Nicole Gerhards • Niko Film
by Bénédicte Prot
02/05/2012 - The career of German Film & Television Academy, EAVE and ACE alumni Nicole Gerhards got off to a flying start with her graduation production, Ulrike von Ribbeck's short film Charlotte (2004), being shown in Berlin and Cannes. This early recognition followed her as she set up her own outfit, Niko Film, through which she has produced such successful titles as Paula Markovitch's The Prize (two Silver Bears at the 2011 Berlinale) and Emily Atef's The Stranger in Me [trailer] and Kill Me, freshly released in France. Gerhards is now off to Cannes to represent Germany among the 2012 Producers on the Move.
Cineuropa: When and how did you decide to become a producer?
It was before applying for the Berlin filmschool that I decided to become aproducer. I wanted to accompany the projects from the beginning to the end, to be 'responsible' for them and able to influence them. I wanted to work on films I would like to see with people I believed in. I also felt the need to be independent, which of course you never really are, even having your own company. So behind my career choices, there is a mix of boundless enthusiasm and love for the cinema, as well as a good measure of candour.
Why did you choose to create your own company so early on in your career?
I had worked on films before, so it did not seem so early to me. I set up NiKo Film for my first feature project, Matthias Keilich's Lumber Kings. My graduation film Charlotte had just been screened at the Berlinale and Cannes, so it seemed like a good moment. And it was not a major decision - I started in a very affordable office with no employees. What feels like the real big step comes after some years, when the company has grown bigger, deals not only with one but several films, and involves more and more administration.
Many of your productions have gained significant international recognition. How do you pick your projects? How has that recognition helped your work?
A project really has to touch me. The more personal and intimate the story is, the more I am interested. I look at the originality, the urge, and relevance of a story, but of course I also have to consider what chances the project has to attract financing and to be successful on the market. It can be mainly directed at festivals or it can be a more commercial project. I have worked with a lot of debut directors. When you see their potential, you want to do the first steps with them. Of course prizes and success do help. After I produced The Stranger in Me, a drama about a mother suffering from post partum depression that won many awards and was selected for Cannes Critics' Week, I received many scripts on mental diseases, depression and other illnesses. Of course, it is not my profile to produce only the saddest films in the world.
As a former EAVE and ACE participant, this is not the first time you have taken part in a European programme. What has that experience brought you? What do you expect from the 'Producers on the Move' initiative?
Through EAVE and ACE, I have met a lot of producers over the years. As making films is not only a long but also a very personal process, with some ups and downs, it is essential to have good partners whom you can trust and whom you like. This network has been very precious to me.
Producers on the Move will undoubtedly unfold in the same spirit. It will allow participants to meet upcoming producers from each of the other European countries, and it is an excellent – as well as pleasant – platform on which we can be introduced to the industry.
What are your hopes for the future of NiKo Film?
I want to continue to produce and coproduce fine arthouse projects, as well as work on more audience-based films, titles likely to attract a significant number of spectators in the theatre and make for good worldwide sales. With such a diverse slate, I still want every project to be very special and succeed in its own market.
Producers on the move is an initiative of the EUROPEAN FILM PROMOTION