Film- und Medienstiftung NRW bids farewell to long-standing CEO Petra Müller
- Under her leadership, the institution gave a distinctive image to its film funding policy, opened up to series, games and web videos and became the central point of contact for film and media professionals
- The shareholders thank Petra Müller for her commitment to the film and media region of NRW
The long-standing CEO Petra Müller will be leaving the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW after 13 years at the end of this year. Her time in office saw a realignment of the institution as a funding body operating across a number of different media. New areas of funding (series, games, web video, VR) were thus introduced over and above the core business of film funding, and innovative impetus was given to development of the region and the promotion of young talents. The introduction of the funding programme for graduation films and the Wim Wenders Grant as well as the development of specific activities for the subsidiaries Mediengründerzentrum NRW and ifs Internationale Filmschule Köln are examples of this particular focus. Gender, diversity and sustainability were also among the issues placed on the agenda here. Showcases of NRW as a production hub at such events as the International Emmys or MIPCOM in Cannes have bolstered the visibility and profile of the media hub. Thanks to Müller’s support, international industry gatherings such as the Seriencamp, the VideoDays Festival, European Work in Progress (EWIP) and International Distribution Summit (IDS) recently came to NRW.
Nathanael Liminski, Minister for Federal, European and International Affairs and the Media of the State of North Rhine-Westphalia and Head of the State Chancellery, paid tribute to the outgoing head of the Film- und Medienstiftung: "Foresight, diversity and vision – these three cornerstones outline Petra Müller’s extraordinary commitment to North Rhine-Westphalia as a media hub. It is thanks to her foresight that North Rhine-Westphalia occupies a strong position in the production of classic feature films and TV movies as well as in the fields of games and web videos. With her keen sense of how the industry operates, Petra Müller has kept on developing the funding structures. The Film- und Medienstiftung’s wide-ranging offering has not only boosted the creative potential of the film and media landscape in the region, but has also laid the foundations for innovation, diversity and growth. I would like to express my personal thanks for the close working relationship characterised by the shared vision of wanting to create a sustainable and attractive media hub in North Rhine-Westphalia. I wish Petra Müller all the best for the future."
WDR Director General Tom Buhrow: "Petra Müller’s services to the film and media hub of NRW are outstanding. She has been unique in the way that she succeeded in raising the artistic quality and economic success of the subsidised projects to a new level. Her flair for innovation and vision led her to take great steps in enriching the cultural landscape and thus establishing a first-class hub and shooting location for creatives and producers in NRW. We at WDR have greatly appreciated working with her."
Norbert Himmler, Director General of ZDF: "In her 13 years as CEO, Petra Müller has consistently developed and helped shape the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW. She not only made a significant contribution towards strengthening the producers’ position, but also had the interests of the broadcasters in mind. German feature films and German TV movies owe a lot to her."
Stephan Schmitter, Managing Director Programme & Brands RTL Germany: "We would like to express our sincere thanks to Petra Müller for her tireless commitment and the excellent cooperation over the years. During her time at the Filmstiftung she has played a major role in ensuring that North Rhine-Westphalia is a permanent fixture in the German production landscape and will continue to do so in the future."
In summing up her work for the Film- und Medienstiftung, Petra Müller said that it had given her the wonderful opportunity "to be able to move across the entire audiovisual spectrum of film, series, games and web videos. I would like to thank the shareholders for their trust and especially the creatives and producers who have always inspired me with their ideas and, of course, the staff who have accompanied me on this journey. I wish my successor every success in all the future projects. I know that he can rely on a competent and committed team."
Walid Nakschbandi will take over as CEO in January 2024. In his last position, he was Chief Innovation Officer at Holtzbrinck Buchverlage.
"Foresight, diversity and vision" – the work of the Film- und Medienstiftung 2011-2023
Award-winning arthouse cinema
From the outset, Müller makes it clear that film funding remains the fund’s "core business". Award-winning productions such as Andreas Dresen’s "Gundermann" and "Rabiye Kurnaz vs. George W. Bush" (Pandora), Lars Kraume’s "The People vs. Fritz Bauer" (zero one/Terz) or "Dear Thomas" by Andreas Kleinert are evidence of its success. In addition, there are Oscar nominations for "Mustang" by Deniz Gamze Ergüven (Vistamar/Uhlandfilm), "Never Look Away" by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck (Wiedemann&Berg), "Spencer" (Komplizenfilm) and, of course, Maren Ade’s "Toni Erdmann" (Komplizenfilm), which has its opening scenes in NRW. "The Traitor" by Marco Bellochio and "Fallen Leaves" by Aki Kaurismäki also made an impact in Cannes. "Das Licht" by Tom Tykwer and "The Girl From Köln" have recently wrapped.
International star cinema
Highly professional studios and service providers and attractive shooting locations are NRW’s key success factors, especially when it comes to international co-productions. A co-production by action concept, the racing driver epic "Rush" by Ron Howard about the rivalry between Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl) and James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) is filmed in Cologne, among other places, as is the recent augenschein co-production of "Mother Mary" by David Lowery with Anne Hathaway. Tilda Swinton comes to the MMC Studios for "Only Lovers Left Alive" by Jim Jarmusch and "The End" by Joshua Oppenheimer. Nordkirchen Castle serves as the backdrop for Pablo Larraíns' "Spencer" with Kristen Stewart as Lady Di, while Detailfilm’s musical "Annette" by Leos Carax withAdam Driver and Marion Cotillard, is presented with the Best Director Prize at the 74th Festival de Cannes. The prequel to "The Hunger Games" was filmed on location in Duisburg among other places in summer 2022.
Commercial hits and family entertainment
One of the nicest successes in the cinema came with the screen adaptation of Hape Kerkelings' childhood memoirs "All About Me" by Caroline Link (UFA Fiction), shot in Aachen, Gelsenkirchen, Duisburg, Oberhausen, Bottrop, Essen, Mülheim and Mönchengladbach. More than a million admissions are posted by such films as Ralf Husmann’s "Stromberg", Sönke Wortmann’s "How About Adolf?" and, of course, Philip Stölzl’s "The Physician" which posted 3.5 million admissions. The Filmstiftung shows that it has a heart for young audiences by backing the screen versions of such books for children and young adults as the Ruby Red trilogy, the Pettersson and Findus series, "Help, I Shrunk my Teacher/Parents/Friends", "My Life As Lotta" and, above all, "Fritzi – A Revolutionary Tale".
Series and TV
Nowhere else in Germany is so much produced for television and streaming services as in NRW. A success story that has seen the Filmstiftung making a substantial contribution with its funding. "Babylon Berlin" (X Filme) was showered with awards, sold to over 140 countries and was seen by 10 million viewers in its various seasons, the improv series "Other Parents" (eitelsonnenschein) stands for TV innovation from NRW, "Weinberg" (Bantry Bay) wins the Grimme Prize. The award-winning UFA Fiction series "Faking Hitler", the Paramount+-commissioned thriller series "A Thin Line" and the short-form series "Lu von Loser" and "Haus Kummerveldt" show the entire range of funded series content. The Filmstiftung is the Main Partner of the Berlinale Series Market, and Müller brought the established Seriencamp to Cologne in June 2023.
Documentary film is a particular strength of the film region.This is where impressive artist portraits such as Wim Wenders' "Pina", Corinna Belz’s "Gerhard Richter Painting", Andres Veiel’s "Beuys" or Sebastian Dehnhardt’s "The Perfect Shot – The Dirk Nowitzki Story". And the German music community’s favourite film, „Die Toten Hosen – You Only LIve Once“ by Cordula Kablitz-Post. "Femocracy" by Torsten Körner about the female politicians of the Bonn Republic thrilled over 100,000 cinema-goers. Current developments in the documentary film market – and particularly evidence here of a boom in series production – have been discussed by the industry professionals at the NRW Documentary Day since 2016.
Games, web video, VR
Funding for games is launched back in 2011 with a development programme, with a dedicated guideline now in place to distribute 3.5 million euros each year. The result are award-winning games like "Typoman" (Brainseed Factory), "Squirrel & Bär" (the good evil), the "Fiete" series (Ahoiii Entertainment), "OMNO" (Studio Inkyfox), "Chained Echoes" (Matthias Linda) or the VR festival favourite "Dreamin' Zone" (CinéLitté). Industry events such as the German Developer Award and the Gametreff are an opportunity for the sector to network in the region, while gamescom brings the international industry to NRW. Last but not least, NRW is the leading hub for web videos since the creators with the widest reach and the largest YouTube channels are based here. The Film- und Medienstiftung supports the German Web Video Award, the Youlius Award, the Creator College NRW and the new edition of the VideoDays Festival.
March 2020 saw the Filmstiftung launching a series of initiatives including emergency aid for cinemas in NRW. In January 2021, the federal state created the "Film ab NRW" aid programme with 15 million euros to support cinemas. All this not least to recognise the exhibitors’ commitment and perseverance! In 2023, the cinema programme awards were presented for the 33rd time to honour exhibitors who have rendered outstanding services to a culturally sophisticated programme as well as films fpr children and young people..
Promoting young talent
Young talents also continue to be one of the key concerns of the Filmstiftung’s activities in its third decade. Up to 5 million euros are being annually invested in graduation films and debuts. Moreover, the prestigious development scholarships are highly sought-after: the Gerd Ruge Scholarship was awarded for the 20th time in 2021, while the Wim Wenders Grant and the Baumi Script Development Award were initiated in 2016. Together with its associated companies ifs, MGZ and Mediencluster, the Filmstiftung is now supporting young creative talent across all media. Thus, autumn 2021 saw Germany’s first Entertainment Master’s programme was launched at the ifs – initiated and funded by the Filmstiftung.
Networking and visibility
During Petra Müller’s term the Film- und Medienstiftung NRW expanded its networking activities at leading festivals and markets as well as on a locale level in NRW: at the Berlinale, Cannes, Venice, Locarno and Toronto for cinema, at MIPCOM, the International Emmys and in Lille for TV and series professionals, at the Tokyo Games Show or GDC in San Francisco for games developers. But it has also been important to enable the audiovisual sectors to network with each other locally in NRW: Film Festival Cologne, Seriencamp, gamescom, the German Developer Award, Videodays Festival as well as the NRW Documentary Day and Match Me If You Can are examples of successful events based in the region.