Inter­view with Ben Gib­son by Vas­silis Economou, Cineu­ropa

— We sat down with British film pro­duc­er Ben Gib­son to chat about his expe­ri­ence so far as head of the Ger­man Film and Tele­vi­sion Acad­e­my Berlin (DFFB). Hav­ing tak­en office in 2015, British film pro­duc­er Ben Gib­son is the first non-Ger­man direc­tor of the acclaimed Ger­man Film and Tele­vi­sion Acad­e­my Berlin (DFFB). We had a chance to chat with him about his expe­ri­ence so far, the chal­lenges he has faced and the launch of NEXT WAVE, an inter­na­tion­al train­ing pro­gramme.

Cineu­ropa: What is your expe­ri­ence of being the head of DFFB for the last three years, and what chal­lenges have there been?
Ben Gib­son
: It has been a busy three years, with live­ly inter­nal dis­cus­sion about improve­ments that will sup­port this cre­ative com­mu­ni­ty and add to its work, and it’s also been a very suc­cess­ful peri­od for DFFB film­mak­ers. We also had four fea­ture-length grad­u­a­tion films, with the sup­port of rbb and ZDF, at the Berli­nale this last year. Our main chal­lenge has be

en to add strands of work to an insti­tu­tion that has built up a rich cul­ture incre­men­tal­ly, over many years. DFFB is so spe­cial part­ly because it just doesn’t do that aspi­ra­tional, silo-ori­en­tat­ed train­ing for an imag­i­nary film fac­to­ry. It brings togeth­er hard-work­ing, brave types who want to become arti­sanal film­mak­ers with a deep knowl­edge of the whole machine, and to debate why they make films and how they con­tribute to our world, for their whole careers. That’s excit­ing.

Is any­thing chang­ing?
We are becom­ing more inter­na­tion­al­ist – in terms of teach­ing, part­ner­ships and stu­dents – while still remain­ing a Ger­man Akademie; we are adding to the teach­ing struc­ture to incor­po­rate even more craft; we’ve opened a study stream for edit­ing and sound; we’re inte­grat­ing the screen­writ­ers, who now make films in the first, gen­er­al­ist year; we have ini­tia­tives about oth­er con­stituen­cies and Berlin (the Berlin Film Net­work), as well as the Cen­tral Euro­pean Fea­ture Project with Lodz and FAMU, and an Inter­na­tion­al Pro­duc­ers’ Pro­gramme; we are “plat­form-neu­tral”, with more web series, ser­i­al dra­mas and expand­ed sto­ry­telling; and we’re start­ing work on plans for a bet­ter home, in the old air­port at Tem­pel­hof.

You are launch­ing NEXT WAVE, an inten­sive train­ing pro­gramme focused on film mar­kets. Why was it need­ed?
NEXT WAVE might look like an “unnece

ssary addi­tion” to some peo­ple in these mar­kets: it’s pro­fes­sion­al-lev­el train­ing for peo­ple who want to con­tribute in sales, dis­tri­b­u­tion, mar­ket­ing, exhi­bi­tion, pro­gram­ming and new routes to audi­ences, on all plat­forms. But NEXT WAVE is more than just a course. First, we want to bring every­one try­ing to bring films and audi­ences togeth­er into one room, even though the busi­ness keeps them apart. Sec­ond, this is a pro­gramme that chal­lenges the par­tic­i­pants to con­struct new busi­ness mod­els, those need­ed for a new gen­er­a­tion of view­er­ship and cinephil­ia, on new plat­forms. On the sim­plest lev­el, how do ana­logue film dis­tri­b­u­tion pat­terns meet new, dig­i­tal­ly gath­ered com­mu­ni­ties? But we’re ask­ing big­ger ques­tions: what will the new cinephil­ia be about, who will iden­ti­fy with it, and why? The par­tic­i­pants will devote two weeks a month, for nine months, to joint study and research.

It’s start­ing in Octo­ber; what are your expec­ta­tions for the pro­gramme, and who might the “right” par­tic­i­pants for it be?
There’s real­ly no “ide­al” par­tic­i­pant. One thing that has had a big impact on me is hav­ing been an exhibitor and a dis­trib­u­tor, and then becom­ing a pro­duc­er. Now, in the USA, that’s the gen­er

al mod­el, but in Europe, so many pro­duc­ers are total­ly out­side of the mar­ket com­mu­ni­ty, look­ing at it pas­sive­ly as a “ser­vice”. So, first of all, the pro­duc­ers who are seri­ous about under­stand­ing the whole of their busi­ness must come and con­tribute. The new pro­gram­mers, cura­tors, peo­ple scout­ing films at fes­ti­vals for small dis­trib­u­tors or oth­er fes­ti­vals, peo­ple who dream of set­ting up spe­cial­ist sales com­pa­nies, peo­ple who want to work in mar­ket­ing all kinds of IP in ways that bring togeth­er artist and audi­ence prop­er­ly – all of these peo­ple should come.

In the first year [of the ini­tial three-year cycle], we need to find out how best to serve as an R&D activ­i­ty in Euro­pean cin­e­ma, ask­ing our part­ners and sup­port­ers for inter­est­ing prob­lems to solve. And we need to see how par­tic­i­pants can work on their own inter­ests and busi­ness­es while also con­tribut­ing to the sum of knowl­edge we’ll bring togeth­er at the final col­lo­qui­um in June.

DFFB is not alone in NEXT WAVE; who are your part­ners, and what is their role in the train­ing pro­gramme?
Yes, we’re work­ing with La Fémis in Paris, with the Dan­ish Nation­al School in Copen­hagen and with FAMU in Prague. The par­tic­i­pants in NEXT WAVE – which is an EU-fund­ed MEDIA train­ing pro­gramme, like our Ser­i­al Eyes and UpGrade projects have been – will be young pro­fes­sion­als seek­ing fur­ther train­ing. These schools are com­mit­ted to this area, and will host teach­ing and learn­ing activ­i­ties, recruit­ing local pro

fes­sion­als. They’ll also con­tribute to an aca­d­e­m­ic pan­el sup­port­ing course direc­tor Lysann Windisch. Many oth­er insti­tu­tions and busi­ness­es, from Europa Cin­e­mas and Le Pacte to Mubi and The Co-pro­duc­tion Office, will be con­tribut­ing ideas, ques­tions and men­tor­ship, com­ing with us on the jour­ney.

DFFB has been known for its more auteur-dri­ven pro­file; do you think that the launch of an inter­na­tion­al mar­ket-ori­en­tat­ed pro­gramme will alter its char­ac­ter?
I’m not sure that “mar­ket-ori­en­tat­ed” has a use­ful mean­ing here. DFFB isn’t inter­est­ed in gen­er­at­ing stan­dard prod­ucts, and it doesn’t believe in stan­dard audi­ences. We make films for oth­er peo­ple, like all of the film­mak­ers we respect. The “auteur” rep­re­sents two ideas for me here: both free­dom of expres­sion and sin­gu­lar style; and the mar­ket­ing of bril­liant ensem­bles and work­shops of excel­lent inde­pen­dent cin­e­ma, by using only one name for the team – that of the writer-direc­tor. That’s called the “tal­ent fran­chise”, and it’s a vital part of the Euro­pean film busi­ness. NEXT WAVE fits in very well with DFFB, a school that is con­sis­tent­ly cap­tur­ing real audi­ences for real film­mak­ing.

link to cineu­ropa