Lakeshore Vet Richard S. Wright Joins Constantin Film as VP of Physical Production
With global screen sectors increasingly changing thanks to aftershocks of an unprecedented pandemic coupled with escalating streaming wars, it would be easy to see why company executives might be feeling a little worried. . But for Oliver Berben, deputy managing director and vice-president of the German production and distribution center Constantin Film, this is the golden age of international content production.
“If I had been able to choose the moment in the entire film industry to work, I would have absolutely chosen this time to live and do my job,” enthuses the highly respected executive. “This is the perfect time to challenge yourself. I like situations where everything is questioned and I think that for us working in a creative company, being in a situation where we are not sure is a good thing because we are constantly questioning ourselves. The moment you lean back and say “okay, I know how this works” you should definitely change your business. “
Lakeshore Vet Richard S. Wright Joins Constantin Film as VP of Physical Production
It is this optimistic attitude and this unwavering ambition that have helped make Constantine’s television business one of the most dynamic and avant-garde production labels in Europe. The Munich-based company, which until recent years had focused largely on cinema, has pushed to position itself as one of Europe’s top independents in the field of TV drama. In recent years, the company has achieved local and global success with projects such as cult series Shadow Hunters, crime thrillers Shades of guilt and The typist as well as a televised version of a modern crime drama Perfume, which he co-produced with Netflix, with the support of German public broadcaster ZDFNeo (Tom Tykwer directed the 2006 feature film).
Last month he launched a German coming-of-age series We the children of the Bahnhof zoo on Amazon Prime, which has become one of the most watched German series on the streamer while a local German version of Amazon’s comedy show LOL: The last who laughs which was co-produced by Constantine, has become the most-watched title on Amazon Prime Video in the territory since his reverence on April 1.
Deputy Managing Director since January, TV veteran Berben is responsible for Constantin Film’s TV, entertainment and digital media division and reports to well-respected CEO Martin Moszkowicz. Berben was previously responsible for the production of the company and has been a member of the board of directors since 2017. He founded the company Moovie in 1996, a subsidiary of Constantine since 1999.
“When I joined Constantine for the first time, there was no TV side,” Berben remembers. “Today more than half of the revenue comes from streaming and TV, so I’m pretty proud of what we’ve built in a relatively short time.”
Berben says the foundation of the business is empowering its many creative producers. “We are a creative, producer-based company, so we focus heavily on the creative power of our producers,” he says, noting that there are 40-50 producers working within different entities within from the universe of Constantine.
Some of its arms include: Constantin Television, which focuses on high quality scripted programming; Constantin Entertainment; Moovie; Rat Pack Filmproduktion, a film production company that manages high-end TV movies and VOD series; Hager Moss, which focuses on socially relevant drama and documentaries; Olga Film; and PSSST! Movie.
Berben says allowing creative people the independence to work under their own labels with Constantine in the background is a working success for the company.
“It’s much better for showrunners, writers and directors to connect with a small production entity and even broadcasters and streamers prefer to work with smaller units knowing that there is a big company behind it- plan.”
It is intentional that as the TV side of the business grows, the business positions itself as a home for producers to have creative freedom while also serving as a place where producers are aligned with the right partners. Constantin has a long history of working with established broadcasters in the German TV market such as ARD Degeto and ZDF, as well as with the latter’s TV Now streaming service. He’s also partnered with Netflix and Amazon on projects, which means there’s a huge range of content in the company’s pipelines that touches a variety of demographics.
“We want to be seen as a creative hub that allows creators to come and do their shows and develop their ideas here and produce them here with us,” he says. “Then we can find the right partners for that.”
He points the finger We the children of the Banhoff zoo for example. Constantine paid for the development of the project and worked with creators to put in place a strategy for the audiences they wanted to reach. “We’re always trying to create a safe space for creators to develop their shows, and then we can see where that is and what audience we want to reach. It’s a privileged situation for creatives to work like that. “
He adds, “We’re not focusing on one thing in particular because we have these different brands and entities, but overall the main focus of some of these companies is of course big IPs, big historical events. and major international deployments of local or international productions. . “
The company currently creates approximately 1,000 hours of television and streaming content per year and actively leverages its position as one of the leading production companies in Europe by leveraging its extensive library of brands and literary titles. As good as Perfume, Constantine is in production on a TV version of his international sci-fi horror franchise resident Evil, which is currently filming in South Africa. It’s also in the works of a TV version of Peter Hoeg Smilla’s sense of snow, adapted from her 1997 Julia Ormond film.
Berben says that while some of the company’s brands are already resonating with international audiences, such as resident Evil, the key to creating new IP addresses is to start small and focus regionally.
“If you try to do a show that travels, you fail,” he says. “You should try to make a show that works for an audience that you know and if you’re very good at it and the show is good, it will travel.”
It evokes the early 2000s, when there was a lot of ‘Euro-pudding’, a term coined by company executives when producers focused more on mixing different nationalities with European talent in the hope. that the content would travel. “I firmly believe that a show travels because it works very well in one territory and creates a buzz that then moves on to other territories,” he says.
Berben is optimistic about the opportunities that the streamers have brought to the market. Not only are they boosting the business by giving producers another opportunity to place their content, but they are also, he says, forcing existing broadcasters and local VOD services across Europe to take it to the next level. Germany is the largest SVOD market in Europe, where almost half of all households have at least one SVOD subscription. According to Berben, the country’s RTL group, for example, is stepping up its VOD TV Now service in response to market competition.
“It’s not just the energy and strength of money, it’s the power of the people inside who want to create something new,” he says. “They are ready to take completely new directions for content that has not yet been made in Germany until now. The biggest opportunity of the last few months is that, from a creative standpoint, there are so many more opportunities. Of course, some things will fail, but some things will crop up that have never been seen before. “
The UK, Germany, France, Spain, Italy and Scandinavia have historically had very powerful delivery systems with deep pockets, and they are now, interestingly, in a situation where they have to. find ways to make high end programs so that they can compete with American Streamers. This, says Berben, could spark a new era of co-production partnership that could see key European players pooling funds for bigger budget projects.
“What is visible in recent years is that the need for these strong European local broadcasters to come together to create big budget productions is increasing,” he says. “Before, co-productions were a mess, but now it seems like a necessity for broadcasters. With this in mind, we believe that it is now necessary to create local productions with financial and creative power in the background. Nonetheless, I think the stories you choose for these corporate actions should focus on something you know. “
What excites Berben most about the changing company as a whole is the opportunity for greater creative freedom and openness to the consumption of these stories on a global scale. Of course, he’s wary of the role that international streamers might play in the long run – “if that leads to a situation where producers are just middlemen, that would be a terrible thing” – but he’s largely filled with hope. to the possibilities on the horizon.
“We have no idea today what the wider entertainment industry will look like in a few years,” he says. “No one can tell you because of how quickly technology is changing, the situation with the pandemic, or how we will live life in the future. But one thing’s for sure: we’ll be consuming a lot more content and I love being in such a situation to help create that.