Stelios Ziannis • Aktis Film International
by Martin Blaney, German Films
15/12/2009 - "I was surprised so many Greek and Latin names had already been taken by American and British companies," says Stelios Ziannis when he was searching for a name for his world sales company Aktis Film International which was launched at the beginning of this year.
"I then felt Aktis would be just right because it comes from the Ancient Greek and means "beam of light", Ziannis explains. "And this beam of light brings film to life and can stimulate the intellect."
SETTING UP SHOP
With almost two decades of working in the field of world sales and TV distribution, Ziannis made the decision at the end of 2008 to set up on his own in Leipzig and Halle after Kinowelt's new owner StudioCanal announced plans for a re-orientation of the German company's operations.
Aktis Film's first appearance was at the Berlinale's European Film Market (EFM) in February 2009 where Ziannis presented Rudolf Thome's new feature Pink starring Hannah Herzsprung, who was in one of the festival's official juries, and such catalogue titles as Wolf Gremm's Kamikaze 1989 and the late Wolf Vollmar's The Officer Factory based on the bestseller novel by Hans Hellmut Kirst.
From the outset, Ziannis planned to concentrate on world sales and acquisitions, TV sales for German-speaking territories, the co-production of news German and international films, and film classics. Apart from the EFM, Aktis Film aims to have a presence at such markets as MIP-TV, Marché du Film, MIP-COM,a nd the MIDEM music trade fair in January.
A new dimension to the company's activities came with the forging of a strategic partnership with the Studio Halle umbrella of companies which includes de post-production service-provider Digim, equipment rental company Camelot, Monarda Publishing Ltd., and the music and documentary film production and distribution companies Arthaus Musik and RM Arts.
"This gives me an infrastructure that helps me enormously in my day-to-day operations and future planning," Ziannis says. "This rages from graphic design through subtitling, the production of DVD screens, administration of licenses and legal affairs."
"Together, we can realize projects which couldn't be managed by one alone, and interesting synergies can be achieved on German and international productions which make use of Studio Halle's services and then have the world sales coordinated by Aktis."
An exemple of such a collaborarion between Studio Halle and Aktis includes Silvia Beck's documentary Nyman in Progress which is currently being produced by RM Arts with Arthaus Musik and Digim, with WDR abd ARTE as co-producing broadcasters and support from MDM.
In addition, Aktis Film will handle international sales on another Studio Halle co-production, Hotel Deutschland II, with Stefan Paul's Arsenal Filmn as a sequel to Paul's original documentary Hotel Deutschland 20 years after the German reunification.
"The collaboration with Studio Halle also brings the benefit that one has access to a pool of knowhow about the latest digital technology," Ziannis notes. "I think it will be increasingly important in the future to be aware of the changes which will come with digital technology, wherever it is in the field of production or sales."
PLATFORM FOR AUTEURS
Given his background at Filmverlag der Autoren and Kinowelt and the network of contacts built up over the years, it is no surprise that Ziannis would like to see Aktis Films as "platform for the German Autorenfilm, but for quality European titles as well."
One of his first acquisitions in this direction is the tragicomedy about student life, 13 Semesters by Frieder Wittich, produced by Claussen+Woebke+Putz Filmproduktion, which 20th Century Fox released in Germany in November.
While this first year has been spent consolidating the new player's position in the world sales market, Ziannis is already looking ahead to taking the next step in Aktis Film's development which will see him becoming more involved in project development and production.