On February 7, the day after the Berlin International Film Festival’s overwhelming opening with Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, a U.S.-German co-production, Morrison & Foerster, together with the Motion Picture Association (MPA) convened a high-profile panel titled “Hollywood & Germany – Some Like it Close,” which brought together industry veterans from both sides of the Atlantic.
The panel discussion – organized and moderated by Christiane Stuetzle, head of MoFo’s German film practice, and Christian Sommer, German country representative for the MPA, focused on the flowering transatlantic cooperation between Hollywood and Germany in the field of film production and distribution, and assembled a group of highly distinguished speakers.
H.E. John B. Emerson, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, welcomed the attendees and reminded the audience that there could not be a better place or time to hold such a conversation on the transatlantic partnership in the field of film. He stated: “The Berlinale was launched in 1951 and was supported in large part by Marshall Plan funds.”
Ambassador Emerson further commented: “Film allows people to share history and ideas and to experience emotions across borders. Some of the films featured at the Berlinale this year, such as The Monuments Men and The Grand Budapest Hotel, are very clearly rooted in history.”
Senator Christopher J. Dodd, chair and CEO of the MPA, then opened the panel with his keynote speech. He also referred to the deep transatlantic relationship and noted that the Berlinale’s success symbolizes a universal truth: “The art of filmmaking transcends ethnicity and national borders.”
In his keynote speech, Senator Dodd further emphasized the importance of effective copyright protection to encourage cultural and technological innovation, job production, and economic development.
“The film and television industry stands at a crossroads today, which will determine its future for years to come,” Dodd said. “We owe it to future creators and filmmakers to ensure they have the same opportunities as those who came before to be part of this remarkable industry.”
The subsequent discussion centered primarily on the advantages that the German film subsidy model offers to U.S. productions, which makes Germany very attractive as a production location.
Panelist Peter McPartlin of Indian Paintbrush after his positive experience when filming The Grand Budapest Hotel, noted that he hopes to be able to return soon. Megan O’Brien of Fox Searchlight shared this view and also outlined that Twentieth Century Fox is also deeply engaged in local language productions in Germany. The same is true for Sony, commented Martin Bachmann, Sony’s managing director in Germany. Studio Babelsberg chief Charlie Woebcken used the opportunity to underscore the qualities of the production services of his studio.
Producer Stefan Arndt, another panelist, recalled the time 20 years ago when the first Americans came to Germany to make films. “At that time, Germany was, from a film standpoint, still third-world, and the Americans were bringing their own whole crews of 100 to 200 people. Today they come with six people and hire the rest locally,” he stated.
The German-American partnership is a success story, commented Kirsten Niehuus, citing the full palette of international blockbusters filmed in Berlin-Brandenburg.
The event was attended by more than 300 high-ranking individuals across a number of fields including filmmakers, legislators, and policy makers from the international film community.
MoFo’s Christiane Stuetzle, who is also involved as an entertainment lawyer in many U.S.-German co-productions, such as The Grand Budapest Hotel, also commented: “We are delighted to host and participate in this exciting debate about the film industry partnership between Germany and America. The event provided untold opportunities to meet and share ideas with thought leaders across the film, business, and political arenas, and to enhance many more joint projects across the Atlantic.”