2 of Denmark and SVT of Sweden.

“And through our subsidiary Constantin Entertainment we are not only producing about 1,500 hours of television content per year for the German market, but are also very active in many other European countries with local joint ventures, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania and many other markets,” he says. “As with our theatrical product, we’re licensing most of the international rights through long term relationships with local distributors, sales agents and in house operations.”

Arri Media is also ramping up collaborations with international producers, according to Moritz Hemminger, director of sales and acquisitions. It offers a variety of options ranging from co-production and international sales to the use of Arri services, including Arri camera and lighting equipment, post-production facilities and the Arri VFX studio.

“We notice that producers are very interested in having one strong partner at their side for various business areas, who gets on board in an early project stage, and is able to partner up with them basically from the first idea for a feature film until it has its world premiere and is released worldwide,” he says.

To highlight this partnering-up with international producers, Arri just launched its Intl. Support Program at the Toronto Intl. Film Festival. “Producers submit their feature projects and if selected, they will benefit from the support and involvement of the different Arri business units,” he says.

The Arri Group decided to first focus on feature film productions, given the company’s strong cinema brand. The next step into television will follow “within the next years,” Hemminger says.

Arri has been extensively involved in the Russian-German co-production “Paradise” from director Andrei Konchalovsky; the film, which won the Silver Lion for director at Venice, is also the Russian Oscar submission. Arri Media came on board early, investing in the project when “Paradise” was still in the financing stage, and served as the international sales agent, later handling the entire post-production.

Picture Tree Intl., still a relatively new operation, always planned to set up co-productions, but spent its first few years building up the sales side first. Now it’s ready to move into international co-productions, says co-founder Andreas Rothbauer.

“The plan is to realize two co-productions as the German partner in combination with the international distribution mandate,” he says. “We are about to announce our first European co-production project prior to Berlinale/EFM. Aside from European co-production countries, we’re also looking to board projects with English-speaking countries that have co-production treaties with Germany.”

TV programming is also part of the agenda “but not the focus for the next year,” he adds. “With PTI we are also slowly building up a domestic distribution unit for our films where a theatrical deal with a regular German distributor seems unlikely.”

PTI’s head of sales and operations, Yuanyuan Sui, will be at AFM, and the company has a number of German-language films (from Germany and Austria) it will present at AFM. Among them: “Heart of Stone,” produced by Studio Babelsberg and Schmidtz Katze, who also collaborated on Academy Award nominee “In Darkness”; “Original Bliss,” which premiered at Karlovy and had its U.S. premiere at the Hamptons Intl. Film Festival; “Nowhere,” a German release by Polyband; “Egon Schiele: Death and the Maiden,” an Austria-Luxembourg co-production presold in 15 countries that will have its market premiere at AFM; and “Night of a 1000 Hours,” an Austria-Netherland-Luxembourg co-production.

Beta Cinema also has several current international co-productions: “Work Without Author,” produced by Beta’s Jan Mojto along with Quirin Berg, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, and Max Wiedemann; “The Happy Prince”; and Tom Tykwer’s TV series “Babylon Berlin,” co-produced with Sky, X Filme Creative Pool, and ARD Degeto.

Munich- and Berlin-based Maze Pictures was founded last year to develop and produce international features and TV productions out of Germany, while serving as a European hub for those looking for Europeans partners. CEO/Producer Philipp Kreuzer points to its current slate as indicative of its approach: “Rupert Everett’s directorial debut ‘The Happy Prince,’ starring himself, Colin Firth and Emily Watson is currently shooting in Germany, Italy, France and Belgium with partners throughout Europe including BBC Films, Lionsgate U.K., TeleMünchen, and Beta Cinema. And we’re co-producing the upcoming thriller ‘Postcard Killings,’ directed by Janusz Kaminski.”

In TV, Maze is co-developing “The Crimson Rivers” TV series with Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp Television for French and German networks, and is in post-production on an Italian-German miniseries with Rome-based Palomar.

“Sharing risks and involving partners from different territories in the development, production and financing process is a way for us as independent to be able to work on productions with top writing talent, creative packages and production values, all of which are needed to prevail in today’s competitive market,” he says.

“For this we aim to enter at an early stage into creative and financial development partnerships for genuine productions with the objective that no one notices that it may actually be a co-production.”

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