Leader visits seeking watch on the Rhine

German pol in L.A. to tout production

COLOGNE, Germany -- One of Germany's most powerful politicians, Jurgen Ruttgers, is in Los Angeles for meetings with the studios and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to promote his state as a production location.

Ruttgers is premier of North-Rhine Westphalia, Germany's most populous state and home to some of the country's biggest media firms, including European giant Bertelsmann and the continent's No. 1 broadcaster, RTL Television.

NRW also boasts the most generous of Germany's regional film subsidy funds, the Filmstiftung NRW, which doles out about $50 million annually in production financing.

But recently, the state has been losing out to Berlin and nearby Studio Babelsberg on big-budget shoots. Such high-profile productions as "Valkyrie," "Speed Racer" and "The International" all chose Studio Babelsberg, pouring cash into the regional economy there.

Ruttgers has brought along some of his state's media heavyweights, including Filmstiftung NRW head Michael Schmidt-Ospach and Ralf Schmitz, CEO of MMC Studios, Germany's largest production facilities.

Together, they hope to convince U.S. producers that NRW is the place to do business in Germany.

"In Cologne, we have Germany's largest film studio, Europe's biggest TV broadcaster and ambitious financing partners open for new cooperations and co-productions with American partners," Ruttgers said told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of his visit. "Our doors are wide open."

Once Germany's industrial heartland, home to mining towns and smelting factories, the state of NRW has remade itself into a high-tech and media haven. More than a third of all German productions -- film and TV -- are shot here.

While NRW can point to few big U.S. shoots, Stephen Daldry's "The Reader," starring Kate Winslet and Ralph Fiennes, recently announced plans to shoot the bulk of its production at MMC in Cologne.

By beating the drum for his state in Los Angeles, Ruttgers hopes to convince more of Hollywood to give Babelsberg a miss and land their overseas productions in NRW.
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