BERLIN — Launching Liam Neeson’s “Hard Powder” at Berlin’s European Film Market, Vivendi’s European film-TV group Studiocanal is set to produce, distribute and sell two new German projects: “Caravan,” Sebastian Schipper’s follow-up to “Victoria,” and “The Silent Revolution,” from Lars Kraume whose “The People vs. Fritz Bauer” was a Cohen Media Group pick-up for North America.
Produced out of Studiocanal Germany, a production-distribution company headed by CEO Kalle Friz, “Caravan” and “The Silent Revolution” form part of a 2017 six-movie slate as Studiocanal, Europe’s biggest film investor this decade, powers up production in the continent’s third biggest movie market.
Also Germany’s biggest distributor of international independent movies, playing off an output deal with Lionsgate which was extended to Summit last year, in Germany Studiocanal can look to its own international productions, such as “Paddington” and “Non-Stop,” plus Lionsgate/Summit titles, to fuel a release slate of around 20 movies per year.
But as German films punch sometimes extraordinary numbers at their domestic box office, it has moved into local production, focusing on three segments, Friz said: Family entertainment, mainstream movies and filmmaker-driven stories.
Wowing the 2015 Berlinale with the one-shot heist thriller “Victoria,” Schipper is writing “Caravan” with Oliver Ziegenbalg (“My Blind Date With Life”).
Set in Morocco, Spain and France, “Caravan” portrays the friendship between Gyllen, a rebellious English teen, and William, an African refugee. Studiocanal aims to shoot this summer, said Friz.
Starring Joerdis Triebel (“Emma’s Bliss”) and Maxim Mehmet (“The Red Baron”), “The Silent Revolution” tells the true-life story of a class of students who in 1956 stood up to the East German regime. They finally decide to flee together to West Germany. Friz called the film “‘Dead Poets Society’ meets ‘The Lives of Others.’”
Plowing into production, Studiocanal is pursuing in Germany its global policy of exploiting brands with top producers, as on “The Little Witch,” based on Otfried Preussler’s children’s classic, from Clausen + Putz (“Heidi”), and romantic drama “Close to the Horizon,” from a Jessica Koch bestseller, with Matthias Schweighofer’s Pantaleon Films (“Highway to Hellas”).
Under production-acquisitions head Isabel Hund, it is also developing “Women Turning 40,” a comedy “in the vein of ‘Bad Moms,’” according to Friz. Studiocanal is also pushing synergies with other parts of Vivendi, an item high-up on Vvendi chairman Vincent Bollore’s strategic wish-list, teaming with Vivendi-owned Universal Music, as well as Ratpack Film and Berlin street dance company The Flying Steps, to develop what Friz terms “an amazing love story/dance film for a broad audience.”
“Our German productions are certainly a key growth driver for our local P & L,” said Friz. “We also believe in the international potential of German films,” he added, pointing to comedy “My Blind Date With Life,” which currently ranks No. 3 at the German box office, earning a first 10-day $2.9 million. It has sold “exceptionally well” abroad, he said. With Studiocanal-released “La La Land” ranking No. 2 in Germany, with $7.7 million to date, Studiocanal’s local strategy is seeing early success.
But Bollore will still want more. Studiocanal’s “core challenge” in Germany is how to increase the value of a 7,000-title catalog, reaching new audiences, said Friz.
“Studiocanal has been able to increase its market share on the catalog in a decreasing [physical home entertainment] market,” Friz added. But “the transition of the catalog into the digital world remains one of the key challenges for the future.”