Berlin film business booms in face of crisis

Wed Aug 18, 2010 9:45am EDT
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By Sarah Marsh

BABELSBERG, Germany (Reuters Life!) - Berlin's film business is booming, with low production costs, generous subsidies and cultural cachet attracting some of the world's top filmmakers scouring for funds in the wake of the crisis.

Internationally acclaimed directors from Quentin Tarantino to Roman Polanski are flocking to film in the German capital, churning out hits like "Inglourious Basterds" and "The Ghost Writer," while home-grown talent such as Til Schweiger and Roland Emmerich have returned from Hollywood to join the party.

And what Berlin's film industry lacks in size, ranking well behind Hollywood, it makes up for in prestige, landing dozens of prizes in the past few years including a handful of Oscars.

"Berlin has some key success factors: one is the city itself -- people simply want to be in Berlin," said Carl Woebcken, the chief executive of Babelsberg, the world's oldest large-scale studio complex just a short train ride from the city center.

Since German reunification two decades ago, Berlin has metamorphosed from a divided and beleaguered city into a sassy cultural mecca for creative types looking for cheap rents and an escape from the establishment.

"It's a very affordable city so it's relatively cheap to make films here," Woebcken told Reuters in a spacious office overlooking the 100-acre studio site.

"We also have a very high variety of locations around Berlin which other places don't have -- all these military bases and so many different types of architectures from old to new, from communist East German to Nazi," said Woebcken.

Berlin's film industry once rivaled Hollywood, producing classics like "The Blue Angel" featuring a vampish young Marlene Dietrich and Fritz Lang's futuristic masterpiece "Metropolis" before the Nazis took power in 1933.   Continued...

<p>A life-size model of German actress Marlene Dietrich is on display at the storage of the Babelsberg Film Studios in Potsdam August 16, 2010. REUTERS/Thomas Peter</p>