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Michael Eckelt • Producer

Riva Film: never an idle moment

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- German production company keeps putting the spotlight on international co-productions, with new films such as Higher or The Invisible on the way

Michael Eckelt • Producer

Riva Film’s Michael Eckelt is quite unique in the German film landscape. Before he started running the production outfit Neue Impuls Film in 1996, Eckelt had worked with German exhibitor Hans-Joachim Flebbe on managing the CinemaxX arthouse cinemas in Hanover and Hamburg as well as the distribution company Impuls Filmverleih.

And he was also successor to Dieter Kosslick as managing director of Film Fonds Hamburg in 1992 before handing over the reins of the new funding body combining the Film Fonds with the Hamburger Filmbüro to Alfred Hürmer in early 1995.

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“My approach of focusing on international co-productions stems from my time as a distributor,” Eckelt recalls. “That’s when I built up my contacts with people like Emir Kusturica or Ken Loach. When I was then running the Film Fonds, that kind of co-production was not so usual, but we put around 2 million DM into Kusturica’s Underground which really bolstered Pandora Film and went on to win the Golden Palm in Cannes.”

The first project Eckelt handled at Neue Impuls Film was an international co-production, the children’s film Katya’s Adventure by Lars Hesselholdt, made between Denmark, Norway, Italy and Germany, in 1999. And he started the collaboration with Israeli filmmaker Eran Riklis by co-producting his The Syrian Bride in 2004.

“I have a longing for exciting stories wherever they come from and often the case is that they come from places outside of Germany. With minority co-productions, if you are lucky, you can get your share of the financing together in a relatively short time and then go into production after, say, nine months.” Eckelt continues.

What is for sure, there are never any idle moment at Riva Film, which consists of Eckelt, his producer Anette Unger and assistant Mia Kilian. After his founding in 2006, Riva Film soon became an address of high-quality films for art-house market, with many of its films being invited to leading international festivals and going on to win various awards.

And this year has seen Riva’s production of André Erkau’s Life Is No Piece of Cake [+see also:
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show staying power over the summer months in German box office charts, posting over 260,000 admissions and more than €1.8 million in taking.

From an early stage, Israel proved to be on of Riva’s favourite regions to work with, beginning with Riklis’ Lemon Tree [+see also:
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. “They are great directors and have great stories,” Eckelt explains, adding that he is always keen to preserve a continuity in the working relationship with directors whenever possible. He’s managed it this year with Riklis on the latest project Dancing Arabs and would also like to collaborate again with Haim Tabakman on a new project after their success with Eyes Wide Open [+see also:
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film profile
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, premiered at Cannes in 2009.

2013 has seen Eckelt involved with another Israeli projects in addition to the Riklis film: production has wrapped on Nir Bergman’s Higher, a biopic about a female rock poet from the 60s, and Mushon Salmona’s The Invisibles about Bedouins in Israel.

That’s not to say that Riva has been ignoring the German side of its production operations. Far from it. A project is being planned with talented director Justin Kocj: a film for children and adults called Es War Einmal Indianeverland. Feature debutant Roman Schaible is being lined up to direct culture clash comedy Harlay Oztürk, written by Nicholas Schofield, and screenwriter Hendrick Hölzemann is currently adapting Onno Viets und der ire vom kiez from Hambourg writer Frank Schulz.

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