EUFCN Spotlight on: Film Commission Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein

Schleswig-Holstein, between the North and the Baltic Seas, features an interesting combination of extensive countrysides and the vibrant atmosphere of Hamburg, one of the most important harbour cities and trade metropolises in the world.

The Film Commission Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein was founded in 1992 and provides advice, know-how and qualified services to producers and filmmakers wanting to shoot in the northernmost state of Germany.

In this interview, Film Commissioner Alexandra Luetkens presents an overview of the current situation of the film industry in Schleswig-Holstein, with an emphasis on recent and future projects, and a look at the most surprising locations.

Elbphilharmonie Grand Opening ©Hamburg Mediaserver / Christian Spahrbier

Which main productions were shot recently in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein?

“Hopefully soon to be seen in the cinemas is the US blockbuster Without Remorse  by Stefano Sollima starring Michael B. Jordan. Many of the action scenes were filmed in the offshore training centre OffTEC – a very unique location in the north of Schleswig-Holstein: In the water basin it is possible to shoot in all weather conditions – with waves over 2 metres high, wind, thunder, fog, lightning or rain.
Ildikó Enyedi shot The Story of My Wife  in Hamburg last year using several heritage locations like the Speicherstadt warehouse dictrict and the historical harbour as the story is set in the 1920-ies.”

“The Story of My Wife” set in Speicherstadt ©FFHSH

What projects were postponed due to the global emergency and what is set to be shooting in the future?

“This year many productions were interrupted or postponed during the lockdown – like the domestic feature films Catweazle, with the very popular German comedian Otto in the leading role, or Niemand ist bei den Kälbern  by Sabrina Sarabi. Although we received some international inquiries we had no mayor international productions coming in 2020 – probably due to the overall situation and restrictions. But we were pleased that the Finnish-French-German co-production A Girl’s Room  by Aino Suni was able to travel and shoot in Hamburg. For next spring we are looking forward to welcome the Norwegian-German drama War Sailor  by Gunnar Vikene. They have been scouting in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein in October looking at suitable historic locations for the wartime story, based upon true events.”

What’s the biggest production you have ever supported in Schleswig-Holstein?

“I think Ghostwriter  by Roman Polanski, starring Ewan Mc Gregor and Pierce Brosnan, was one of the biggest impact productions shooting on the isle of Sylt (doubling as Martha’s Vineyard / USA) and The Aftermath  by James Kent, with Keira Knightley and Alexander Skarsgard shooting in an historic manor house for over 30 days.
In Hamburg, after James Bond – Tomorrow Never Dies  that was filmed at the airport, inner city and Atlantic Hotel in 1997, last year’s Charlie’s Angels  by Elizabeth Banks was one of the biggest productions, filming for 11 shooting days at Hamburg’s newest landmark, the iconic Elbphilharmonie concert hall, and the new district HafenCity.”

HafenCity district © HMG Mediaserver / Andreas Vallbracht

What makes Hamburg and the state of Schleswig-Holstein a unique place for filming?

“Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein combine a vibrant metropolis featuring one of Europe’s largest industrial ports with the extensive countrysides, endless seashores and beaches of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea. We offer unique historic locations such as an abundance of castles and manor houses, rural areas with thatched roof houses or the UNESCO world heritage sites Speicherstadt warehouse district and the ancient city center of Luebeck, as well as state of the art modern architecture and young diverse settings. The advantages are short distances, a very good professional film infrastructure and film friendly authorities – for instance filming permits for public exterior locations in Hamburg are free of charge. Last not least, there is our regional film fund with a yearly budget of around €15 million on top of the national German funding schemes, which sum up to over €300 million per year accessible with a German partner.”

© OffTec / Tim Wendrich

Do you have any particular anecdote related to your film commission?

“A few years back we had a BBC crew coming to Hamburg for a show about the early years of the Beatles and their rise to stardom. We toured them around the relevant locations, really pampered them and opened several doors until one of the producers was so deeply moved that he started to cry, thanking us for the experience. Or the Hungarian director Ildikó Enyedi stating after a two-day recce: ‘It’s amazing – we can shoot a lot more at original locations than I thought!’ Positive energy and feedback like that keeps you going through challenges.”

“The Story of My Wife” on set (Lea Seydoux, Ildikó Enyedi, Gijs Naber) ©Komplizen Film / Hanna Csata

What is the current situation of film production in Schleswig-Holstein?

“Although Germany is currently in a (light) lockdown the film industry is working and many domestic productions are shooting until the end of the year – with extensive mandatory health and safety measures issued by the government organization BG ETEM. Several productions are prepping for the beginning of 2021. In Schleswig-Holstein a lot of the lower budget productions had to postpone due to the new requirements and in order to protect aged crew members.”

How is the Film Commission Hamburg Schleswig-Holstein adapting to this challenging time?

“Over months our film commission’s work concentrated on advice and information service on the local Covid-situation and support measures for the film industry. We work remote and online a lot and sorely miss the personal contact with the film crews as well as physical festivals or markets and the international projects. But we hope for positive development once the vaccinating has started. Our film commission used the summer to produce new location spots and work on our online guides and online marketing. Film Commissioner Christiane Dopp further developed our green film protocols and offers sound knowledge and consulting in the field.”

Are you interested in filming in Hamburg and Schleswig-Holstein?

The European Film Commissions Network is a non-profit association that supports and promotes the European film industry and culture. It currently represents 98 European film commissions and film institutions from 31 different countries.