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Sarah Born • Producer, Catpics AG

“As an industry, we are in a state of rigidity right now”


- The Producer on the Move told us about the Swiss production market

Sarah Born • Producer, Catpics AG

After her experience as a producer at Niko Film in Berlin and in sales & acquisitions at First Hand Films in Zurich, Sarah Born became a partner in 2013 of the Academy Awarded Swiss production company Catpics AG, which she runs together with Dario Schoch and Rajko Jazbec. She has been producing, among others, the documentary To Make a Comedy is no Fub – Jiri Menzel (Karlovy Vary) and The Bubble [+see also:
film review
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, which premiered at Visions du Réel in 2021. Currently in pre-production is Falling by Samuel Perriard, starring Julia Jentsch and Florian Lukas in the main roles and set to be shot in Apulia later this year.

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Cineuropa: How did you come to the profession of producer and what do you like about it in particular?
Sarah Born:
I knew the profession relatively early. There were some filmmakers in my parents' circle of friends and one of my cousins, who is also a producer, influenced me a lot. When I was 17, she took me to the Filmfest Hamburg for the premiere of Can I be your bratwurst, please? by Rosa von Praunheim. It was disturbing, but also fascinating. I've never specialised in only one field, I'm more of a generalist. Since the profession of producer is very versatile and very creative, that plays into my cards.

You work on different projects at the same time, including both documentaries and feature films. Are the requirements different according to the genre?
I'm always interested in stories and people. That is in the foreground. When it comes to genre, I'm open. Sometimes the stories tell themselves better as documentaries or feature films or even animation.

I would say that we have an incredible advantage because of the diversity of projects. That's important in Switzerland. In this way, we don't compete with each other in terms of the available funding. In Switzerland, we only have one major broadcaster and one regional broadcaster. Therefore, we have no alternatives. If the big broadcaster is not in, we have to compensate for that by finding a second regional funding.

How do you find the right project for you?
It works through my network. I have a pretty good network and good contacts with film directors and writers. When I took over the company, I was specifically interested in young talents in Switzerland. It's also important to observe societies and find out what moves the audience at the moment. What topics are coming up? To do that, I watch a lot of TV and read newspapers, for example. Then it can also be that I have my own ideas, for which I then look for an author or director.

Can the work of the producer be done digitally? Or is it important to have festivals or other events for personal exchange?
About 60% of the work can be done digitally, but the interpersonal aspect should not be underestimated. Festivals and markets are absolutely necessary for our industry. I notice that there is a kind of depression in the industry. There is a lack of exchange with the international sector, colleagues and the industry. Without premieres, there is also a lack of exchange with the audience. We always draw new energy from this. It's an extremely depressing experience for us, but also for the authors, when after years of work on a project, the film then simply fizzles out.

How much do you depend on co-producers, perhaps also on an international level, for your projects?
We are almost always dependent on co-producers. If you want to produce something in Switzerland that has a bit of a higher budget – with some exceptions – you can't only rely on national funding. It's not easy to find co-financing when it is very Swiss material. That is why I always try to think about my projects for the European market, or at least for the entire German-speaking market. A co-production with Germany is also very important for the exploitation of the film. But we usually don't have priority with the German commissioning editors, as Swiss productions.

Co-productions are very enriching and you learn a lot. But they are also very stressful. The production then becomes more expensive from the start and a lot has to be invested in order to understand each other. Therefore, it is an advantage to be able to work with the same partners several times. But it rarely happens because it's difficult to coordinate schedules or then something else doesn't fit.

When is your work as a producer on a film finished?
Never. It's like having children. We took over the company from another generation, and even the old films are still being looked after and exploited. They are our pride and joy. When we stop doing our job as producers, the films are put in the closet.

How do you assess the situation for Swiss film?
Difficult. As an industry, we are in a state of rigidity right now. We have to understand how cinema will function again. What consequences has the pandemic had on cinema? Maybe it needs a different kind of exploitation and we need to think as a company of other formats like TV. We can't just rely on cinema anymore.

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