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Fabian Driehorst • Producer, Fabian&Fred

"Short films in Germany have underfunded budgets"


- The producer from Germany speaks about his work and his focus on animated films

Fabian Driehorst • Producer, Fabian&Fred
(© Tobias Freye)

Producer Fabian Driehorst founded Fabian&Fred with director and author Frédéric Schuld. Their company produces short and feature-length animated films from all genres. One of their biggest success is Sultana's Dream [+see also:
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interview: Isabel Herguera
film profile
by Isabel Herguera, which is travelling to international festivals and was the first animated film to be selected for the main competition in San Sebastián. We talked to the producer about his current projects and the challenges of animation, ahead of the duo's participation in this year's edition of the European Film Promotion's Producers on the Move programme in Cannes.

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Cineuropa: What motivated you to set up your own production company? 
Fabian Driehorst: Frédéric Schuld and I studied together at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. We made several films together and initially we wanted to set up a new company as a directing duo. The company developed somewhat differently than we had initially imagined. We first wanted to make commercials and films with elaborate VFX effects. The production of the short film Däwit by David Jansen was decisive for our decision to concentrate on animation and independent films. The film was shown at various festivals for two years. We met a lot of people and learnt a lot about animation. I also made the decision to concentrate on being a producer, I am largely responsible for which projects we realise and Fred either does his own projects as director and writer or works creatively on most of our projects.   

What are the biggest challenges for animation in Germany?
The processes in animated film production take a lot of time. The difficulties also lie in the fact that short films in Germany have underfunded budgets. Funding for short films is inferior to that for feature-length films. With the reform of the Film Act, there is hope that short films will now also be able to benefit from automatic film funding. Animated film projects are often expensive projects. In Germany, there is also a lack of expertise when it comes to animation outside of the children's films domain. However, the editorial departments of television stations are showing more and more interest. And there is a strong expertise and interest in innovation and experimentation in regional funding.

Steakhouse by Špela Čadež was a particularly successful film that you produced. How did this collaboration come about? How do you get your projects?  
We are exciting for potential partners thanks to our diverse portfolio. We are interested in all techniques and very different styles, ranging from very accessible children's films to poetic puppet animations and abstract experiments. Špela also studied at the Academy of Media Arts in Cologne. That's how I knew her films. When she was working on Steakhouse, we got in touch again. A German co-production was just the right thing for the film. Špela and her Slovenian producer Tina Smrekar presented the film in Clermont-Ferrand and were able to win over Miyu Productions from France. This is how the three country co-productions came about. 

At major festivals, if they are not specialised in animation, it is still the case that animation is only marginally represented there. How do you judge that?
That's a difficult question. When they founded the new Encounters section at the Berlinale, I had the feeling that there might be room for more animated films. And I was very pleased to see some of them there. But I was all the more surprised that not a single animated film was shown in Berlin this year. Instead, many animated films can be seen in Cannes this year, including in the competitions. Studio Ghibli, moreover, will be on the spotlight. I am curious if the festival will keep that up. Our film Sultana's Dream was the first animated feature film in the main competition at San Sebastián. That's something special after 50 years of festival history. I think that interest in animation is growing. In Venice, animated films are regularly represented in the programmes. The perception of animated films at festivals also depends on the composition of the juries. Most of the artistic positions (for example editing, sound, direction, screenplay) can be judged in the same way as in live-action film. I would be delighted if the two formats could act on an equal footing.

You have been selected as one of the participants in the Producer on the Move programme in Cannes. What do you expect from it?
We already had an initial online meeting where all the participants and sales agents got to know each other. We can now decide for Cannes who we want to get to know better on site and which activities we want to attend. There are also some people who make animated films in the group. I would also like to present two of our projects in particular. One is the feature film debut of my partner Frédéric Schuld. Struwel is a more classic children's family film. And the second is the first feature film by Ahmed Saleh with the working title Trouble Magnet. It's a German-Jordanian co-production. We have received funding from the Middle East and from Germany. I'm going to Cannes with a slate of projects, including an animated series and other projects, and will see where there will be interest.

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