Dusseldorf It is the first production for the streaming pioneer Netflix, and the filmmakers’ expectations are high: “Betonrausch” is to become a showcase project by Germany’s largest film production company Ufa. The crazy story about two real estate speculators in Berlin has been available on Friday at the US streaming service. The film breathes “a very special energy”, says Ufa managing director Nico Hofmann, also because there is a very young team behind the production.
For the 60-year-old Ufa boss, the focus has been on promoting young filmmakers for years. As a professor, he teaches at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, where he also suspects the filmmakers of the future. The start of “Betonrausch” brought together everything that is important to Hofmann: the promotion of young talents, controversial topics and work for the international market.
And yet everything is different for the experienced film manager who has produced successful series such as “Our Mothers, Our Fathers”, “Ku’Damm” and “Charité”. The corona crisis is also putting pressure on Ufa, which is part of the Bertelsmann media company. While people watch TV more than ever and spend so much time on streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Spending Prime Video like never before, film production is stalling.
“We had to interrupt six ongoing productions,” says Hofmann. A situation that he has never seen before. Projects like “A strong team”, “Ku’Damm 63” or “The incredible lightness of the revolution” are on hold.
According to Hofmann, the damage from the demolition is in the millions. Costs are also incurred in other places: the short-time working allowance that has been applied for for some employees is topped up by Ufa. Hofmann does not want to leave his people alone in this situation. Then there are the logistical costs of the breaks.
“It all mixes up to a very high amount,” says the Ufa boss. “There are small and medium-sized companies that are sure to be hit harder than us. But we, as one of the market-leading production companies, are also facing major challenges. ”
At least with the studio productions, the Ufa can continue to work – in compliance with the hygienic requirements. Ufa produces series such as “GZSZ”, “Unter uns” and “Everything that counts”. “We paused a week with our dailies and used the time to further adapt the scripts and sets to the security measures to minimize risk,” says Hofmann.
An elaborate procedure: “An 80-point program was developed, which is discussed in detail with our occupational health and safety experts and is constantly checked.” This includes, for example, measuring the fever of the actors on the set.
How should the producers proceed in the coming months? The producer Hofmann, who backed Chancellor Angela Merkel’s refugee policy in 2015, is now also supporting the Federal Government’s cautionary crisis policy. “We will certainly experience this driving on sight not only for the next four weeks, but perhaps for the next four months. I think that’s right. “
However, the work of the film producers would complicate the precautionary measures. The crews could keep their distance, says Hofmann. But it is not always possible with actors, for example when it comes to kissing scenes.
“We probably have to do things similar to football: we have to test the actors on the set several times over the production for the corona virus. Otherwise we won’t be in the fictional production area for months – and that would cause enormous damage. ”
Crisis as inspiration
The Ufa boss sees little room for maneuver: “If we have reasonably precise political guidelines on how we can shoot again by June, then I think that’s manageable.” On the other hand, if there is no clarity by September, it will be “guaranteed.” come to considerable bottlenecks ”.
The companies help each other in a nationwide producer alliance. The crisis situation poses problems especially for smaller companies. Hofmann wants to convey: “One thing we must not forget: in three or four months we will need all the people from the shooting team again. The employees are just remembering exactly how they are treated where. ”
The failures on the production side are doubly annoying for film companies like Ufa because media usage is just reaching record levels. “Since the announcement of the tightened measures, we have seen a massive increase in the average linear TV viewing time of 14 percent to an average of 209 minutes a day,” said Jörg Graf, Managing Director of RTL Television. In addition to news programs, entertainment programs in particular achieve high reach. “Many people long for a bit of normalcy and distraction,” says Graf.
Hofmann confirms: “All of the escapist formats are going through the roof.” Escaping in films and series helps people to master the narrowness of everyday life. But one day the crisis is over, the film manager is also convinced that the escapes from reality will be less in demand again.
Three weeks ago, the ARD broadcast the Ufa production “Our wonderful years” and thus reached more than six million viewers. In addition, there were more than nine million requests in the media library. “These are values that can otherwise only be achieved with a football game,” says Hofmann.
The corona crisis, which banishes people worldwide to their homes, changes their way of life, but also stimulates rethinking, also inspires Hofmann. There are already three seasons of the “Charité” hospital series, starting with the first part, in which the life of the scientist Robert Koch was traced.
Hofmann: “Half a year ago we started to think about how we could tell ‘Charité’ in the present time. We were concerned with the topic of virology – that’s astonishing. “
More: The world’s largest entertainment group starts its Disney + streaming service in Germany. It will be uncomfortable for the domestic television companies.