Deutsche Film

Gary Handman (
Mon, 26 Feb 2001 09:01:15 -0800 (PST)

An interesting discussion for all you German film fans and buyers.




</fontfamily></bold><fontfamily><param>Times</param>Dear Women in

I had a great time at your annual WIG conference in Arizona, and I was
very impressed by the open atmosphere of the organization. Unfortunately,
I lost my voice on the first day, and I could not participate in the
discussion about film production and distribution, which I really would
have enjoyed, having been involved in film distribution for many years
and now working to promote DEFA films with ICESTORM International.=20
During the conference discussion, it seemed that many aspects of the
distribution of German films in other countries were unclear, so I
thought maybe some of you might be interested in learning more about the
process and why it is so challenging to distribute these films.=20

The question arose why it is so difficult to find German films in the
United States. There are many different reasons why certain films are in
limited distribution, starting sometimes even before the production of
the film. These reasons usually have to do with the film=B9s distribution
rights, financing, music rights, and international appeal. I will start
by explaining the financing issues.=20

There are various ways to finance a film production in Germany. Most
producers look for different sources like TV stations or regional film
foundations to finance their projects. Occasionally, a distribution
company invests a guarantee fee to ensure that their company acquires the
rights for distribution =AD but this method is becoming more and more the
exception. The investors negotiate different distribution rights based
on their investments. Television stations are very interested in
international TV rights (public television, cable, Pay TV =AD for the
worldwide territory), whereas distribution companies are interested in
rights for theatrical and video ventures. Sometimes they try to
sublicense the video rights to another company. There are also German
film export companies that work as agents for television stations or
producers and take care of the international sale of the wide variety of
distribution rights. That means that the exact situation of a film=B9s
rights depends on the investors and which rights belong to whom.

Some film productions are produced exclusively for television
broadcasting. The TV station gives financial support for writing the
script and producing the film. Sometimes, stations are only interested in
broadcasting the film nationwide, and they acquire only the rights for
such broadcasting. This fact is also relates to the music rights. If
the director or producer would like to use music that is part of GEMA
(the German collecting society for music rights), they have to acquire
the rights depending on the number of transmissions and the territory in
which it will be shown. If the TV station is interested in selling the
production to another territory or showing the film an additional time,
they also have to get the allowance of the music rights again.=20

The specific rights situation is sometimes why films can=B9t be shown in
the cinemas or sold on video. If the investment in additional rights is
too high, distribution might not be profitable for the commercial
companies. For example, to release a film into the cinemas, you
sometimes have to pay a guarantee fee to the original owner of the
rights, you have to invest into the production of a 35mm print, into
creating a subtitled or dubbed version, as well as into quality master
material for the video or DVD duplication later. =20

The German film is still a niche product, and it is difficult to interest
very large distribution companies to release a film. Most distribution
companies are afraid that the revenue will not cover their investment,
and so they are very hesitant to release German films. The preparation
of a film release is an extensive investment, so there must be
substantial interest in a film for it to even have a chance in the
international market. =20

To make this situation more understandable, I will explain the structure
of our distribution company. ICESTORM acquired the video and DVD rights
for the East German DEFA films from a German distributor PROGRESS (they
received the distribution rights for all media from the DEFA Foundation).
We have to pay an annual guarantee fee to this distributor. To release
a film on video or DVD, we must invest into the format conversion,
subtitling, design of the cover, printing, duplication =AD the release of
one single title comes to an investment of about $10,000 (not including
the overhead costs or the costs of producing a dubbed version). That
means that we, as the distributor, have to be very careful when we decide
which titles we plan to release. At the end we are counting on our
targeted audience that they will purchase enough of these films, either
for educational or home use (different prices of the tapes because you
would need different rights), to cover our investment and allow enough
profit to prepare new releases.=20

To summarize these thoughts, we need loyal customers who guarantee the
survival of foreign film distribution companies, and we are depending on
those purchases so that our company can grow. If you use the films in
your lectures and recommend the films to your libraries or to friends,
revenue will increase and we can afford to release more of the films you
want to see. =20

We can also help bring over other German films that are interesting for
your work. We are always looking for new projects and new ways to
promote our films that will benefit the academic community, as well as be
of interest to the home video market. For example, if there were enough
interest in a specific film, and we got definite confirmation from a
number of universities that they would purchase the title, it would be
possible for us to release that film. And perhaps we could use the Women
in German forum to exchange ideas on improving accessibility to films for
use in courses. With a joint project, we could advertise that the
organization Women in German helps distribute German films in the USA. I
look forward to hearing your ideas!

Please contact me with any questions or suggestions for future projects.=20
If you would like more information about our films or links to other film
sources, please visit our website:
<underline></underline>, as well as the website of
the University of Massachusetts DEFA Film Library:
<underline></underline>. There is also the German
organization Inter Nationes that merged with the Goethe Institutes last
September. One of their tasks is the distribution of German film
productions, especially to the worldwide educational market. Their
website <underline></underline> provides information
about their extensive library.

With kind regards,

Hiltrud Schulz



COLD WAR, HOT FILMS The Cinema of East Germany on Video

ICESTORM International, Inc.

78 Main Street Suite 401; Northampton, MA 01060-3111

tel.: (413) 587-9334; fax: (413) 587-9305