Felix Vollmar, executive producer at HAMLET Berlin, reflects on how the German production community has continued to find and nurture new directing talent through Covid
Anyone who’s been to a new directors’ award show will know that certain countries have strong game when it comes to nurturing talent that gets the ad industry’s attention. And Germany, with its famous film schools, is definitely up there.
Felix Vollmar, executive producer at HAMLET Berlin, went to one of those schools - Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg - and as a filmmaker who draws energy from finding exciting new talent, he’s always kept an eye out for the diamonds in the rough that production companies can partner with and develop into stars.
But with festivals and graduation shows physically throttled by the pandemic, this has worked differently for about a year. LBB’s Alex Reeves chatted to Felix about the subject.
LBB> What is it about working with new directing talent that you find so exciting?
Felix> To get a fresh new perspective on filmmaking. I think in this industry you have to be always a learner and listen to new upcoming voices in creation and producing. Our business is so fluid, it's really important to have empathy with the younger generation and take their input seriously. It is always give and take on all projects, and this is also my philosophy when it comes to young talent.
LBB> Germany has a number of well-respected film schools with a great heritage of training world-class directors. How do you think this has impacted on the country's search for new filmmaking talent over the decades?
Felix> In general, we have a dual system which combines practice and theory. When I attended the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, I had to produce a project every year otherwise I would not pass my exam at the end of my course. Some other film schools in Germany had a different weighting on this, but in general I think the training is very market oriented.
LBB> How has the pandemic affected how finding new directing talent works?
Felix> Thank God that our industry is so online, that you find a lot of great talent on many platforms on the internet, and you can get in contact with them directly. Every festival switched to a kind of “online event”, which is also great in finding talent.
As a driven person, you are always looking out for new talent in different places. This year it was mainly web based due to the special circumstances during this pandemic. The festivals with all their new talent sections were online this year, which was a big plus for finding talent. In general as we've become more and more digital over the last few years. It doesn't seem that unusual anymore.
LBB> What have been the main challenges?
Felix> Mainly contacting them on a personal level and checking the vibes. It is simply not the same as real life just bounding into a Zoom call with creative people, you don't get a feeling for their body-language. The same also applies to the young talent. Everybody started in this industry to collaborate with creative people, so I think this is an adjustment for every department in our industry as well.
What I am really missing is the personal vibe, which you get when you meet a creative in person. This makes it kind of complicated to find the right creative match that you want to work with. But I think for talents it is kind of the same the other way around.
LBB> What characteristics of the German production community have helped it respond to this challenge?
Felix> What was impressive was the camaraderie and how quickly everything adjusted when Covid came along. Sure, we are all competitors, but it was kind of great to see how our industry was handling it, and how we connected when this special situation happened. It is like in sports. You have clubs which are competing on the field, but they also take care of each other and make sure that the league is healthy and running smoothly.
LBB> Is there anything about the new talent landscape that you'll hold onto when we've all emerged from Covid?
Felix> Nobody has a clue what will come after Covid, so it is kind of hard to say. What I realised over the last months is that the creative process and output cannot be stopped. Not by a financial crisis, and not by a virus. I saw so many 'lockdown projects' during this past year from upcoming directors and producers, so even under the most difficult circumstances the craft wants to shine and wants to be known.
This really calms me down to know that filmmaking will not be gone, and it really keeps me motivated to explore what different challenges are ahead of us.
The only thing that is for sure is that creativity will always find its way. This is not something that can be crushed by a financial crisis or a virus. Creativity is an unstoppable force, one that has the need to be seen. Sure, there are some things up in the air, but we saw over the years that this wonderful force will always find a way. Creativity will always find a way. The world will never end, it just will be different because everything is constantly in motion.