×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Top German Filmmakers Set Up Seven Elephants (EXCLUSIVE)

Three of Germany’s hottest filmmakers — David Wnendt, Julia von Heinz and Erik Schmitt — and leading producer Fabian Gasmia have joined forces to set up production company Seven Elephants, and have revealed the first project on its 10-strong slate set to go into production.

All four founders have won German Film Awards, and have produced films that have, collectively, sold more than 10 million tickets in Germany alone.

Wnendt’s “Combat Girls” won three Lolas, “Wetlands” was in competition at Sundance, and his Hitler satire “Look Who’s Back” grossed $22 million in Germany, and sold to Netflix for multiple international territories.

Von Heinz’s credits include Lola winner “Nothing Else Matters,” “Hanni and Nanni 2,” which grossed $5.7 million in Germany, and “I’m Off Then,” which grossed $15.2 million at home.

Schnitt’s short films have won more than 300 awards and have played at more than 1,000 festivals, including the Berlinale. His style has been compared with Gondry and Jeunet. His highly anticipated debut feature “Story of Berlin” is in post-production, and will be released in Germany by Neue Visionen.

Gasmia was the founder of Detailfilm and CEO of Zentropa Hamburg. He co-produced Mia Hansen-Love’s Berlin Silver Bear winner “Things to Come,” and “Personal Shopper,” which won best director in Cannes for Olivier Assayas. He is presently co-producing “Annette” by Leos Carax, starring Adam Driver and Michelle Williams.

Seven Elephants’ first film to go into production is set to be Von Heinz’s “Tomorrow the Whole World,” which it is in financing. Alamode is attached as its German distributor, and the film has backing from regional fund FFF Bayern. It follows a young woman, played by rising star Mala Emde, who dives into the world of the radical left. “With a far-right party on the rise she is challenged by the existential question: What has she done to to prevent what is, in her opinion, a new Adolf Hitler for Germany? Is violence the only answer she can find?” according to a statement.

Also on the slate is Von Heinz’s “Iron Box,” which is based on the autobiographical novel “Too Many Men” from New York-based bestselling author Lily Brett. The film, which takes place in 1995, centers on Ruth, a neurotic businesswoman from New York. She takes her father, Edek, a Holocaust survivor, on a trip to Poland so she can make sense of their family’s past.

The company will have a similar approach to United Artists, X-Filme and Zentropa, the founders told Variety, in that the filmmakers will retain control over the commercial decisions affecting their projects. “It will be a home for auteur-driven but also commercially successful movies that are developed under the full control of the respective creators,” Gasmia said.

Wnendt said the priority was to maximize creative freedom. “As a director I am so dependent on the way productions are set up and how the money is spent. It isn’t about making more money but about having more influence over the way the money is spent during filming; to make sure it is spent in the most efficient way, and control the way the story is told,” he said. For example, the filmmakers could keep crew sizes down and the number of shooting days up to maximize the time the director spends with the actors.

The filmmakers also intend to develop TV series that they can collaborate on as writers and directors in a similar way to how X-Filme produced “Babylon Berlin.” “The intention is to share honest feedback on everything we are working on,” Wnendt said.

Schmitt said they wanted “to create something that is more like a family – some kind of safe room where creativity can thrive; where it is not just about business but also about the ideas, and putting the auteur at the center of things.”

Von Heinz said it was the perfect time in her career to form the company. “I have had a lot of good experiences with other producers and so I really know what I’m doing when I say I want to be my own producer. I want the control, but I’m also ready to take the responsibility.”

Although no formal relationships have been struck with other entities, the company is likely to build on the existing relationships the four have built up over their careers, Gasmia said.

Photo shows (from left to right): Erik Schmitt, Julia von Heinz, Fabian Gasmia, Isabel Śuba, David Wnendt

More Film

  • Alamode Acquires Lone Scherfig’s ‘The Kindness

    Alamode Acquires Lone Scherfig’s Berlin Opener ‘The Kindness of Strangers’

    Munich-based Alamode has taken German and Austrian rights to Lone Scherfig’s “The Kindness of Strangers,” ahead of the picture’s opening-night gala screening at the Berlin Film Festival next month. Alamode acquired the rights from London-based HanWay Films, which is handling worldwide sales. Entertainment One is distributing the film in Canada and SF Studios in Scandinavia. [...]

  • Voltage Pictures to Produce Airborne Thriller

    Voltage Pictures to Produce Airborne Thriller 'Blackwing' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Voltage Pictures will produce and fully finance screenwriter David Loughery’s latest thriller “Blackwing,” Variety has learned exclusively. The company will introduce “Blackwing” to buyers at the upcoming European Film Market at the Berlin Film Festival, which opens Feb. 7. Nicolas Chartier and Dominic Rustam are producing, and Jonathan Deckter is executive producing for Voltage Pictures. [...]

  • ‘Metro Exodus’ Opens Up Post-Apocalyptic Russia

    ‘Metro Exodus’ Author On Film, Possible TV Series, Expansive New Game

    Since the launch of the post-apocalyptic survival first-person shooter “Metro 2033” in 2010, the series has kept its action confined to the tunnels running underneath Russia. “Metro Exodus,” due out next month, takes the gameplay to the surface for the first time, going above ground with sprawling levels against a changing backdrop of weather conditions [...]

  • Berlin Film 'The Ground Beneath My

    Berlin Competition Film 'The Ground Beneath My Feet' Sold to Germany's Salzgeber (EXCLUSIVE)

    Salzgeber has acquired the German rights for Berlin Film Festival competition title “The Ground Beneath My Feet” from sales agent Picture Tree International. Variety has been given exclusive access to the film’s trailer. Salzgeber will release the film, directed by Marie Kreutzer, mid-May. Picture Tree describes the movie as a “contemporary female-led drama touching on [...]

  • Donald Glover'Atlanta' TV show premiere, Arrivals,

    Childish Gambino Surprises Beverly Hills Crowd With Reimagined 'Redbone'

    Donald Glover made an unexpected appearance at Film Independent’s “An Evening With…” series on Tuesday, held at the Wallis Annenberg Center for Performing Arts in Beverly Hills and presented by the HFPA. Joining “Black Panther” composer and Childish Gambino collaborator Ludwig Göransson, who was the subject of a Q&A conducted by “The Treatment” host Elvis Mitchell, [...]

  • 76th ANNUAL GOLDEN GLOBE AWARDS --

    Film News Roundup: Glenn Close Selected for Oscar Wilde Award

    In today’s film news roundup, Glenn Close gets an honor, AFI names its Directing Workshop for Women participants and Teri Polo gets cast in a Christmas drama. CLOSE HONOR Glenn Close will be honored on Feb. 21 by the US-Ireland Alliance at the 14th Annual Oscar Wilde Awards, held at J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot in [...]

  • Jason Reitman Ghostbusters

    Jason Reitman to Direct Secret 'Ghostbusters' Movie

    Sony Pictures is getting the wheels in motion for the next installment in the “Ghostbusters” franchise, and it knows who it’s going to call to direct: Jason Reitman. Sources tell Variety that Reitman, whose father, Ivan, directed the first two “Ghostbusters” movies, will direct the latest pic in the famous franchise. Reitman has also co-written a [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content