Michael holds a Diploma in Business Administration. From manufacturing screws, bolts and bicycle parts in rural German Sauerland to working in a cabaret and variety theatre, he finally found his way to his real vocation: The “glorious film world”. In his “Berlin-years” Michael was co-founder, shareholder and General Manager of three German production companies. His last position was Producer/Line Producer Cinema for RED BULL’s Terra Mater Factual Studios, located in Vienna, Austria. Here Michael was closely working with Walter Köhler, the CEO of the company and Joanne Reay, Head of Cinema.
Next to having various projects in development and general activities in setting up the cinema department, Michael exec-produced the feature films BROTHERS OF THE WIND (starring Jean Reno) and DXM (starring Sam Neill, Tom Payne and others). Before Terra Mater he worked as a Producer and Head of Production with Berlin based Akkord Film, where he – among other tasks – oversaw their slate of international TV-Mini-Series and line-produced an animated feature film. Michael benefits from 20 years of experience, shooting in more than 15 countries around the world and producing & line producing numerous German & international Feature Films and TV-Productions. Michael is a member of the European Film Academy.
What attracted you to Inside Pictures?
The first time I heard of the programme was via Ingrid Pittana, who spoke highly and enthusiastically about the topics and especially the networking opportunities, which Inside Pictures had created. I then had conversations with my wonderful colleague Satesh Mathura and alumni Christopher Granier-Deferre. I took a closer look at the programme and realised that it can help me to reach the next level in my career as a film producer. I started working in Film & TV more than 20 years ago, worked my way up from a set PA to a Line Producer and Producer. My first feature film I produced was a low budget Arthouse film, shot in Ukraine and in Russian language. This was a wonderful and intriguing experience. I was lucky that I continued working on international projects, as – for me – they were more challenging, more vivid and more satisfying than working on German productions. In 2012 I got offered the position of a Producer/Line Producer for Feature Films at Terra Mater Factual Studios, which is part of the Red Bull Media House. From being a freelancer and independent producer I became an employee of a division, which wanted to produce international feature films. This was and is quite an attractive offer and position. We initiated and produced two feature films (Brothers of the Wind, DXM), are currently in post on a feature documentary on Ivory Trade and we have more projects in development. The downside of this current situation is that my family are still living in Berlin – I have been travelling now for almost 4 years back and forth between Vienna and Berlin. As moving to Vienna for private reasons is not really an option I decided to leave Terra Mater Factual Studios on 30.04.2015 and become an Independent Producer again. One other reason is, that being employed means being restricted in which projects you would like to work on, so it happens that you have to reject projects, which are highly interesting, but do not fit into the companies quite specific portfolio of projects. Being independent has given me back this freedom of choice. In this respect, Inside Pictures can be my tool of reaching the next level in my producing career by learning from high caliber professionals and being part of a network of people who actually do international and relevant feature films.
What’s your impression of the programme so far? Does it deliver on your expectations?
The programme delivers actually beyond my expectations, which were already quite high, based on the talks to my alumni friends and the IP-Team. What is really exciting is the direct communication amongst the participants and the direct contact to all these incredible, experienced and interesting speakers. You really have the feeling, that you are suddenly part of a great network and that you can approach anyone part of it at any time.
You have just started your new company. What challenges are you facing stepping out on your own after having worked for a highly commercial business like Red Bull?
Actually I am about to re-vitalize my own little company, which was on hold while working for Terra Mater Factual Studios. The current challenges are not that big, as I just started to become active – currently I am still consulting Terra Mater, I am doing the IP-programme and starting the development of 2 feature film projects. So I would consider this current situation and step out quite smooth – this will probably change, when the project development will turn into more concrete project works.
What do you want to achieve in the next few years?
After being employed as a Producer/Line Producer in Austria I want to reactivate my current German production company MUT Productions and develop this nucleus into an European operating entity. Due to my previous works I am quite connected into the UK, Italy, Romania and France. My idea is to partner up with producers and individuals I previously worked with – to create a pan-European partnership, with the aim to develop and produce suitable international, European projects.
I currently have two projects I want to produce – both are international feature films. My first international project will most likely lead me to Italy/South Tyrol, where I possibly will team up with a producer to open a new production and media house. One of my last feature films got mainly shot in South Tyrol, I got intrigued by the opportunities which are possible in South Tyrol – it has a good infrastructure and they have a good funding system, which is enhanced by the Italian Tax Credit – but there is still a lack of Know How in film production – here we want to step in.
You have produced both German language and English language features? Why do you think German cinema struggles to travel (with a few exceptions, e.g. Toni Erdmann in Cannes this year)?
That is hard to answer, very tricky … I think it may be a combination of various reasons. In general, I think, that only good and unique films are able to travel – this is not mainly a reason of nationality. Then I think, that e.g. German blockbuster comedies find it hard to travel as maybe the humour is to specific to the non-German world. Germans instead like the French and southern European humour – why that is I am not able to answer. Then I think, that most German films are not brave, bold and unique enough, as maybe the funding systems and related TV-financiers are blocking the development of bold talent.
This is more a gut feeling and not a proper analysis and purely my own view.
How does this aspect influence your business strategy for your new venture?
As I am not planning to concentrate on German language productions I will not be that influenced. I am concentrating on international/European, English language content.
What are you working on at the moment?
Currently I am working on the development of MISSION & MERCY, a Hit-Man Thriller, taking place in the US and – this is a project we started at Terra Mater and will happen in collaboration. Then I am planning a so far untitled feature film project about a Rock band from Italy. Both projects are set to shoot in 2017.