Michael Stejskal • Distributor, Filmladen
by Bénédicte Prot
06/09/2010 - Since 1986, Filmladen has been offering a range of films from narrative features, to documentaries, children’s films – a genre on which the company puts particular emphasis – and shorts. Its extensive catalogue includes many outstanding European films, like Il Divo [trailer, film focus], Irina Palm [trailer, film focus] and Lorna’s Silence [trailer, film focus], and names like Bent Hamer, Danny Boyle, Patrice Leconte and Ken Loach. The company also promotes Austrian cinema, films by Hans Weingartner, Götz Spielmann and Jessica Hausner. Michael Stejskal, who has been invited by European Film Promotion to San Sebastian, answered Cineuropa’s questions.
Cineuropa: How would you describe the distribution sector in Austria, with its advantages and flaws? What is the philosophy of Filmladen?
Michael Stejskal: The distribution market in Austria – like the film industry in general – is utterly monopolistic: technically, the Austrian market is a sub-market of the German one. For an independent distributor, it is very difficult to buy rights directly from a sales company. Often, we can only get the theatrical rights. We rarely get the DVD rights and nearly never the TV rights.
On the plus side, the lively arthouse community existing in Vienna and a few other Austrian cities makes it possible to work with high-quality midsize films and reach good figures. For really small films, the situation is very bad and it is far from improving.
The philosophy of Filmladen is to work with good films on a healthy economic basis, and to cover the whole spectrum of film categories, from big to small releases, documentaries to fiction features and films for younger audiences.
Your catalogue offers a vast range of films. How much work (and catalogue) is dedicated to Austrian films versus foreign titles, commercial versus auteur films, etc.?
Austrian films have always been very important to us. We try to have a good mix of Austrian and international titles, arthouse and more commercial films. We used to take on some classics but we don't do that any longer.
How do you pick European titles? Do you have European contacts you have been regularly working with? What was your strategy to get the rights to such high-profile films as can be found in your attractive line-up?
We have a lot of European contacts we use regularly. Of course, we are interested in buying recent high-profile films. Our ability to get them depends on the price and, of course, whether the rights are sold to Austria separately or not – and if not, to which German company they are sold.
What changes has the use of digital technologies brought about?
It has not changed our campaigns but it leads to a massive change in the possible ways to bring films to the cinema and to keep them there at good screening times.
This year, what were your biggest hits? What are your next major releases?
Compared to the previous years, this year has not been excellent. Our most successful releases are Dorian Gray [trailer] (about 50,000 admissions), Changing Sides (about 35,000), and I Love You Philip Morris (about 30,000). The big titles to come are the Austrian movie Die Unabsichtliche Entführung der Frau Elfriede Ott, Woody Allen's You Will Meet a Tall, Dark Stranger [trailer], and Stephen Frears' Tamara Drewe [trailer].