As the four international producers participating in the inaugural Port of Production residency programme moved to Hamburg this week to take part in events at this week’s Filmfest Hamburg, Fabian Driehorst of the German animation studio Fabian&Fred revealed what the group has achieved following stints in Copenhagen and Montreal.
“Since we spend so much time together – we are all living together for the residency, cook together and visit exhibitions, and so on- it means that we start talking about subjects outside of the specific projects we are pursuing. It’s more a kind of ‘out of the box’ thinking,” said Driehorst.
The other participants are Danielle Guirguis of Amsterdam-based Smarthouse – Creative Impact Studio, Mette Mikkelsen of New Tales in Aarhus, and Patricia Bergeron of Productions Leitmotiv from Montreal.
The programme was initiated by Hamburg’s MOIN film fund and run with the Danish Film Institute, the National Film School of Denmark, the Netherlands Film Fund, and SODEC in Quebec.
“The initiative is quite an experiment as we’re the first intake,” explained Driehorst who is now back in Hamburg after a busy September attending the residency in Montreal and a visit to the festival in Toronto followed by the world premiere of Isabel Herguera’s Sultana’s Dream in San Sebastián last week on which he was the German co-producer.
“As participants, we have also been actively involved in putting the programme together since each one of us serves as the host for the others in our respective cities. The subjects covered have included looking at the various possibilities for putting the financing together in the different countries,” he said.
“Being based in Hamburg, I’m quite near to Denmark and know the system a bit, but the opportunity to be there in Copenhagen and meet lots of new people was very inspiring.”
Driehorst pointed out each of the participants has a distinct and individual profile as producer: “I’m the only one who is specialised in animation while Mette works mainly on live-action fiction. There are some points where we overlap like Patricia who is working in VR and Danielle who is involved a lot in the areas of corporate, marketing and audience development.”
As the host for the Hamburg residency, he explained he wanted to put the focus of the participants’ discussions on business development and management.
“Usually, those of us who have studied film [Driehorst is a graduate from Cologne’s Academy for Media Arts KHM] can read and analyse screenplays and understand film financing, but we have seldom learnt how to run a company, manage employees, draw up a business plan and think about the future and how to produce in a sustainable way.”
The producer quartet will take part in various activities during the Filmfest’s Industry Days including the Explorer Conference on October 6. They will also travel next week to Leipzig to check out the latest developments in documentary, animation and XR production at DOK Leipzig.
The programme will conclude in January in Amsterdam with an option to visit the film festival in Rotterdam.
“In Quebec, we also asked ourselves what should be the outcome of this residency,” said Driehorst. “We have been speaking with the institutions behind the programme to see the potential for establishing co-development schemes between the partners. We believe it’s very important that you come together at an early stage, and develop a project together for your specific markets drawing upon each partner’s cultural background and expertise. This would involve relatively little investment compared to what is needed for production, but would encourage more collaboration.”
Founded by Driehorst and fellow KHM graduate Frédéric Schuld in 2014, Fabian&Fred was awarded the German Federal Film Board’s Industry Tiger as the most successful producer of short films in 2022.
The success of three animated shorts – Steakhouse, I’m Not Afraid and Night – at being invited to festivals and winning awards earned the company a total of € 60,000 to be invested into future productions.
The 2021 edition of Locarno Film Festival saw the premieres of Fabian&Fred’s co-production of Slovenian animator Spela Cadez’s Steakhouse which made it to the shortlist of this year’s Academy Awards in the Animated Short Film category, and Ahmad Saleh’s stop motion/puppet animation short Night, while thei German-Norwegian co-production of Marita Mayer’s I’m Not Afraid had its world premiere in the Berlinale’s Generation Kplus section in 2022.
Sultana’s Dream is the company’s first foray into producing a feature-length animation film after being involved as a co-producer in the avantgarde animated anthology film Happiness Machine which saw 20 women artists create 10 short films about the future of the continent and the whole world.