Animation Germany was founded by the industry to promote German animation/VFX producers, productions and studios and for the sake of expanding the international business potential for German companies.
The label provides a platform to get together and informs about players and products in the German market. Moreover, Animation Germany offers events that will encourage international co-productions.
The Cartoon Forum is the biggest European coproduction and co-financing market, and, from a German perspective, the most attractive international B2B event with nine hundred participants.
We are happy to announce that we have won a respected industry expert to highlight and present France: Philippe Alessandri, CEO of Watch Next Media and President of the French Animation Producer’s Association (SPFA).
The event will end in the yearly reception of the German industry, which brings producers, distributors and financiers together, as well as guests from France.
As part of our newsletter, Animation Germany regularly speaks to members of the animation and VFX community.
The animated movie “Luis and the Aliens,” to be released on May 24, is a European coproduction that your company, Ulysses Films, produced jointly with Fabrique d’Images (Luxembourg) and A.Film Production (Denmark). For years, your focus has been on high-quality family entertainment. How did you end up in animation?
Originally, I worked in a renowned photo agency in Hamburg, which sold second window rights of our photographers’ reports in Stern, Geo, National Geographic, etc., to other magazines and advertising clients. This involved copyrights as well as image content editing. I really enjoyed this work. But as a result of digitalization, the photography market changed drastically in the following years. After obtaining my business administration degree, I worked in the business and legal department of a film production company in Ireland. In 2005 I had the chance to take over the German subsidiary and subsequently produced “The Flight before Christmas,” my first successful animated movie. At that time, Ulysses was already working closely with Studio Rakete – a tandem that has served us well for all eight of our films to this day.
Ulysses Films has been developing, financing, and producing animated films as international coproductions for cinema and TV since 2004. How would you compare
development, financing, and production then and now? What has changed for the better?
In the last 14 years, surprisingly, movie financing hasn’t changed much. The factoring components are much the same.
Technically, of course, a lot has changed in the animation area: the increasingly powerful net and the fact that ever larger data can be processed in a short time offer tremendous possibilities.
Germany is a great hub for animation. In the last years we have gained much expertise and artistic and technological perspectives – this can really be seen as positive. And we dare more. We no longer need to hide behind American studios – particularly if we focus on stories and efficient production, where we Europeans have a lot to offer.
In 2016 Ulysses Films was voted producer of the year by the European animation sector. In 2018 you won the Bavarian film award for “Richard the Stork,” whose principal producer was Knudsen & Streuber Medienmanufaktur. For “Luis and the Aliens” you’ve got two Oscar® winners on board, writers-directors Wolfgang and Christoph Lauenstein. What are key factors for success? Do you have any advice for animation experts who wish to become more involved with European coproductions?
I consider the screenplay and solid visual development to be crucial in launching a successful production. We invest a lot of money in every single film idea – not just subsidies, but cold hard Ulysses cash. In addition, a proven network of strong partners is indispensable; all those involved, artists and investors, need to work together in concert.
For a start, to make European coproductions, you have to want it!
All of Ulysses’ films are international coproductions; we have not produced or financed any film just in Germany. Thus we’re able to attain the budgets we need in order to compete internationally.
On April 27 the German Film Awards were presented. With your team KELLER.IO, you were responsible for the visual effects for “The Little Witch.” You specialize in VFX solutions, planning, programming, and implementation. Your production list for film projects and commercials is very prominent. Could you explain how you carry out VFX planning and implementation? How were VFX integrated into the production of “The Little Witch”?
In my opinion, producing visual effects works particularly well if the actual production process holds few if any surprises. For this reason, I try to enter into the planning process as early as possible. How early depends on the project, of course, but this has mostly worked quite well over the last years.
In the case of “The Little Witch,” Uli Putz and Jakob Claussen contacted me immediately after they decided to make the film. We had a very early meeting with screenwriter Matthias Pacht, whose initial treatment already allowed us to discuss visual effects. I’m very grateful to be included at such an early stage because this gives me time to deal with the subject and explore possible solutions before working with the artists.
As soon as the initial script is finished, I normally try to develop a list of possible VFX shots, which provides a basis for discussion with the artists and producers. During this step I include everything that might not be possible to shoot, and thus may have to be edited. This usually leads to a very long list, which we flesh out during the planning and preparation process. In this phase it’s important for me to understand the artists’ ideas in terms of content, after which we jointly develop solutions.
Ideally, we have a clear concept of what we’re striving for before shooting, so shooting and everything that follows is simply implementing the plan. In theory, anyway.
For “The Little Witch” we began developing Abraxas and the software for his feathers during preproduction. Abraxas is half animated CG raven, half animatronic puppet built by Fixas in Sweden and animated on the set by Rob Tygner. Other effects include the flying witch, the bonfire on Walpurgis Night, and various other small witcheries.
I prefer to have the VFX team directly under the film production’s roof rather than outsourcing the VFX work to a service provider. The short communication channels facilitate a high level of engagement and allow the team – and of course me – to concentrate on a single project. As a rule I spend a lot of time on the set and try to be there even when we’re not shooting VFX shots; this allows me to gather a maximum of input and to work closely with director and camera, production design, editing and production.
Depending on the project, my task varies. For “The Little Witch,” for example, collecting additional information on the set (in addition to the usual VFX data) included directing the puppeteer and Abraxas’ performance. For instance, “Godless Youth,” which production I worked for with Alain Gsponer, Uli Aselmann, and Sophia Aldenhoven immediately prior, and “Heidi,” a Zodiac Pictures/Claussen and Putz coproduction, both required architectural extensions and thus required close cooperation with the set designer.
Digitalization and its associated technological possibilities enable limitless creativity; productions have unlimited possibilities for naturalistic depiction. Breathtaking scenes and realistic digital people convey audiences into new worlds.
How did you get into producing VFX? In your view, what were the milestones in the development of digital images in terms of application possibilities and the use of VFX? And how has your work changed?
My journey to the world of visual effects began with an early interest in graphic design, form, and movement, followed by motion graphics/broadcast design. In the mid-1990s, I began experimenting with video and editing. That led initially to smaller jobs, followed by a degree course as "digital artist” in Elstal, west of Berlin. After that I began working as a 3D artist, first in advertising, then increasingly in movies. In 2007 I began to work as a (set) supervisor, and since 2011 I’ve been working mainly as a VFX supervisor.
During this time I experienced the high-end workplaces of the 1990s slowly being replaced by workstation PCs; software became much less expensive; and small studios proliferated. At the same time, the demand, the requirements, and the visual complexity continuously increased. After a period during which the small studios could just keep up with demand, the gap is widening again. This is mainly a question of scale, i.e., the ability to process large capacities reliably. Small boutiques have found their niche or have disappeared again, while international enterprises need a certain magnitude before they can even compete.
In my view there have been several milestones during this time. In recent years, digitalization of cameras, as the last component in the image chain, was paramount. This enabled us to access the data directly after postproduction. It was also the first step toward digitalizing film shooting. The various sectors will move closer together, as we have seen in postproduction. In the near future, I foresee that light and grading, for example, will be of interest, especially as HDR exploitation becomes more important. HDR is also interesting in this context because it illustrates the strong influence of the home entertainment market on the technological requirements of productions.
In the world of computer graphics, I’m especially and repeatedly impressed by the open communication across company and project boundaries, e.g., Siggraph, or the annual FMX. Milestone moments for me personally were HDRIs and GI rendering, openEXR format, 64bit systems, all the open source initiatives and standards (Alembic, Open Image IO, Open Color IO, OpenVDB, USD, etc). At the moment I’m particularly excited about the basic idea behind ACES, the Academy Color Encoding System.
Given your expertise, which VFX created by German studios recently pushed the production limits? And why?
Generally, I’m impressed with the high quality of German studios to date. In particular, internationally active studios like Scanline, RiseFX, and Trixter regularly deliver outstanding work. At the moment I wouldn’t venture to say whether we here in Germany are able to push the production limits. There is still simply too much fundamental development work necessary. Nevertheless, Scanline’s Flowlines Water System has certainly contributed to this.
Perhaps in this context (and as a further example of the various departments closing ranks in the wake of digitalization), one should mention the cooperation between the VFX and SFX departments for “Blade Runner 2049,” for which Gerd Nefzer, John Nelson, Paul Lambert, and Richard R. Hoover were awarded a VFX Oscar®.
Digital image production is taking over ever larger shares of the entertainment formats such as movies or series.
In your opinion, given the high demand for digital image production, what are the essential requirements for VFX made in Germany to be able to compete nationally as well as internationally?
For the VFX sector, I would say that to keep up with the high standards in the long run, the industry must grow with its tasks. This involves various aspects: For companies, economic competitiveness in an often strongly subsidized field of activity and the possibility of long-term strategic and economic planning despite relatively short-term, but frequently technologically complex projects.
It concerns parameters that facilitate streamlined management without sacrificing speedy and flexible responses. It also concerns the availability of staff generally, as well as the artists’ skills, their education, the opportunities for further training, for leisure activities, for their pay in metropolitan areas.
For long-term development of the sector, we also need optimum facilities for research and development in the area of computer graphics. This means training should not just take place at film schools, but also and especially in cooperation with scientific departments of universities and technical colleges. An interesting example is the Computer Graphics Lab of ETH in Zurich and their partnership with Disney Research.
Germany’s film history is rich: important developments repeatedly arise from the various enterprises of the traditional film technology, e.g., ARRI, with its Alexa or the SkyPanels. In view of ongoing digitalization, I see a huge potential in close cooperations.
For international projects, the growing complexity of tasks makes it desirable to provide businesses with the necessary backing to meet the challenges. Here I believe the capacity to further develope the projects is crucial. For German films, or films that generally have a smaller budget, good planning and preparation is essential to be able to produce in an integrated and efficient manner.
Your personal statement on “Animation Germany?” ☺
I’m very grateful for the attempt to increase visibility of the animation and VFX sector. It helps all of us. At the moment, our industry isn’t well organized; all too often we don’t speak as one voice. Improving that is a worthy goal!
Mr Weisse began his journey some 30 years ago with the making of models and props, and has worked as a freelancer for productions in England, France and Germany. He practically grew up on film sets, as his father was a stills photographer. 12 years ago Mr Weisse set up his studio for model making, props and art direction. He worked with his international team on the current winner of the Silver Bear Wes Anderson’s ISLE OF DOGS His list of productions and work with successful producers read like a who’s who of film.
Mr Weisse, how did your success story evolve to allow you to work internationally? How did you deal with the development of computer animation in film? How has your work changed?
On the hand, learning by doing. Production techniques, effects and realisation methods change quickly. The pioneers in film keep an open mind, are always learning, fiddle around and try to combine the best and most modern developments with their own wealth of experience. In the end it’s always about the spirit of the film, finding the right visual language and the right equipment for production. For me, as a maker of models and sets, it’s an exciting challenge to be creative, to remain credible and to make a profit from my work.
My desire is not to forget the craft of my job, but at the same time to combine it with modern technology in an open-minded and curious way.
Also to convince people through quality and professionalism and, very important, to maintain my personal network.
What hurdles do you have to overcome to work internationally? What stumbling blocks did you have to navigate to start working?
In my experience the greatest challenge relates to colleagues, in the working arena, bridging the cultural gap. Misunderstandings can interrupt work processes and influence creativity.
Due to my French roots I can understand my French colleagues who, with a certain bemusement, never cease to marvel at German punctuality. The issues may seem trivial, but in film production it’s important to establish general understanding and empathy towards one another. A collective, careful way of communication leads to a visual and film language of a European and international expert team.
What would you like to see on the political level, of the level of producers?
Perhaps two things. For purely pragmatic reasons, a simplification of tax and accounting law on a European level. As a freelance German artist it is, on a formal level, very laborious to secure financing within Europe and prompt payment of invoices. The process of clarification and settlement are very time-consuming.
On the other hand, more generous funds on a national and perhaps also European level would help to fund more European and international co-productions. At the moment, international productions in Germany are stagnating because the interim government has led to financing being stopped.
Do you have any inspirational words or a statement that is important to you?
I wish that in Germany we had more courage to make daring film productions, auteur films or genre films. Even after 30 years I have lost none of my curiosity towards new genres, technology and trying out new approaches and having fun with experts behind the scenes.
As producer and head of Knudsen & Streuber Medienmanufaktur, she has been developing and producing feature, documentary and animation films with her partner Tom Streuber since 2006. Hailing from Norway, she studied Film and Film Production. Her work is receiving great acclaim this year.
Ms. Knudsen, you received the Bavarian Film Award 2018 for Überflieger: Kleine Vögel, großes Geklapper [Richard the Stork]. Congratulations. What does this award mean for you, your team, your production?
It’s a great honour for us producers, director Toby Genkel, screenplay writer/co-director Reza Memari and the entire team to receive such a prestigious form of recognition for our work over several years. We particularly cherish the award because it shows that original, ambitious animation from Germany, made for the entire world, is highly regarded.
Tell us an anecdote about something that happened during production and which might illustrate what kind of hurdles had to be overcome. I don’t have any anecdotes, but 25 financing partners from 4 countries and 6 studios perhaps gives some indication of the complexity involved?
Do you have any tips for producers and studios as to what has to be considered before embarking on a successful European production? Most important is to look beyond one’s own horizons and not to be afraid of other cultures; it has its challenges, but collaboration across borders enriches the film in terms of both content and quality.
What wishes do you have? What changes, in your eyes, have to happen to make animation and VFX more attractive for international productions? Above all, we need predictable and scalable financing models so as to primarily finance our films from Germany and attract co-productions to Germany. At the moment we’re losing commissions/co-production opportunities and therefore also numerous jobs and stable conditions for talent to other European countries and Canada, which all offer strong, tax-based sources of finance.
Is there anything you would like to give to the industry, something you find interesting and would like to share with experts? We need improved, collective self-confidence regarding our own animation scene, and we need the courage to show ambition – artistically, but also when it comes to financing and marketing.
German Producers Jakob Claussen, Uli Putz
German Production Company Claussen + Putz Filmproduktion GmbH
German Studios Keller.io, Screencraft Entertainment GmbH, Production Concept GmbH & Co KG
German Theatrical Distributer Studiocanal GmbH
International Sales Studiocanal GmbH
In Cinema 1st of Febuary 2018
Visitors 1.503.688 visitiors
German Producers Hans Ulrich Stoef
German Production Company Studio 100
German Studios Studio 100 Film
German Theatrical DistributerUniversum Film
International SalesStudio 100
In Cinema1st of March 2018
German Producers -
German Production Company Studio Babelsberg AG
German Studios Atelier Simon Weisse
Production USA, Germany
German Theatrical Distributer 20th Century Fox
International Sales 20th Century Fox
In Cinema 10th of May 2018
Visitors 82.175 visitiors
German Producers Emily Christians
German Production Company Ulysses Filmproduktion
German Studios Studio Rakete
Production Germany, Luxemburg, Denmark
German Theatrical Distributer Majestic Filmverleih / 20th Century Fox of Germany / Telepool
International Sales Global Screen
In Cinema 24th of May 2018
Visitors 75.262 visitiors
|Hexe Lilly rettet Weihnachten||Corinna Mehner|
|Hilfe, Ich habe meine Eltern geschrumpft||Corinna Mehner|
|Käpt'n Sharky||Gabriele M. Walther|
|Marnie's Welt||Jan Bonath|
|Pettersson und Findus - Findus zieht um||Thomas Springer|
|Luis und die Aliens||Emely Christians|
|1917 - Der wahre Oktober||Katrin Rothe|
|Happy Family||Holger Tappe|
|Die Biene Maya - Honig Spiele||Hans Ulrich Stoef|
|Die kleine Hexe||Jakob Claussen|
|Another Day of Life||Jörn Radel|
|Der kleine Rabe Socke - Die Serie||Dirk Beinhold|
|Wisch und Mop Dusty & Mop (engl.), Season 2||Björn Magsig|
|Sherazade - The untold Stories||Gerhard Hahn|
|Lumi & Bo||Gerhard Hahn|
|Trudes Tierr||Carsten Bunte|
|Monsters of Kreisklasse||Steffen Heisterberg|
|Die Sandmanzen||Ralf Kukula|
|Die Kinder von Mövenweg||Gisela Schäfer|
|Beutolomäus und der Wahre Weihnachtsmann||Giesela Schäfer|
|Black Panther||Christian Sommer|
|Jim Knopf und Lukas der Lokomotivführer||Thomas Zauner
|Game of Thrones||Heiko Burkardsmeier|
|Babylon Berlin||Sven Pannike|
German Films Quarterly 2016
Goethe Institut on German animated movies 2017
Blickpunkt Film on Animation Germany 2017
Stuttgarter Zeitung on potential of German Animation 2017
promedia on German animation and VFX industry 2017
Blickpunkt Film Interview with Emely Christians
Blickpunkt Film Interview with Tania Reichert-Facilides
Animation Germany’s shareholders are Allianz Deutscher Produzenten e.V. and Verband der technischen Betriebe für Film und Fernsehen e.V. Animation Germany is supported by a supervisory board that consists of three industry stakeholders: Animation Production Day - Stuttgart (Film- und Medienfestival gGmbH), German Films Marketing + Services and AG Animationsfilm e.V.
Animation Germany is supported by the the German Federal Film Board (FFA), German Films, Film und Fernsehfond Bayern (FFF), Medien- und Filmgesellschaft Baden-Württemberg (MFG), Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung (MDM), Film und Medienstiftung NRW, Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig Holstein (FFHSH), nordmedia and Creative Europe.