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“Animation for children is the most successful segment of German film abroad”

Industry Report: Animation

Maite Woköck • Producer, Telescope Animation

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The German Producer on the Move talks about the status of animated films in the German market

Maite Woköck • Producer, Telescope Animation

In 2018, Maite Woköck founded the production company Telescope Animation, together with filmmaker Reza Memari. Since then, she has produced several feature films and series all destined for a young public. Among the latest projects are Richard the Stork [+see also:
trailer
film profile
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and Petronella Applewitch. Currently in production are two features, My Fairy Troublemaker, based on an original by Woköck herself, and The Last Whale Singer by Woköck's partner Memari. We talked to Woköck on the occasion of her participation in European Film Promotion's Producers on the Move.

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Cineuropa: How did you specialize in animation?
Maite Woköck
: At the beginning, it was a coincidence. I trained as a dramaturge for children's films 15 years ago. After that, I was looking for a production company that produced children's films. I then ended up with a company that specialised in animated children's films. In the meantime, however, I have been working in animation for 14 years. And I'm very happy about that, because animation offers a lot of visual and narrative possibilities.

How does the search for a production partner work?
I've built up a relatively large network over the last few years. But we also pitch new projects at animation conferences. These are co-production markets like Cut to movie, in Bordeaux, the APD (Animation Productions Days) in Stuttgart, which takes place during the Animation Film Festival, and for series you can also go to Cartoon Forum. You meet a lot of new people at events like that.

Most of the films you produce are co-productions with other countries. What are the advantages, but also the disadvantages, of an international collaboration?
The budgets of animated films are very high. They're always over €7 million, and I'm currently working on a project with €9 million. You don't get that much money from a single European country, so you need co-productions. But that's also great, because we never produce animated films just for the national market. We always produce in English and always for the whole world. So when you have the whole world as your market, it's an advantage if several countries have a say on it from the very beginning. The disadvantages are that financing takes correspondingly longer. The main producing country has to start and then only the other countries can continue. The financing time and also the uncertainty are greater, because one does not know exactly whether all countries will be able to finance.

Can the work of the producer also be done digitally? Or is it important to have festivals or other events for a personal exchange?
At the moment it's still ok if we don't have the personal exchange. Since animation film projects are very long-term, I don't look for new partners for co-producers every year. For the projects that are currently in funding, I have my co-producers, but for new projects, it would be nice to be able to have the personal exchange again. These pitches also exist online, but at an event, you get to know people differently. You might be introduced to someone or have a glass of wine together and that's how you get talking. This aspect is very lacking and cannot be replaced digitally.

How do you find your projects?
It varies. For example, with My Fairy Troublemaker, the original idea was mine. I then developed the project with a screenwriter. I co-founded Telescope Animation with writer and director Reza Memari. The idea for The Last Whale Singer came from him. Then we are also offered projects by writers or we find something on a pitching forum that we want to develop.

Can you focus on only one production at a time or is it possible to oversee several projects at once?
I always have several projects at once. The production period of an animation takes two years, and in that time, I have to develop several projects. Some projects are in funding right now and others are in development.

How is the German animation market behaving or developing? Are there more co-productions with specific countries than with others on the horizon?
Overall, I have the impression that the German animation market is growing. It is the most successful segment of German film abroad. The audience in Germany is not really growing, though. Some films, for example, have only 200,000 - 250,000 viewers in Germany, while they then reach 700,000 viewers in France. In Europe, a lot of animation is produced in Belgium and in Benelux in general, as well as in France, Canada or the Netherlands.

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