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ma.ja.de. filmproduktion: between fact and fiction

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Heino Deckert • Producer

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Heino Deckert • Producer

When he was studying at Berlin’s German Film & Television Academy (dffb) in the 1980s, Heino Deckert would have never expected that he would become an internationally respected figure in the world of documentaries or make a career as a producer. “The only thing I didn’t make at the dffb were documentaries,” he recalls. “I worked more in the field of experimental and short films. I had never intended to become a producer, but my background of studies in Law made colleagues convince me to take this task.”

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In 1991, Decket set up the production company ma.ja.de. filmproduktion with two partners – the company’s name is composed of the first letters of the trio’s surnames. Early on, he saw that international coproduction was the right strategy for the type of films he wanted to produce, whether it was German Films with foreign financing or becoming the German partner on the projects of foreign filmmakers.

The international dimension was intensified when Decket participated in the MEDIA Programme’s EAVE producer’s training programme in 1995 when he made friend with such producers as Jens Meurer, Leontine Petit, Peter Brosens, Liam O’Neil, and Sigve Endresen. A concrete result of this pan-European network was the creation of a d.net cooperative of seven producers who have since collaborated on around 30 international co-productions in the past 15 years.

A sales arm - d.net sales – evolved from this collaboration and was managed from Leipzig by Deckert who has had sole responsibility for the sales operation since 2003 under the new name Deckert Distribution. “We were about ten years too early with the belief that the internet would be the place to distribute our films. We had taken on many films in our catalogue, but the promise of the internet didn’t come about as people had initially expected,” Deckert explains. “Consequently, I restructured the sales arm with a much smaller catalogue of films.”

In 2005, Deckert founded ma.ja.de. fiction to become involved in international feature film productions under the banner of “Documentary Filmmakers Go Feature”. “I had been thinking to do this for some time,” he recalls. “I was keen to work on fiction projects with documentary directors who are balancing precariously between the two formats. This is evident with people like Peter Brosens, Jessica Woodworth and Sergei Loznitsa, and in Germany with someone like Thomas Heise. The films were shot in the Mongolian steppe, the Peruvian Andes and in the Ukraine and confronted us with particular challenges – geographical and thematic ones. Nevertheless, with feature films, we are much freer in the possibilities, ands the financing is also different.”

“The kind of films ma.ja.de. stands for are ones made by auteurs,” Deckert says. “Films with a distinct signature and line by people who want to achieve something. And films aiming for a life in the cinemas.”

The first project to be realized under the new ma.ja.de. fiction label was Peter Brosens and Jessica Woodworth’s Khadak [+see also:
film review
trailer
film focus
interview: Jessica Woodworth
interview: Jessica Woodworth
film profile
]
which premiered at the 2006 Venice Film festival and was awarded the Lion of Future for Best Featute Debut. Three years later, Brosens and Woodworth’s second feature Altiplano [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
was invited to the 2009 Cannes Film Festival and has become a popular title on the international film circuit over the past 12 months.

Raising the finance for ma.ja.de. fiction’s third feature My joy [+see also:
film review
trailer
film profile
]
by Sergei Loznitsa, which had its premiere in competition in Cannes in 2010, proved to be much harder. Deckert recalls “It would seem obvious from the film’s story that we should want to co-produce with Rusia, but there was the real dilemma of co-producing with Russia; we were often near to getting the money, but, in the end, we had to go to the Ukraine.”

Looking to the future, Deckert sees his company possibly making more fiction films – one or two a year – and fewer bigger documentaries than had been the case in the past when ma.ja.de. made up to 15 documentaries each year. To make this come true, Deckert started to restructure his company in order to be ready for the future challenge and opportunities in the international fiction market.

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