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23.01.2015

Complex View
Interview: Verena Gräfe-Höft & Ilona Schultz

Two Scandinavian-German co-productions with participation from Hamburg are premiering at this year’s Berlinale. FFHSH spoke to the respective producers Verena Gräfe-Höft and Ilona Schultz.


Congratulations on taking part at the Berlinale! How did you find your respective co-production partners?

Ilona Schultz: I met Annika Rogell at the EAVE Producers Workshop in 2011. She was taking part with My Skinny Sister, a film about anorexia that I immediately warmed to. I liked the fact that the story didn’t so much centre on the sickness as on the collateral damage it can cause within a family. We got on very well and our cooperation was excellent from start to finish. 
Verena Gräfe-Höft: I have known Eva Jacobsen and Nimbus Film for many years now, and we have always wanted to work together. Antboy - Revenge of the Red Fury finally provided a project that equally enthused us both. I loved the idea of crossing the American superhero genre with a Scandinavian children’s film. It was a real pleasure shooting with a Danish-German team in Hamburg.

How deeply were you involved in the development phase?

Verena Gräfe-Höft: My involvement started with the treatment phase. We put our heads together to determine the films tonality and to consider which character could be acted by a German. We were very pleased about finding Boris Aljinovic, who happens to also be a passionate comic artist, which is fitting as the film is based on a comic. Director Ask Hasselbalch was also very enthusiastic about the German-Danish cooperation, finding suitable shooting locations in Hamburg, and the great visual effects by Optical Art.
Ilona Schultz: My Skinny Sister originated with EAVE, so I was involved from the very start. We received further support from cameraman Moritz Schultheiß, and the entire postproduction took place in Hamburg, too.

What would you say are the characteristics and challenges of international co-productions?

Ilona Schultz, Verena Gräfe-Höft: The greatest challenge is finding a way to comply with both countries’ funding guidelines. A great characteristic is the broadening of our horizons by experiencing different production procedures and different cultural views. Co-productions will become increasingly important as budgets dwindle, and they allow for new, complex views as an added bonus.

Were Hamburg’s geographical proximity to Scandinavia, and its cooperative relationship with Denmark and Sweden of particular help? 

Verena Gräfe-Höft: Hamburg’s proximity to Copenhagen was a great logistical advantage. Personal meetings were a train ride away, making it easy to plan production procedures and avoid misunderstandings. And it is a great help that Filmförderung Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein and the Danish Film Institute have been supporting an exchange of talents for years.
Ilona Schultz: The proximity to Sweden even enabled us to provide technical equipment from Hamburg. And FFHSH has such good relations to Sweden that it had some very helpful advice for us.


Both films centre on children or adolescents. What is it that fascinates you about this genre?

Ilona Schutz: To be honest, it wasn’t the genre that attracted me so much as the intensity of the story. Admittedly, it is further intensified by the protagonist being a 12-year-old girl confronted with an adult topic. 
Verena Gräfe-Höft: I was especially fascinated by the mix of genres. Also, the film takes children seriously, is fun to watch and is very cleverly narrated. Even parents will love it.


What happens after the Berlinale? Do you have any new projects lined up?

Verena Gräfe-Höft: I hope to be sticking with the children’s film/superhero genre and am planning a further Antboy sequel with Nimbus Film. I’m also developing two feature films with director Katrin Gebbe, with whom I previously realized Nothing Bad Can Happen.
Ilona Schultz: I’m currently busy with the postproduction of our cinema film Täterätää - The Church Stays in the Village 2 and the second season of the corresponding TV series for SWR. Then we’ll hopefully start on the Dutch co-production The Lying Dutchman. I’m also co-developing a Czech animated film and preparing a literary adaptation of »Der Irre unterm Flachdach«.

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