Since taking the helm at German regional funder Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein (FFHSH) last year, Helge Albers has revamped the organization, worked to increase its budget by €3 million ($3.3 million) and introduced new initiatives aimed at young filmmakers.
Albers, a former film producer who previously served as head of the German Producers Assn. and a member of the German Federal Film Board’s production and script funding committee, came in with plenty of ideas to boost the funder’s activities and help adapt it to the rapidly changing film market.
Among the new initiatives is a first-of-its-kind deal with Warner Bros.’ Hamburg-based German division, Warner Bros. Entertainment, which has agreed to annual financial contributions of €1 million ($1.1 million) to the funder. The FFHSH will allocate 25% of the new funding to projects from young up-and-coming filmmakers.
The subsidy board has also increased series funding, with €2 million ($2.2 million) in annual support aimed primarily at the development of high-end productions that are “firmly anchored in the region.”
The overall increase has boosted the funder’s budget to nearly €16 million ($17.5 million) and Albers is working on further increases. The FFHSH is streamlining its funding application process and making it possible for producers to apply for grants more often throughout the year. Producers can begin applying for the new film and series funding in April.
The increased budget is likely to attract more projects from abroad.
The FFHSH has assisted a number of high-profile international projects in recent years, including Berlinale competition screener “There Is No Evil,” by detained Iranian helmer Mohammad Rasoulof, which received €250,000 ($272,935). Rasoulof has not been allowed to leave Iran since 2017 and last year a judge sentenced him to a one-year prison term for portraying Iran negatively in his past films. Albers expresses hope that Rasoulof will be allowed to leave Iran in time to attend the world premiere in Berlin.
The FFHSH has also backed major Hollywood productions like Paramount’s Tom Clancy adaptation “Without Remorse,” starring Michael B. Jordan, which nabbed €100,000 ($109,162) when it shot at an offshore training facility in Schleswig-Holstein last year. Sony actioner “Charlie’s Angels” received €400,000 ($436,646) for its shoot in Hamburg’s impressive Elbphilharmonie concert hall in 2018.
Golden Bear winner Ildikó Enyedi’s upcoming historical drama “The Story of My Wife,” starring Léa Seydoux, picked up €450,000 ($491,283).
“Naturally, we’re very open and happy to have major international productions that come to us and we offer very good conditions,” Albers says. “We also have many resources that we can provide to productions shooting in the city and region. Our collaboration with Warner Bros. sends a strong signal that we are open and eager for major productions of all kinds and we have more projects in the pipeline that are coming.”
The changes at the funder are meeting the growing demands of the industry, Albers stresses, noting that it was “urgently necessary” to address such developments in the sector as the rise of new players, the speed of decision-making in the market and increasing format production.
One forthcoming production that is likely to benefit from the new series funding is Fatih Akin’s Marlene Dietrich project with Diane Kruger.
The FFHSH is involved in the development of new series through its Series Lab program organized with Creative Europe Media Desk and other partners, including regional pubcaster NDR, which provides a €7,500 ($8,213) grant to selected projects.
The FFHSH has also strengthened its position on sustainability and diversity by becoming the first regional funder in Germany to make its Green Filming Permit mandatory in the region, ensuring that productions are kind to the environment, and also the first to include a diversity checklist in its application process.