Opportunities for Adventurous Talents

in 26th FilmKunstFest Schwerin

by Reinhard Kleber

The second film industry conference at the 26th Filmkunstfest in Schwerin

In 2015 Volker Kufahl, the artistic director of the Filmkunstfest Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, introduced an important innovation: a film industry conference, where media representatives from the region could meet experts from all over Germany to exchange knowledge and experience, and to discuss promising trends of the media landscape. The meeting was also intended to draw attention to this federal state in the north-east of Germany, which is not particularly known as a media hotspot.

This year’s second edition of the conference took place in Schwerin’s city hall, and the event had expanded significantly: over two days, 210 participants attended four panels with 16 experts. The first panel, “Film meets tourism”, addressed the key question: How can film and television refine the image of cities and regions, and how can the latter benefit economically?

The second panel paid attention to the question how the federal state Mecklenburg-Vorpommern could be strengthened as film and media hub. Several leading members of the regional parliament identified the absence of a public film funding tool as a key deficit. They indicated that producers from Mecklenburg-Vorpommern regularly missed out on funding opportunities from national institutions and the European Union as well as public TV stations, because these subsidies depend on matching finance from institutions of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

The politicians on the panel agreed that the meagre federal budget for culture cannot keep up with bigger media hubs that have more funds available, even if Mecklenburg-Vorpommern only wanted to co-finance just an average TV crime drama. So they agreed to revive public film funding in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. The only problem is: where will they find the money?

Another panel on TV formats proved rather dispensable and dull: the TV editors present at the panel only took advantage of the platform to praise their own formats and performances. The most fruitful panel was a discussion about the production of web series. Under the impact of the hype surrounding fashionable TV series from streaming platforms Netflix and Amazon, the participants discussed vividly which web series are already produced in Germany, what budgets they have and who the backers are.

Several web experts and adventurous directors and producers offered insights into the flourishing web series scene – a marketplace of interest for many of the young filmmaking talents who were present in Schwerin.

The author and producer Johann Buchholz has already gained experience in this market segment: he has developed and realized the web series Couples (Paare) for the culture channel Arte, and Man/Woman (Mann/Frau) for the regional broadcaster BR [Bayerischer Rundfunk] and production company Ulmen TV. Buchholz stated that TV stations need mainly pieces that are up to five minutes long and added: “The BR wants series that you can consume waiting at the bus stop.”

His producer colleague Thomas Wüstemann pointed out the possibilities of innovative technologies, such as 360 degree videos. He made such videos for the online branch of Germany’s biggest newspaper Bild when filming at a refugee camp near the Greek town of Idomeni. For Wüstemann, it is important to learn how to steer the perception of the audience. He said that videos with all-around-images are not tested sufficiently as a scenic format and must be subjected to further research.

Meredith Burkholder, chief of the Webfest Berlin, described how new web festivals are established at present as new forums for web videos and web series beyond traditional film festivals. Webfest Berlin is the first international web series festival in Germany. Burkholder believes that this emerging market offers a bunch of chances for upcoming talents. Her encouraging message: at the first edition of Webfest Berlin, it was the bold independent productions that gathered awards, not the high-budget web productions that had a financially sound sponsor on board.

Edited by Birgit Beumers