DOKLeipzig 2014/ 2/ Claas Danielsen

In his opening speech to the audience of DOKLeipzig Monday the 27th, departing festival director Claas Danielsen reflected on ”freedom” and gave good advice to the public broadcasters! I have copy pasted some sequences of the speech, the whole one can be read on the site, link below:

… One of the things that make it so rewarding for me to work with documentary and animated films is that in these genres there was always a great freedom to experiment and tell extraordinary stories in a very individual way. These films are free and resist censorship, predictability and formatting. Which latter point makes them such an unwieldy commodity for television.

Many documentary filmmakers rate their intellectual and creative freedom higher than their profit. They are often passionate people who act out of conviction. And yet: making a good documentary film today, from research to concept development to the protracted financing process up to the shooting and the long post-production period takes two or three years. A filmmaker can’t really work on more than two projects at the same time. The average author’s and director’s pay for a feature-length documentary in Germany is about 30,000 Euros. That’s not enough to support a

family. The real incomes of filmmakers have dropped dramatically over the past 20 years. It’s imperative that this change.

What really shocked me was the marked increase in submissions in whose final credits no television broadcaster is named as co-financer. Some films are completely independent productions. Cheap, good quality cameras and editing systems you can use on your laptop at home make this possible today. Filmmakers who work this way have great intellectual freedom. The price they pay is extreme self-exploitation and no chance of re-financing. Many only realise that they have reached a dead end when they come to the stage where professional post-production is needed to exploit the film properly.

I know that public television in Germany is facing great challenges: stagnant incomes, high digitisation costs, an aging audience, profound restructuring processes and a crushing pensions burden. So in spite of the billions we pay in licence fees every year, after many fat years the order of the day is austerity. A very dangerous situation, especially if its consequence should be that the programmes are bled dry.

Fortunately, I have good news: the documentary film industry can help the public broadcasters in this difficult situation! There are so many good films, as our Festival programme proves, that ARD, ZDF and the other public broadcasters could all fill a weekly documentary slot with them. The eternal grumblers and detractors who accuse the broadcasters of not fulfilling their programme mission will be struck dumb in view of their great variety and high quality. And the best thing about it is: you will save money! Documentary films are cheap and you can even schedule successful re-runs in ten years!…

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Tue Steen Müller
Tue Steen Müller

Müller, Tue Steen
Documentary Consultant and Critic, DENMARK

Worked with documentary films for more than 20 years at the Danish Film Board, as press officer, festival representative and film consultant/commissioner. Co-founder of Balticum Film and TV Festival, Filmkontakt Nord, Documentary of the EU and EDN (European Documentary Network).
Awards: 2004 the Danish Roos Prize for his contribution to the Danish and European documentary culture. 2006 an award for promoting Portuguese documentaries. 2014 he received the EDN Award “for an outstanding contribution to the development of the European documentary culture”. 2016 The Cross of the Knight of the Order for Merits to Lithuania. 2019 a Big Stamp at the 15th edition of ZagrebDox. 2021 receipt of the highest state decoration, Order of the Three Stars, Fourth Class, for the significant contribution to the development and promotion of Latvian documentary cinema outside Latvia. In 2022 he received an honorary award at DocsBarcelona’s 25th edition having served as organizer and programmer since the start of the festival.
From 1996 until 2005 he was the first director of EDN (European Documentary Network). From 2006 a freelance consultant and teacher in workshops like Ex Oriente, DocsBarcelona, Archidoc, Documentary Campus, Storydoc, Baltic Sea Forum, Black Sea DocStories, Caucadoc, CinéDOC Tbilisi, Docudays Kiev, Dealing With the Past Sarajevo FF as well as programme consultant for the festivals Magnificent7 in Belgrade, DOCSBarcelona, Verzio Budapest, Message2Man in St. Petersburg and DOKLeipzig. Teaches at the Zelig Documentary School in Bolzano Italy.

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