"From the outset, I wanted to make films for the cinema," recalls Uli Aselmann about setting up his Munich-based production company die film gmbh in 1997.
Aselmann had already made a couple of feature films – the thriller "Der kalte Finger" and the comedy "Die Musterknaben" ("Cologne's Finest") – during his time at neue deutsche Filmgesellschaft (ndF) and was keen to devel op more projects for the cinema in his own, independent company.
"At the time, we also wanted to produce commercials, documentaries and TV films and series," he continues. "There was a real atmosphere of new beginnings in the industry and the volume of commissions from the broadcasters was significantly higher then than is the case nowadays. However, with time, the company concentrated more on cinema films and 90-minute TV movies."
Aselmann was realistic enough to acknowledge that companies of die film gmbh’s size – there are six permanent members of staff on the payroll – "will not be getting commissioned to make series by the TV stations in the near future because they think that we don’t have the financial background to be able to cover the risk for a € 10 million production. So, it made sense to concentrate."
However, he has been able to pursue his ambitions in the field of documentaries after becoming a major shareholder in the Munich-based production outfit "Tangram" International which specializes in documentaries for cinema and television.
Moreover, Aselmann has secured two footholds in other parts of Germany through the establishment of a.pictures film & tv.production.gmbh in Hamburg and cut.it film- und postproductions gmbh in Stuttgart.
"It was logical for me to have a company in Hamburg because that’s where I come from," he explains. "Our feature films or TV films are often co-produced with the Hamburg firm. And the Stuttgart company is useful for maintaining a relationship with SWR and the region of Hessen."
He readily accepts being described as a creative producer and says that his favorite occupation on each film project is the collaboration on the screenplay. "The producer is the creative motor for the films he makes," Aselmann declares. "I enjoy working on the development through to the casting and am also there during the shoot to keep things under control. And I like to be part of the editing process through to the mix."
He doesn’t ever wish to restrict himself to any particular genres as a producer, but admits that comedies and dramas are closest to his heart. "Comedies are certainly the hardest genre, but I like all of those films which can move you or evoke emotions. I think that is cinema’s most important duty and is best achieved through laughter and tears."
Over the years, there are certain filmmakers with whom Aselmann has built up a long-term working relationship. This has been the case with Ralf Huettner, with whom he is now developing a fourth instalment of the popular comedy "Die Musterknaben", and this year saw the release of "Das Blaue vom Himmel" ("Promising the Moon"), the third feature film he has produced with Hans Steinbichler.
This collaboration began well with Steinbichler’s "Winterreise" ("Winter Journey") which opened the Filmfest Munich in 2006 and went on to win a German Film Award for Best Actor for Josef Bierbichler as well as a "Fipresci" Prize at the Haifa International Film Festival and the Jury Award at the Brooklyn International Film Festival. This was followed in 2008 by "Autistic Disco" and then this year with "Das Blaue vom Himmel", which was awarded the Producer Prize at the Bavarian Film Awards in January.
At the same time, Aselmann points out that he is keen to give more attention in the future to working with up-and-coming talents. A start was made this summer by serving as a co-producer for the young Munich outfit Kaissar Film on "Drei Stunden" by Boris Kunz, a graduation film from the University of Television & Film Munich. "The film students are very cooperative and open for our practical advice," he says.
Running four production companies would seem to leave one hardly any time for anything else, but Aselmann nevertheless manages to be active in Germany’s film political arena, lobbying for better conditions for film and TV producers.
"It cost a lot of time and energy when we were bringing the producer associations together under the roof of the German Producers Alliance," he admits, but is full of élan for his current responsibility as the section head for cinema and deputy board chairman at the producers association. In addition, he has been a member of the presidium for the German Federal Film Board (FFA) since 2009.
"The Producers Alliance played a crucial role in helping to strengthen and further develop such instruments as the German Federal Film Fund (DFFF)," he notes. "We have reached a lot, but we still have some areas to work on such as the question of what kind of stories we want to tell and to shoot and how to meet the challenge with the big international blockbuster films in the German market."
"We have to ensure that there are optimum production conditions in Germany in order to attract international productions to shoot here, but this should also benefit our own production companies," Aselmann continues. "Conditions for shooting have improved in recent years because there has been a greater professionalization thanks to the international projects filming here. Germany is definitely an attractive place for film shoots, but there need to be additional incentives created to ensure that especially the big productions come here rather than go to Canada or somewhere else."
Author: Martin Blaney
Source: German Films Service & Marketing GmbH