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Walker + Worm Founders Talk Arthouse Success, Toronto Pic ‘The Garden’

Munich-based Walker + Worm Film has cranked out a slew of critically acclaimed productions in recent years, including Sonja Kroener’s feature debut, “The Garden,” which will make its international premiere in Toronto’s Discovery section, Philipp Leinemann’s police actioner “The Kings Surrender” and Frauke Finsterwalder’s drama “Finsterworld.” Established in 2008 by Tobias Walker and Philipp Worm, the company, which has produced more than 30 features, docs and commercials, is now moving into international productions. The founding pair spoke to Variety about their upcoming productions, which include Leinemann’s “Das dritte Sterben,” about a German intelligence agent (Ronald Zehrfeld) whose life spins out of control following a terrorist attack.

How did both of you come together to establish Walker + Worm Film?

Tobias Walker: We started working together when producing our first short film at the University of Television and Film Munich and haven’t stopped since. When we founded Walker + Worm Film in 2008, we’d already collaborated on numerous projects and knew that we worked together well.

What was your vision for the company when you first launched it?

Walker: Our aim was to put the unique vision of the filmmakers we collaborate with center stage during production. It’s their vision for the finished film that drives every decision we make.

How would you describe the types of films you produce?

Philipp Worm: So far, we’ve mostly produced films best described as arthouse. We’re open to all types of films from all genres, really, as long as the creators [many of the people we work with are both writers and directors] have that strong and unique vision for the project. As long as that voice is there, we’re game!

The Garden” just won the two top German Cinema New Talent Awards in Munich for you and director Sonja Kroener. It’s the latest success after a number of big award winners, including “The Kings Surrender,” “Finsterworld” and “Picco.” What’s the secret formula?

Walker: I think there’s a certain authenticity to our films that draws audiences in. They’re not trying to imitate other films or trying to follow the American example. They’re firmly rooted in a particular place and time. Also, we’re not going after the lowest common denominator by trying to guess what the audience might like. Nothing gets smoothed over.

How do you go about deciding what projects you will produce?

Worm: Both of us have to be drawn to a project for us to pursue it. Sometimes one of us is a bit more in love with a particular project than the other, but both of us have to be convinced by the project’s viability. There’s no grand strategy though. Basically, it’s just us reacting to a particular project [or not], just like an audience might. A lot of it has to do with our personal tastes and preferences.

What kind of relationship do you have with the directors you regularly collaborate, like Frauke Finsterwalder, Philipp Leinemann and Philip Koch? Is it an exclusive relationship?

Worm: Somewhat unusually maybe, we have a very close relationship to most of the directors we work with. Most are close personal friends with which we’ve been collaborating since film school [like Finsterwalder, Leinemann and Koch]. That level of trust allows for a kind of shorthand in communicating with each other that’s incredibly beneficial when trying to flesh out a project’s unique vision. It’s not necessarily an exclusive relationship, but we certainly hope that we’re the first port of call for our director’s passion projects!

What are some of your upcoming projects?

Walker: We’re about to start filming “Luck Is for Wimps,” which is our first collaboration with director Anca Miruna Lazarescu. Other upcoming projects are Philip Koch’s “Thalassa” [a film without sound] and a reinterpretation of Stefan Zweig’s [1941 novella] “Schachnovelle” [The Royal Game].

Are you also involved in international co-productions?

Worm: Yes, that’s an area we’re slowly growing into. “The Royal Game” will be an international co-production and we’re considering getting involved in English-language films.

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