Berlin’s Dieter Kosslick’s Roots Grow Deep in Film Biz

Before taking the reins at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001, Dieter Kosslick had already racked up a number of impressive accomplishments in the domestic and international film sectors, and he immediately put that know-how to work in expanding and re-shaping Germany’s premier film event.

Kosslick is being honored with Variety’s Achievement in International Film Award at the Berlin Film Festival.

In 1983, Kosslick became managing director of the Hamburger Filmbüro, which oversaw cultural film funding in Hamburg, and later headed the newly launched Film Fonds Hamburg, which provided more commercial-oriented economic film support.

While in Hamburg, in 1986 Kosslick launched a number of groundbreaking, border-crossing initiatives, such as the European Low Budget Film Forum, which attracted then-fledgling filmmakers including Derek Jarman, Stephen Frears and Lars von Trier and later developed into Filmfest Hamburg. That led to the establishment of the EU Media Program and the European Film Distribution Office (EFDO), which eventually evolved into European Film Promotion (EFP). Today it is a network comprising 38 national film agencies that together promote European cinema and talent.

Other initiatives included ECCO, the first European co-prod conference. “That was the basic model for all the other co-production conferences,” Kosslick says. “On one side a film financing panel, on the other tables where producers could meet one-on-one. That had not been done before in this form. That was all still pioneer work in Hamburg.”

Moving to Düsseldorf in 1992 as the first CEO of the newly launched state funder Filmstiftung North Rhine-Westphalia, Kosslick helped forge what would eventually become a model for Germany’s regional film funding institutions.

“I arrived, at least theoretically, in an already-made bed, because that which everything revolved around, namely money, was not the problem there. We had a budget of around DM 40 million [approximately $24 million at the time], so there was no lack of money. And I was no longer in just a city, but in a big state with the most cinema screens in Germany, more than 3,000.”

More than just a film support scheme, the Filmstiftung was a funding organization set up to assist the entire industry.

One of the main problems facing the sector at the time was the rise of multiplex cinemas and the threatened survival of not only arthouse theaters but also small-town movie houses. “So we established cinema support funding,” Kosslick explains, noting that one of the most exciting initiatives he launched was an infrastructure redevelopment project for inner-city theaters across the state.

Stressing the breadth of his achievements, Petra Müller, Filmstiftung NRW’s current CEO, says Kosslick “brought great momentum to the region.”

He invested in international co-productions and oversaw funding for such films as von Trier’s “Dancer in the Dark,” Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s “Amélie,” Tom Tykwer’s “Run Lola Run” and Helmut Dietl’s hit comedy “Schtonk.”
In addition, Kosslick “organized European co-production meetings, introduced funding for cinemas and payback grants, founded the Intl. Film School in Cologne and so much more,” Müller adds.

Kosslick brought many of these ideas to Berlin. “It enabled me to introduce a concept for an A-level film festival that was different from anything that had been done before,” he notes. “What was normal at the time was a red carpet for the competition, one or two independent sections, a children’s sidebar. All of these things that I’ve mentioned were the roots for the initiatives that we introduced at the Berlinale: the Co-Production Market, Talents, the Berlinale Goes Kiez program to support theaters around the city.”

Other initiatives, including the World Cinema Fund and Rotterdam-Berlinale Express, grew out of Kosslick’s involvement with the Independent Film Project.

“With his own dynamic and great communication skills, he conquered the capital and turned the Berlinale into a great event,” says Müller. “The festival became a must for the entire international film industry and at the same time the largest public festival in the world. He was and is the perfect host of the festival and he has given it the levity and friendliness that Berlin has enjoyed so well ever since.”

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