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Christian and Reinhardt Beetz • Producers

Think international

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- Brothers Christian and Reinhardt Beetz, heads of Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion, talk about their approach to filmmaking

Christian and Reinhardt Beetz  • Producers

Having produced more than 120 films since their company’s founding in 2000, it’s probable that you have seen one or other of the productions from brothers Christian and Reinhardt Beetz of Gebrueder Beetz Filmproduktion, also known internationally as the Beetz Brothers.

“The documentary format attracted us from the outset because we were interested in socio-political issues and we wanted to use the documentaries as a way of addressing these topics,” recalls Christian Beetz, who studied Theater and Culture Studies in Berlin, while his brother Reinhardt graduated in Journalism and Film Directing in Hamburg.

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“From the outset, we were interested in working in and for the international market,” Christian explains. “It means that there is hardly any festival passing without a production from our company showing in its program, and several of our productions have received numerous awards from such festivals as IDFA, HotDocs and Montreal as well as the Grimme Award, Prix Europa, the German Film Award or the Oscar nomination in 2013.”

“We are one of the few documentary production companies which is undogmatic about its work,” Christian argues. “On the one side, you have the cinema faction who hold up feature documentaries as the pinnacle, and, on the other side, there is the faction who considers these films pure arthouse and are more interested in prime-time formats which can reach 10 million viewers. And the same goes for genres: some [producers] only do science, or history, or wildlife, but we do the things that interest us and where we believe in the quality of the subject.” 

The versatility of the company’s output was shown last autumn with the airing of its factual entertainment series Make Love for public broadcaster MDR and the political documentary Nelson Mandela: The Myth and Me

The brothers are constantly keeping an eye on trends and developments within Germany and elsewhere to be on the ball in the increasingly competitive struggle to win commissions from the TV channels. “We have been working with crossmedia for some time,” Reinhardt recalls. “The crossmedia format for Farewell Comrades! was something of a landmark in this field. We produced it internationally with 16 partners and it’s the first time that there was a license model for other territories.” The six-part series for ARTE about the end of the Soviet Union was aimed at young people not familiar with this recent eventful chapter in world history. “It needed a new way of telling the story and a part of this was done by using the Internet,” he explains. 

Unlike some companies where the partners might each take responsibility for one aspect, i.e. development of the projects or putting the financing together, the two are involved in all stages of a production. “We’re both known for being there in the editing suite and always closely involved in development,” Reinhardt observes. “We would never just accept a completed script. When we have our first discussion, we make it clear that we are not a bank financing the director’s dreams, but want to work with him or her as a team. Perhaps that’s why people work with us again and again because they realize that we understand something about film language and narrative since we worked as directors and editors.” 

Meanwhile, the company’s portfolio of production is now being expanded into fiction for the cinema. “This began really with our docu-fiction,” Reinhardt explains. “Saving the Titanic began as a documentary and then evolved into fiction, winning a triple award as Best Feature Film at the British Independent Film Awards. Since then, we have several fiction projects and international drama series in development and financing.”

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