held on May 3 - 9, 1997 in Jurmala, Latvia
European Documentary Film Symposiums Riga, 1999
Werner Dütsch
The Public Television System in Germany
Including ARTE, 3sat and PHOENIX
Please, let me reduce my information strictly to documentaries on German TV, otherwise it would be too complicated. There is a very paradoxical situation. On one hand there have never been so much documentaries on German TV like in the last years. At the same time it is more and more complicated to make documentaries because of the money, the fund raising, and the complications between filmmakers, television and producers. I don't have to talk about private TV, that is not important for documentaries. There was only one station that started showing documentaries. The station engaged the commissioning editor only for documentaries, he bought two films and then he was fired.

We have two national channels and on both we have documentaries. Then we have especially the third channels which are regional channels, but don't misunderstand it, actually they are no longer regional because they all are on satellite: you can see them everywhere, but they still call themselves regional channels. In these channels you have nearly at every station a programme, they call themselves documentary programmes, where you can watch a lot of documentaries, both German and international films. It's a very mixed programme: shorts, feature length documentaries, there are also retrospectives of documentary filmmakers, there are classics - you can see every kind of documentaries.

Besides these three public systems since a few years we have the French - German channel ARTE. It was a big step in the production of documentaries because every week they have a feature length documentary besides programmes of 30-60 minutes. This is a co-production between the German TV station, German broadcasters and French company "La Sept".

The documentaries you are going to see on German TV are both produced and co-produced. I am not talking about the normal TV business, I am talking really about the documentaries we can call creative, from certain handwriting done by individual filmmakers. I work around on 30 documentaries a year and the problem is that we don't have the money for these programmes and that's where the trouble starts because what I can spend on one documentary is normally 10% or 20% of the budget. When the project comes to the table the fund raising starts. And we have a lot of foundation money in Germany, in different regions because of the federal structure of Germany. But this is wasting of time. There is also a lot of money in European market, co-producers in other countries and money from Brussels. But this is again wasting of time. So, let me give an example. In the moment I am involved in the project which needs a very high budget because of the technical reason and it is still going on since three years we cannot get this budget together. In the meantime we have five co-producers and you can imagine what it means to have five co-producers in different countries. It means everybody is going not to trust the others and starts prominently complain about it. After a while you don't know where is the money. So, we have the situation when a lot of unexpected things may happen, and it is a very complicated process to get everything together: the producers, the filmmakers and the TV stations.

Nowadays because of the media programmes and the media circles with all these conferences and symposiums and with heaps of paper there is a lot of information on documentaries. You know nearly everything about documentaries in Europe but often you are not really interested in such information. At the same time this market attracts a lot of people, a lot of filmmakers and a lot of producers. So, in the meantime to have one film in the programme, for us means forty times to say "no" to projects, to finished films. In the meantime the market is overcrowded and not only in Germany. Such situation exists all over the Europe and there are also projects from the United States, from Japan. So, there have never been so many documentaries on TV. The amount of filmmakers and producers worldwide is really unbelievable. The only help to come through it is to have a bad taste and small money.

In a few words that's what I am working on. Maybe you still have no clear idea of what is coming up to you in your way to the common market. So, there is a lot of problems, it's not a holiday to work in this realm, but it gives also big chances to produce documentaries, even expensive ones. Thank you.
Question: Can't you say that the programmes are fewer in the last years?

Werner Dütsch: I am surprised to hear this because in my station, BDR in Köln there is a colleague who works for 3sat and he permanently asks me to get a permission to have films for free on 3sat. The films on 3sat are not a big help for producers and filmmakers because normally there is no additional money for 3sat involved. If you are going to do a contract for a documentary in Germany, Austria or Switzerland, normally you give a right to copy it for 3sat. But it doesn't bring money for producers and filmmakers.
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