A Portrait of sales company Beta Cinema

The Home For Emotions

“How time flies – it doesn’t seem possible that we’ll be celebrating our 25th anniversary in a couple of years!,” says Dirk Schürhoff, CEO of the world sales and co-financing company Beta Cinema which was launched in 2001 with Hans-Christian Schmid’s CRAZY as the first title in its sales catalogue.

Over more than two decades, the Munich-based company as a subsidiary of Jan Mojto’s European media group Beta Film has handled the international sales of films as diverse as Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s Oscar-winner THE LIVES OF OTHERS and Paolo Sorrentino’s IL DIVO.

“We’re relatively agnostic as far as genres are concerned,” Tassilo Hallbauer, Head of Sales and Acquisitions, explains. “Our focus is on arthouse with substance as opposed to really hardcore festival titles and what we’re looking for are accessible, audience-friendly crossover titles.”

“When we are deciding on whether to take on a film, that decision is always based on whether the story appeals to us and we believe that it will catch on internationally and find an international audience,” Thorsten Ritter, EVP Acquisitions, Sales and Marketing, adds.

“We’ve often been offered projects where the filmmakers clearly identify with their subject matter, but the story itself wasn’t gripping or out of the ordinary. We are always looking for something that stands out from the rest, what are the hooks and the project’s unique selling point.”

“I’M YOUR MAN was a prime example of the kind of film we look for,” Thorsten says. “It was innovative, fresh, had elements of a screwball comedy, unbelievably fast paced, intelligent and profound, but never self-indulgent. In fact, It had all those ingredients that constitute what cinema is all about.”

“We are also driven by emotions when looking for new titles for our line-up,” Dirk explains. “We call Beta Cinema ‘The Home For Great Stories’, but you could also say that it’s ‘The Home For Emotions’.”

“The minute we react emotionally to a story at script stage or as a rough cut, there is a good chance that this emotional core will also be understood on an international level,” he explains.

The last few years have seen Beta Cinema cast its net wider in the search for quality feature films combining great stories, commercial viability and artistic integrity.

There are now three strands to the company’s acquisition activities: the first one focuses on films from German filmmakers and the second on titles from other European countries such as Italy, Scandinavia and The Netherlands, while a third strand is dedicated to English-language cinema.

Beta’s recent German titles have included films as multifarious as Nora Fingscheidt’s SYSTEM CRASHER, Andreas Dresen’s FROM HILDE, WITH LOVE, and now Fatih Akin‘s AMRUM which began shooting this April, while its European cinema strand has featured such titles as Icelandic director Benedikt Erlingsson’s WOMAN AT WAR or this year‘s Berlinale entry ARCADIA from Greek filmmaker Yorgos Zois.

“We had already started looking at handling English language projects when Thorsten brought THE HAPPY PRINCE to Beta Cinema,” recalls Tassilo who has now been based in London for the past five years.

“Germany and the UK have very different systems as far as financing and the role of sales agents are concerned. It was quite a learning experience to begin with, but we now have built up a network of contacts with producers there for UK content.”

Among the projects benefiting from this particular “UK connection” are Jessica Hobbs’ THE OFFING, starring Helena Bonham Carter, Morgan Matthews’s Bill Nighy road movie 500 MILES and Nick Hamm’s big budget period epic WILLIAM TELL with a cast led by Claes Bang and Golshifteh Farahani.

In addition, being part of the Beta Film Group with its holdings in some 30 production companies throughout Europe gives Beta Cinema privileged access to a greater number of potentially interesting projects. “This is how we came to take on films like Tom Tykwer’s THE LIGHT and Per Fly’s HAMMARSKJÖLD – FIGHT FOR PEACE,” Dirk explains.

Martin Blaney