Steffen Reuter, Patrick Knippel and Leander Carell • Producers
by Martin Blaney – German Films
25/06/2012 - A fortunate twist of fate brought Steffen Reuter and Patrick Knippel’s Berlin-based company Filmkollektiv together with Leander Carell’s colorfully named outfit Schmidtz Katze in the east German town of Halle in 2002.
The two young Berlin producers located the shooting of their production of Igor Zarizki’s erotic thriller Devot in Halle, while Carell’s Schmidtz Katze came on board the production of Christoph Hochhäusler’s feature debut This Very Moment as a co-producer.
“We got to know each other during the shoots and realized that we are cut from the same cloth,” Reuter recalls. “And that has stayed the same to this day – we have the same goal in every respect and complement one another in what we do.” Both films were then shown at the 2003 Berlinale and the decision came for the trio to join forces as Schmidtz Katze Filmkollektiv (SKF).
“In essence, Patrick is responsible for corporate and business affairs at the company, Leander looks after sales and distribution and is the deal-maker, and I concentrate more on the development, financing and production of the feature film projects,” Reuter explains.
Although international co-production has featured prominently from very early on at SKF, this wasn’t because the three partners had made a conscious decision to concentrate on co-productions.
“The stories were what convinced us,” Knippel says. “We now have a great portfolio of titles and the tool of the coproduction was one of the means we used to realize them,” Reuter adds. “It’s also fun to get to know other cultures because we travel so much and can speak several languages.”
Recent examples of SKF working with co-producers are Lisa Ohlin’s epic drama Simon and the Oaks [trailer], produced with Sweden’s Göta Film, Denmark’s Asta Film and Norway’s Filmkameratene, and Agnieszka Holland’s Second World War drama In Darkness, co-produced with Poland’s Studio Filmowe Zebra and Canada’s The Film Works.
“Co-production is also a way to ensure that one has distribution in other territories,” Knippel suggests, pointing out that Finnish filmmaker Petri Kotwica’s Black Ice stayed at the No. 1 spot in Finland for six weeks, Simon and the Oakswas in Swedish cinemas for over 12 weeks and took more than $4 million, and In Darknesshas attracted more than 1 million cinema-goers in Poland.
“Now we have come to a point where the SKF label has earned the trust of financiers like distributors, sales agents and film funders so that we can embark on bigger projects,” Reuter explains.
Two of these projects are indicative of the emotional cinema the company wants to deliver in the future: Gladow’s Gang, a drama based on true events about the gangster Werner Gladow, the so-called “Al Capone of Alexanderplatz” in post-war Berlin, and Heart of Stone, an adaptation of Wilhelm Hauff’s dark fairytale set in the late 17th century. “The screenplays are developed so that they will appeal through the emotions to a broad mass of people,” Reuter adds. “The projects we are now planning have a clear entertainment factor, and, at the same time, not all of them will be in German, some we will shoot in English.”
“It is a question of authenticity,” Knippel suggests. For example, the decision to not shoot In Darkness in English but in the original languages [Polish, German, Yiddish and Ukrainian] was the right one. One has to see where the market is for each project and position it accordingly.”
The other projects in SKF’s development portfolio include The Black Art, an English-language drama about Johannes Gutenberg and his invention of printing with movable type in the 15th century; Michael Hegner’s mix of 3D animation and live action in How Tom & Esther Saved The World; and another English-language project, Palace of Tears, based on a screenplay by Russell Gilwee about a couple separated by the Berlin Wall in 1962.