EDN Member of the Month – Antje Boehmert
In this monthly interview series EDN focuses on one of its many members to show both members in the spotlight and the diversity of the EDN membership group. Our EDN member of the month for April 2018 is Antje Boehmert, Executive Producer and Managing Partner at DOCDAYS Productions, Germany.
EDN has among other things talked to Antje Boehmert about her company DOCDAYS Productions and about her current projects – including Sascha Schöberl’s Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, which will soon be pitched at Hot Docs.
Antje Boehmert holds a MA in American History and Theatre, Film and TV Studies from the University of Cologne, Germany. She started her career in documentaries as a Visual Researcher and Associate Producer in Washington, DC. After a few years as a freelance director and producer, she co-founded and now helms DOCDAYS Productions – an indie based in Berlin and Cologne. Antje serves on a film fund’s jury and tutors for documentary initiatives. She produced Carl Gierstorfer’s We want you to live - Liberia’s fight against Ebola for which she was awarded with Germany’s Grimme Award for her work as the film’s Executive Producer.
EDN: Can you start by telling more about your background and your road into the world of documentaries?
AB: When I turned seven, my parents finally let me watch TV a little. That was it, I was lost. How can one not want Jacque Cousteau’s job? I thought he was the luckiest person alive and it was not for the diving!
No, seriously - I always wanted to tell stories and started writing for a local newspaper when I was still in High School. While studying at the University of Cologne I managed to do a lot of internships - news, sports, talk shows – trying to figure out what exactly I wanted to do. One day during an internship I was offered a traineeship as a producer with the little icing on the cake that the company offered me to join them only after I had finished my MA. That was 18 years ago. Since then I have researched and directed some films but mainly worked as a producer. I had the pleasure to live and work abroad, to travel a lot. But at one point I was ready to take roots and so … along came DOCDAYS.
EDN: How would you describe DOCDAYS’ company profile? Do you have a preference for certain themes, topics or styles of documentaries?
AB: At DOCDAYS, we only do “true stories”. No Reality TV, no factual entertainment. And no pure wild life. We love to produce creative documentaries but are as passionate about topical docs from the fields of Global Issues, History and Science. We do one-offs and series for theatrical releases, TV and the Web.
We do not have a preference for themes or topics, but we are looking for stories that can wow us, start a conversation, speak to broader audiences. Ideally, they do so in an entertaining way - and that does not necessarily mean funny. We want our projects to be visually convincing and meticulously researched.
And since what we put on the tube still influences young boys and girls, we do not produce films that believe glass ceilings are any good.
EDN: How do you find the projects you venture into?
AB: Some projects happen through collaborations with co-producers and some we get to know at markets and pitches. Sometimes it's a mutual colleague making an introduction. We are grateful for a network of producers and directors that we have been working with to develop and explore new stories together. And at times, a project is actually conceived and developed by our in-house staff. Our team researches and writes them to later find a creative crew to take them on and make them happen.
EDN: Your company is based in Berlin and Cologne in Germany. We will not ask you to give a detailed account of the German funding system, which is quite complicated due to all the regions and the ARTE structures…… Can you instead offer some advice to international producers interested in working with a German producer?
AB: To us, on the inside, it doesn’t feel too complicated. It makes sense that a Federal Republic has a public broadcasting system that echoes this. And with our history in mind, I am happy that there is no one entity that holds the key to public broadcasting.
ARD has nine TV-Stations. If your story has a German angle and you want to approach any of the ARD-stations, go to the one that is closest to your story. If your story has ties to Berlin, approach rbb. If your story is located in Cologne, be in touch with WDR. You can literally look it up on a map. For ZDF its different since its one broadcaster founded by all states. And it has an interesting history as well. For film funds: most funding schemes ask for local spending. Once you know where you will spend your money, you have a clue where to ask for funding. But for any funding money you’re seeking in Germany, my one advice would be to collaborate with a German co-producer.
EDN: You are currently working on an international co-production with the CNEX Foundation in Hong Kong on the project Mirror, Mirror on the Wall directed by Sascha Schöberl. What is the project about and how did you come on board?
AB: Sascha Schöberl’s film is set in today’s China that really hits a nerve. Since we are early in production we are a little shy to reveal too much. We are happy to be on board and to have the chance to co-produce it together with the CNEX Foundation.
Sascha developed the film at the joint training programme of Documentary Campus and EDN: Crossing Borders. It was during one of the sessions that Sascha was pointed along our way and how we first learned about the project.
EDN: In the beginning of May you will pitch Mirror, Mirror on the Wall at the Hot Docs Forum in Toronto. What are your expectations and what are the values of attending pitching forums in general? Is it still worthwhile?
AB: To me, forums are still a great opportunity to introduce a project to the international market, to meet buyers and distributers and to start new collaborations. Pitching Forums are accelerators. Upfront, you have to wrap your head around how to present the project, how to come up with a decent clip or teaser. And at the pitch you get a huge variety of feedback and advice within a short time that helps to further develop and shape a project. But I believe it’s important to figure out which pitching forums are right for your film - rather than having doubts whether pitching forums are worthwhile in general.
EDN: Which markets / pitching forums do you regularly attend? Which ones do you find the most useful for documentaries?
AB: I believe we pretty much follow the herd when it comes to travel destinations: Berlin, Cannes, Toronto, Sheffield, La Rochelle, Amsterdam and Science Congress. And wherever a project takes us.
EDN: Can you tell us about some of the other projects you and the company are working on at the moment?
AB: It’s pretty busy here with six projects in production and another five in development. We are currently developing a new film with Carl Gierstorfer which will take audiences to South America and excited about having the opportunity to work with Dominik Wessely. We have a crew currently on the ground in Japan and another one getting ready to kick off production in July.
EDN: What lies next for you and DOCDAYS after pitching in Toronto?
AB: … a night out in town with our shiny shoes on for this year’s CIVIS Media Prize where two projects we produced will be awarded with the “FOOTBALL + INTEGRATION” Special Award.
More information: docdaysproductions.com
For an overview of all previous EDN Members of the Month, please visit: