Torsten Frehse • Distributor, Neue Visionen Filmverleih
by Bénédicte Prot
Torsten Frehse founded Neue Visionen Filmverleih in 1997, with Wulf Sörgel, his former colleague at Lichtblick Kino in Berlin. The idea was to set up a company that was neither "small", nor "niche", but truly independent and determined to present films of the highest quality.
Its first launches include Louis Malle’s Black Moon, Austrian film Suzie Washington, and Slovenian director Igor Sterk’s Express, Express. The choice of films isn’t limited to certain themes or countries (although there is a particular focus on European cinema, politically engaged films and documentaries, young German auteurs, women’s films and African films, etc.), but it isn’t arbitrary: the aim is to share with audiences films that may otherwise not get distributed and offer each film an attractive campaign (press articles, posters, technical documentation, advertising items...).
Neue Visionen’s catalogue is very extensive and ranges from films by Ken Loach to titles like Noi the Albino by Icelandic director Dagur Kári and recent film Here and There by Serbian filmmaker Darko Lungulov. It also includes several hundred classic films, from Orson Welles and David Lean to Buñuel and Wim Wenders, as well as the Rocky and James Bond movies.
Cineuropa: How do you pick new works: where do you find them and how much do you look at their domestic or festival success to gauge their commercial potential in Germany?
Torsten Frehse: We buy around ten new movies a year and are mostly interested in European cinema – excluding the classics, it represents 50% of our catalogue, another 25% are German films and the remaining 25% are films from the rest of the world (Latin America, Africa...). We keep a careful eye on Eastern European films, which are usually co-productions.
Most of our acquisitions are made at major festivals and markets such as Berlin or Cannes, and we do look at the films' festival success. Sometimes, producers or sales agents bring us some titles of their own accord. We have some regular partners in Europe (The Coproduction Office, The Match Factory), but ultimately, our choices depend on the quality of each individual film, and if the movie is good, the audience will appreciate the opportunity to discover it.
What kind of release do you organise for your titles?
The campaigns vary with each film but we use a range of advertising and marketing techniques, keeping in mind that small things count, like postcards, boxes of matches, t-shirts or information sheets for teachers. The number of prints ranges from 25 to 80-100 (evidently, we use 35mm and digital but like other distributors, we would need support from the state to make a full transition to digital). If a movie sells upwards of 50,000 admissions, we consider it successful. There are excellent surprises. Recently, for instance, Christos Georgiou’s Greek movie Small Crime attracted 170,000 viewers.
You have an impressive and wide-ranging selection of classics. Is this part of your commitment and passion as a distributor?
Indeed, we think that it is very important to allow the audience to be introduced to classics, to encourage 25-year-olds to develop their film knowledge by re-releasing masterpieces and organising special events around them. The classics we pick are either "cult" classics, such as Taxi Driver and Easy Rider, or "important" classics (politically, historically, in the history of cinema). Contrary to the widespread notion that old films are for old people, audiences, especially younger audiences, prove to be very interested: Godard's Breathless sold over 40,000 admissions on three prints only, and Casablanca over 100,000 on four prints.
What led you to allow other, smaller distributors to use your infrastructures?
Well, it is a welcome source of money for us, while in keeping with our idea that movies, however "small", should be shown, and that anybody willing to share them should be helped.
What do you expect from EFP’s event in San Sebastian?
You never know what to expect but I am looking forward to seeing what they have prepared for us and learning about other businesses, seeing how they operate and getting new ideas from that exchange.