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Joachim Masannek • Director

Hard Work for kids

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- With his five The Wild Soccer Bunch films, Joachim Masannek became Germany’s most successful children’s film directors

Joachim Masannek • Director

Joachim Masannek has been one of the most successful children’s film directors in Germany for the past decade. His achievement is based on a solid work ethic and an awareness of children’s lives that is far removed from dusty textbooks.

Masannek’s working hours are extreme: “I get up and start work between four and half past five,” he says. And at peak times, when one more screenplay has to be written in six weeks and a children’s book needs finishing off at the same time, his working days never seem to end. But without this rigid self-discipline Masannek’s career since 2002 might have been rather different. Overall, his five The Wild Soccer Bunch films have drawn nine million visitors to German cinemas – an absolute record. But first they had to be written, adapted into screenplays and then filmed. “Always, there was incredible time pressure,” he says.

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Masannek has written 13 Wild Soccer Bunch books (and sold nine million copies of them); three of seven parts of the Wildernacht series – not yet filmed – are finished to date, and the third volume of his latest book series Honky Tonk Pirates is just coming out. And, of course, he has started writing the fourth already.

Masannek’s material is modern and fast-moving. “All the stories are true,” he writes on his website, and indeed, these books and films are close to the worlds that children live in. It’s all about boys who long to be strong and girls who want to speak their minds – whether in the world of football or among pirates.

When it comes to filming, Masannek leaves the lonely work behind him and relies on the creativity of the whole team. “You should never regard the screenplay as set in stone,” he explains, regarding his own books as “quarries” for the films – in this way he had already arrived at material from the thirteenth Wild Soccer Bunch book in the third film. The fact that he is capable of radically jettisoning material is demonstrated by an anecdote from the shooting of part four. Filming a football match with motorbikes caused a lot of confusion in the shooting schedule because of technical difficulties. Masannek simply ripped the first twelve pages out of the screenplay – and so managed to finish the film on time.

His works are impulsive and the children in them are loud, daring and wild – in other words, strong characters. The result certainly fascinates his target audiences. But the decisive factor behind his success is a maxim, which the filmmaker has taken more to heart than any other director in Germany. “Children’s constant wish is to be grown-up. A three-year-old imagines himself as a grown-up knight in shining armor when he is playing.” That is why the “Wild Soccer Bunch” strut about the place like rockers, always shooting their mouths off. Inevitably, much the same will be true of Masannek’s film pirates.

Masannek has done a lot of thinking about bringing up children and his books have been oriented consistently on his attitudes as a father. “In my fictional world, children are not allowed to help adults,” he says. And: “We educate our children until they reach a point when they no longer want to be grown-up.” His child characters are the opposite: strong and free. And to bring them to life, their creator is more than happy to get up early now and then.

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