Inside Studio Hamburg UK – Vivien Muller-Rommel on her plans and vision for the new company
Press: Congratulations on your new role as MD of Studio Hamburg UK. We’d love to find out more about yourself and your vision for the company so thank you very much for taking the time today.
Vivien Muller-Rommel (VMR): It’s my pleasure.
Press: Could you tell us a bit more about the newly formed company and what it’s set out to do?
VMR: Studio Hamburg UK was set up on the 1st July this year and is based on Denmark Street in London Soho. Since its launch, I started implementing our strategy for the UK and international markets and am in the process of putting together our TV and film slate. The company is the first daughter company under the Studio Hamburg Production Group umbrella that is based outside of Germany. It is also the first subsidiary that solely produces in the English language and for the international market. German subsidiaries include Hamburg-based Letterbox, Berlin-based Real Film, Riverside Entertainment, Nordfilm and Doclights. The Group is also affiliated with Eco Media in Hamburg, Munich’s Amalia Film and Christian Ulmen’s Ulmen TV & Film in Berlin. The Group’s production portfolio reaches across all programming segments in the TV and film world: from long-standing series to mini-series and television movies to theatrical films and from suspenseful documentaries to entertaining television variety shows, the company produces content for all major German broadcasters.
Press: What projects are you looking for and what’s your taste in film and TV?
VMR: We are going to make high quality commercially viable English language film and TV content that we’re proud of. British film and TV is known and loved all around the world thanks to the UK’s exceptional talent pool both in-front and behind-the-camera and its engaging storytelling from some of the best writers in the world. We will be working with established talent in the UK and internationally, but I am also particularly excited to seek out and work with new writing and directing talent.
Besides originating TV and film projects in-house, we are also looking to work with international producers that are seeking a strong UK minority or majority partner at development stage. We believe that engaging with UK talent and benefiting from our development expertise here in the UK can enhance the international appeal of a project, and we would love to contribute to exciting content in that way.
I personally have a great passion for British comedies. But you will see many genres on our slate. No humour is better than the British though – and I’m not just saying that because I’m German.
Press: Will your slate comprise of many UK-Germany co-productions, both in film and TV, or does the German mother company not play any part in the kind of projects you’ll be developing and producing?
VMR: Being part of a strong family such as the Studio Hamburg Production Group means that we’ll be able to bring experienced and reliable German partners to the negotiation table for the right project.
That said, Studio Hamburg UK is an independent British production company that invests in the development and production of exciting projects and talent out of the UK. Those projects can be 100% British or co-productions with other countries. Germany doesn’t have to be part of the deal.
Needless to say, if we do find a great project with Germany, whether that comes to us via one of our sister companies or another German company that’s looking for a UK co-producer, we’d of course be delighted to jump on board.
Press: Who else is part of your team at the moment?
VMR: The current team consists of me in the UK, my fellow three company directors in Berlin and Hamburg, and two Senior Creative Producers in Germany that I’m very fortune to have to bounce creative ideas and notes of. I will be spending the next few months building a solid foundation for the company that we’ll be able to continue to develop and utilise in the coming years. I will also be expanding the team here in the UK in due course.
Press: What are Studio Hamburg’s recent hits?
VMR: The Studio Hamburg Production Group is one of the market leaders on the German production landscape for both film and television. Its production portfolio covers everything from long-running TV series, TV movies and TV shows for all major German TV channels, to documentaries and films for theatrical audiences. 2015/16 awards and nominations include the German Golden Camera (Goldene Kamera) and the German Television award for TV mini-series BLOCHIN, a Golden Camera award for TV movie TATORT and a Grimme award for the internationally successful TV series CRIME SCENE CLEANER.
Studio Hamburg also recently wrapped on Markus Goller’s latest feature film, SIMPEL, based on the French bestseller by Marie-Aude Murail and starring David Kross. The Group is also in preproduction on a biopic about German rock star Udo Lindenberg. The Group’s most recent English language film production was NIGHTTRAIN TO LISBON (2013).
Press: How did you start your career?
VMR: When I was 14 years old, I did some work experience as part of the camera department for a Studio Hamburg live TV production. I guess that’s where it all started.
After graduating with a BA in Economics and Cultural Studies in Germany, I moved to the UK and studied for an MA in Film Producing and Business Management in Cardiff. Shortly after graduating, I got my first job in the industry as a trainee producer for the Cardiff based production company Boomerang where I worked on a number of TV movies. I later set up on my own, producing several award-winning short films and the feature comedy Big Font. Large Spacing that premiered at Atlanta Film Festival. During that time, I also co-founded the pop-up distribution venture 2Dcinema that specialises in outdoor pop-up screenings at university campuses around the UK.
I went back to study for a second MA and to build an international network at the MEDIA Business School in Ronda which allowed me to find a job in London. I worked in international production and acquisitions at both The Weinstein Company and later Universal Pictures International (UPI). During my time at UPI, I played a key role in developing the division’s German production slate and contributed substantially to the box offices successes WETLANDS and RUBBELDIEKATZ. For the last five years, I worked as part of the British Film Institute’s (BFI) Film Fund, first in distribution and later across all things international.
Press: What were your main responsibilities at the British Film Institute and what were the projects you were most proud of working on?
VMR: In my role at the BFI Film Fund I worked closely with the Head of International on implementing the BFI’s International Strategy for British Film, working across cultural exchange, international co-production, inward investment and film export. I strove to develop and enhance collaborations between international and UK filmmaking talent by providing guidance on co-productions and treaties, and also worked closely with international sales agents on the export opportunities for British film.
I am very proud that I project managed a number of very high profile film industry delegations to the UK’s priority territories for film, such as China, Brazil, USA, Germany and France. During this year’s delegation to the Beijing Film Festival, I was able to see first-hand the opportunities that the Chinese market opens up for British film. Working at the BFI has also helped me develop an invaluable understanding of UK audiences, both theatrically and in the home entertainment sector.
Press: Thank you very much for taking the time for this interview and all the best for the coming months, it all sounds incredibly exciting!
VMR: Thank you very much.