The figures published by German Films Marketing + Service GmbH on the success of German films abroad in 2018 are impressive proof of animation films' great importance for the German film industry with a share of over 50% of the total box office.
The analysis shows that the 406 feature films – both animation and live-action – generated revenues of over 154 million Euros in 75 territories, reaching more than 26.5 million cinema-goers. The commercially most successful genre was the animation film with a 54% share of the total box office (83.2 million Euros) which was generated in 73 territories by 30 German or German co-produced films.
Animation Germany UG was founded by the industry to make German animation and VFX producers, productions and studios in particular more visible abroad. It currently represents around 90 companies in Germany, including traditional production companies as well as animation and VFX studios.
The label unites the interests of the German animation and VFX industry with respect to international business development, film promotion and production power.
Animation Germany provides a platform for relevant information about the industry and the establishment of national and international contacts.
As part of our newsletter, Animation Germany regularly speaks to members of the animation and VFX community.
Dear Mariette, congratulations on your new position! After 16 years with German Films, during which you were actively involved in shaping the German film’s image abroad, you’ll be taking over management of the Berlinale in tandem with Carlo Chatrian as artistic director. You’ve supported Animation Germany UG from the start: not only does German Films give us a grant for our activities during the Annecy festival, but you also give your time as an active board member – many heartfelt thanks!
You’re a connoisseur of the international film and production scene. In your current function as director of German Film, you have your eye on the big international picture. Has the visibility of animated film at international festivals changed?
The visibility of animated films at international festivals takes place in various ways. Traditionally, animated films are present at renowned animated film festivals like Annecy. Here, festival visitors can see very cineastic animated films with a more experimental approach, as well as animated movies that aim to entertain the whole family. Beyond that, there are occasionally animated films appealing to an adolescent audience. Over the last years, sophisticated animated films for adult audiences have celebrated premieres at international A-festivals, for example, TEHRAN TABOO during the Semaine de la Critique, or WALZ WITH BASHIR at the Quinazine des Réalisateurs in Cannes.
How do German animated films position themselves internationally when they are mainly children’s/family films (e.g.,“Luis and the Aliens”) or art house (e.g.‚ “1917 – The Real October”)? Is a change evident?
Animation films made in Germany are very sophisticated and internationally highly esteemed. LUIS AND THE ALIENS was a worldwide success at the box office; distributors in Spain and France are enthusiastic. This trend began 2–3 years ago and we expect it to continue. Films like “1917 – The Real October” are screened mostly at renowned festivals, less so at regular theaters.
German Films finances itself through export contributions from German films. How would you assess the economic importance of animated film for the German film industry?
We don’t have enough numbers at the moment to make a definitive statement. But certainly animated film as an international production accounts for a significant contribution to the total volume of export trade.
“Isle of Dogs,” an animated film produced with German participation (Studio Simon Weisse, see Interview Newsletter #3), opened this year’s Berlinale – a signal for more animated films at Germany’s biggest festival?
Absolutely, animated films have their own filmic language and are ideal for conveying sensitive issues in an engaging, relaxed manner. Innovatively implemented animated films on relevant issues most certainly have excellent prospects at the festival!
Your personal statement on “Animation Germany,” please 😊
By channeling various interest groups and taking into account diverse stakeholders, Animation Germany contributes to greater visibility and appreciation of Germany’s animated film professionals abroad!
Dear Christian, this summer, a headline in a large media publication attracted attention: “Christian Sommer rescues his VFX studio Trixter from bankruptcy.” No one could have guessed, since Trixter – a German company – had successfully coproduced such blockbuster productions as “Black Panther.” Trixter received the Bavarian Film Award. Trixter employs 220 animation and VFX specialists. The economic foundation seemed ecure, and Trixter celebrated many a success.
Can you briefly tell us what happened?
First of all, I’d like to emphasize that Trixter was never “bankrupt.” There were no insolvency proceedings. As a precautionary measure, we filed a preliminary request to negotiate and conclude an investor solution within the legal requirements. It’s true, however, that the unplanned loss of two major US commissions would have led to a corresponding need for action. In fact, the company’s performance has been very satisfactory to date. We’ve expanded our international business, while at the same time increasing our commitments to German productions. As an independent German VFX and animation studio, we’re faced with a fundamental dilemma. On the one hand, you need major US shows to generate sufficient margins. On the other hand, this forces you to play in the international big leagues – and these in turn set the standards by which you’re forced to measure your performance when it comes to flexibility. In other words, short-term cancellations or delays on major projects can quickly squeeze out a smaller provider due to high fixed costs for staff and technology.
Trixter has a new shareholder, the British VFX studio Cinesite, and is now no longer German, but English. What will that mean for Trixter’s business performance? And what will it mean for you, Simone Kraus, and Michael Coldewey personally?
I see this in a more differentiated way. The company shares of the German enterprise Trixter will be transferred to a London shareholder. Cinesite is a strategic investor, who is very well aware that Trixter’s success story is also a matter of identity involving staff, management, and brand. Overall, we’re much stronger as a result of this partnership. The synergy potential extends from marketing and acquisition to technology exchange and mutual support in team building. We can position ourselves as a major international group, while at the same time offering our national clients a wealth of experience gleaned from over two decades on the German market.
In your view, where does the biggest potential of our sector animation and VFX lie – production and provision of services?
First of all, there’s the growing importance of this market as a future-oriented technology. Animation and visual effects open up ever more scope for creativity. Technological advances increasingly make it possible to create not only virtual worlds or characters, but also enable effective, calculable, and ultimately more economical implementation of real producible scenes. The trends in the areas of virtual reality and games engines illustrate that the new key technologies are revolutionizing an established market.
The successes of German VFX companies show that our creative performance is in the top league. If the conditions are right, then the German sector can also play an unprecedented role in the international scene quantitatively, as well. While German VFX providers can regularly view their sequences in the major international movies and series, the German animated film is a long way from reaching its full potential – despite the fact that the often universal character of the genre is predestined for international exploitation. To this day, however, German animation producers and studios haven’t succeeded in positioning themselves better as international coproducers and service providers. This is the challenge, which underscores the importance of the initiative Animation Germany.
What actions will it take to implement this?
Since the creative and technological potential is there, it will depend above all on changing the environment. For one thing, funding incentives need to be adjusted to at least approximate those of other European and non-European countries. We’re competing here with tax-based incentive models like Britain’s Film Tax Relief or France’s TRIP, which has included VFX and animation since 2013. Important steps have already been taken with DFFFII as well as GMPF, but more must follow. Furthermore, film schools must take into account future-oriented production forms even more consistently. This demands political action, recognizing that VFX and animation are key technologies for other sectors, as well, and setting the right priorities.
Both courses of action are mutually dependent, thus leading to a positive overall dynamic: more international shows in Germany offer employment for highly skilled up-and-coming staff, who in turn won’t have to move abroad to find employment. This strengthens German players’ clout, which leads to measurable economic effects, which in turn encourages politicians to further foster a supportive environment.
Your personal statement on “Animation Germany,” please 😊
The spectrum of film and television industry interest groups is broad; however, until now, one aspect has been underrepresented: the animation and VFX sector in the context of international connection. While the Produzentenallianz’s Animation Section as well as the association of technical businesses for film and television VTFF successfully advocate for our industry segment’s interests, both organizations focus mainly on the national environment. The fact that both interest groups constitute the shareholders of Animation Germany sends a clear signal: a majority of the German film industry believes we need Animation Germany.
Mr. Meyer-Hermann, your productions have won international prizes, awards, and recognition. After establishing your animated film studio FILM BILDER in Stuttgart in 1989, you have since successfully developed a unique handwriting. ANIMANIMALS is currently airing on German television and “Tom and the Slice of Bread with Strawberry Jam and Honey” is now a classic.
What were the crucial steps in establishing your company and
what contributed to Studio FILM BILDER’s success?
I wanted to create a structure for making interesting animated films. At the time, I was teaching at the Akademie der bildenden Künste in Stuttgart. I asked those students I considered the most talented if they wanted to join me. All six of them wanted to. The idea was to make our own films with each other’s help, while simultaneously handling commissioned productions jointly. It worked. We received commissions for title sequences and magazine reports for ZDF and from the then-newly launched channel RTL, from the industry, for advertising, and especially for music videos. Besides that, we made a series of short films that were screened to acclaim at festivals. Other directors joined the studio (like Andreas Hykade and Gil Alkabetz), or cooperated with us on individual projects (like Daniel Nocke and Phil Mulloy). The two-track approach of art and commerce was interesting for the creative professionals. The tv series we’ve been producing since 2000 succeed on both tracks. For our series projects, it’s important for us to have control over the entire creative process. We continue to drive the studio work through collaborating with outstanding authors, designers, and directors. These include female talents, as well: currently Angela Steffen, Julia Ocker, and Elena Walf are the creative driving forces at Studio FILM BILDER.
Currently, as professor of animated film at the Kunsthochschule
Kassel, you have an overview of the value-creation process of cartoons and
animation. What essential factors could help creative ideas made in Germany
segue into commercially successful productions?
I do, in fact, consider this the biggest challenge for Germany’s animation scene. There’s a huge gap between the schools and the industry. The training institutions and the studios ignore each other. In some cases, an attitude of arrogance and ignorance of the market needs prevail within the art and film schools. The industry in turn often displays inflexibility in the face of new developments, and considers university graduates with their high-flying plans to be too demanding. As producer and professor, I’ve spent many years trying to connect the loose ends, at times almost dispairing. Considerable joint efforts are necessary. The funding institutions, broadcasters, schools, and studios must initiate projects in close cooperation that will help students successfully enter their chosen profession. The series “Ich kenne ein Tier,” which our studio implemented in partnership with the Filmakademie BadenWürttemberg, SWR, and the MFG, could certainly serve as a model.
Where is the development of the new generation of animation
producers headed? Are there ways to meet the challenges of TV broadcasters’
decreasing financial participation?
I wish I were a young producer! I believe creativity is the key. Young producers have to be proficient in the entire spectrum of today’s possibilities. When I started out, we had cinema and linear television. Today we see animation on the internet, on mobile phones, at events, in public spaces, in cross-media and interactive applications, in virtual and augmented reality. Production is the art of developing projects for these platforms and in turn utilizing that broad spectrum for the financing. The opportunities are increased by the possibility of international positioning. Animation production is more complicated today, but also considerably more diverse and promising than ever before.
The recent study implemented by the AG Animationsfilm on the status of animated film in German television clearly shows that German productions are underrepresented. Over 90% of the air time for the relevant target audience for animated children’s programs is filled with European productions (excluding Germany) and non-European productions.
Arguments pro quota – and contra?
Contra: a confident German animation sector shouldn’t need a quota. But that’s only in theory, as long as the quota exists in countries we compete with. In France and England, for instance, broadcasters voluntarily commit to reinvesting a considerable proportion of their revenues in national productions. To remedy this imbalance, which is a disaster for the German sector, we must call for a comparable regulation in Germany because television funding is still a fundamental financing component for most animation projects.
Your personal statement on “Animation Germany,” please. ☺
“Animation Germany” performs an important task. The German animation sector needs a better public image. To my mind, it’s crucial that the sector be represented in all its diversity: in-house productions, coproductions, commissions, feature films, short films, series, cross-media projects.
Thank you very much!
Ms. Walther, in 1986 you founded Caligari Film, dedicated to family entertainment. Your productions include animated movie productions and high-quality documentaries. Box office hits like “Coconut the Little Dragon,” “Knight Rusty,” and “Der Mondbär” (Moonbear) were sold in over 200 countries. Your new feature film “Capt’n Sharky” will premiere after the summer holidays, just in time for the new school year. Caligari is one of Germany’s most successful market leaders.
How would you describe the stages leading to Caligari’s successful market position for over 20 years?
My diploma in directing and screenwriting from the Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen München is the foundation on which I built my company. In the early 1990s, as coproduction partner for Columbia Tristar North America, I produced numerous sitcoms in Germany. In this capacity, I not only learned how to make people laugh, I also gained experience in international coproductions.
In developing comedy, a clear understanding of the character is essential, and a character’s attitude must necessarily be reflected in the stories. The contextual demands for developing sitcoms are nearly identical to those of animation story development. Our success in the area of animation thus was initially based exclusively on developing scripts, rather than on studio operations. We cooperated with experienced partners, thereby acquiring know-how as time went on. We still don’t see ourselves as a studio; our focus continues to be on story development, on creating the look and feel of a story, and on financing. Maybe this is precisely what has been crucial to our success. We’ve uncompromisingly developed good stories, leaving aside the technical implementation until after the development phase.
With respect to content in the area of animation, your strategy for family entertainment is to focus on brands. Are the determining factors of this strategy changing? In your view, what are the challenges and opportunities for future scope and commercial success?
Concentrating on brands is an economically pragmatic approach if you’re producing in Germany, since we don’t have any marketing budgets in this segment. Broadcasters face the same deficit, of course, because the international competitors – major studios like Disney and Warner, invest huge budgets to market their new products globally. By contrast, we as producer or German broadcaster can’t compete with that. Since Germany is very successful in the children and adolescent books sector, it makes sense to focus on these brands as a basis for series or movies. That reduces the risks entailed in high production costs and makes the necessary investments more predictable and fundable. We secured the rights to countless brands early on – even before they became popular – because we recognized their big commercial potential. We’re good truffle pigs when it comes to recognizing potential.
You produce both live action as well as animated films. How do you see the potential in terms of structural possibilities for producing in Germany, by comparison?
The recent study implemented by the AG Animationsfilm on the status of animated film in German television clearly shows that German productions are underrepresented. Over 90% of the air time for the relevant target audience for animated children’s programs is replete with European productions (excluding Germany) and non-European productions.
In Germany, animation production is practically an endangered species, since private broadcasters rarely participate in financing animation series made in Germany and public broadcasters have only limited budgets available. We hope the public broadcasters continue airing animated children’s series in the morning hours. If these slots are no longer filled with animated productions for children from 3 years of age, the sector will face even more difficulties. We need a stronger financial commitment from the SVOD platforms. At present, we can merely place already produced programs with Amazon or Netflix; however, because of the SVOD platform, the DVD business for children has collapsed. The resulting deficit should be compensated by the new players on the market in the form of contributions to production funding.
The demand for live action series in the family entertainment sector, on the other hand, has increased slightly. But here, too, commissioned productions are few: the slots are not adequately funded in comparison to prime-time series and full financing via the national market is difficult. Realization requires either coproductions, which must be shot in English, or program brands under the auspices of large platforms operating through talent or book adaptations or games.
In recent years, youth films have been very successful, albeit only as novel adaptations – with the exception of “Windstorm.” Given the plethora of offerings, we’re observing fierce competition, making it even more difficult for stories targeted to the youth market. Oriented to broader audiences, comedies starring young actors – e.g., “Suck Me, Shakespeer,” “Help, I Shrunk my Parents,” and “This Crazy Heart” – not only show this target group continues to be frequent moviegoers, but that these productions also appeal to audiences 6 to 10 years of age.
The competitive environment of international animated movies for cinema has increased dramatically, resulting in declining audiences for the German animated children’s movie. We simply can’t compete with international productions equipped with budgets that are nearly 10 times higher than ours, along with similarly lavish marketing budgets. With their new international movies marketing brand combinations – e.g., Batman/Lego – the big players are now picking off younger audiences who to date have primarily comprised the target group for national children’s brands.
As difficult and complicated as the situation is, we must concentrate on coproductions and lobby for more understanding and commitment on the part of broadcasters, private providers, and SVOD platforms.
Is there a glass ceiling here? Does Germany need quotas?
Yes! But quotas must apply to everyone – Super RTL, Disney, and if possible all platforms. Then German animation would have a better chance.
Your personal statement on “Animation Germany,” please. ☺
Animation Germany enables the entire industry to present itself internationally as a single brand. The initiative points to the potential available in Germany with respect to creative professionals and cooperations. For years I’ve envied those countries who have jointly promoted their animation expertise at trade fairs. I’m delighted that Animation Germany promotes international awareness of our potential as partners and our manifold industry.
Thank you very much!
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 Cinemas 1st of Febuary 2018
Visitors 1,503,688 visitors
German ProducersThorsten Wegener, Ulli Stoef
German Production Company Studio 100 Media
German Studios M.A.R.K.13
German Theatrical DistributerUniversum Film
International SalesStudio 100 Film
In Cinemas1st of March 2018
German Producer Christian Becker
German Production Company Ratpack Filmproduktion, Malao Film, Warner Bros.
German Studios Timeless Films (London), Constantin Film
German Theatrical Distributer Warner Bros. Entertainment
International Sales Warner Bros. Entertainment
In Cinemas 23rd of March 2018
Visitors 1,804,988 visitiors
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 Cinemas 10th of May 2018
Visitors 104,389 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 Cinemas 24th of May 2018
Visitors 266,670 visitiors
German Producers Gabriele M. Walther
German Production Company Caligari Film- und Fernsehproduktions GmbH
German Studios Motion Works
German Theatrical Distributer Universum Film (Walt Disney)
International Sales Global Screen
In Cinemas 30th of August 2018
Visitors 69,584 visitiors
German Producers Thomas Springer, Helmut G. Weber, Sonja Ewers
German Production Company Tradewind Pictures
German Studios Chimney, Firsteight
German Theatrical Distributer Wild Bunch Germany
International Sales Wild Bunch Germanyy
In Cinemas 13th of September 2018
Visitors 537,183 visitiors
German Producers Helge Sasse, Solveig Fina
German Production Company Tempest Film, Deutsche Columbia Pictures
German Studios Studio Rakete, Trixter
Production Germany, China, Canada
German Theatrical Distributer Sony Pictures Entertainment Deutschland
International Sales Global Screen
In Cinemas 6th of December 2018
Visitors 121,630 visitiors
German Producers Gabriele M. Walther
German Production Company Caligari Film- und Fernsehproduktion
German Studios Traffix Entertainment
German Theatrical Distributer Universum Film, DCM
International Sales Caligari International
In Cinemas 27th of December 2018
|Hexe Lilly rettet Weihnachten||Corinna Mehner|
|Hilfe, ich hab 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 2 - Die Honigspiele||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, Staffel 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|
|Wir Kinder aus dem Möwenweg||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|
Animation Germany at annecy 2017
Animation Germany at Berlinale 2018
Animation Germany at Annecy 2018
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 2018
Blickpunkt Film Interview with Tania Reichert-Facilides 2018
Deutschland Funk on success of german animation movies 2018
ProduzentenAllianz Article on Animation Industry Activities 2018
Newsletter #1 (2017)
Newsletter #2 (2018)
Newsletter #3 (2018)
Newsletter #4 (2018)
Newsletter #5 (2018)
Newsletter #6 (2018)
2010 to 2015 Study by AG Animationsfilm on the Situation of Animation Films on German TV
September 2017 Animation Plan for Europe
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.