Q&A: NRW Film Board's Petra Muller
New honcho discusses plans for region's media makeoverWhen Petra Muller went to Berlin in 2004 to run the state's Medienboard, the German capital was broke and Studio Babelsberg was a ghost town. When she left to join the Filmstiftung NRW this month, Berlin was the creative capital of Germany, home to virtually every Teutonic talent of note and the favorite home-away-from-home for A-listers like Joel Silver and Quentin Tarantino. Muller is hoping to work a similar turnaround in NRW. THR's German bureau chief Scott Roxborough spoke with Muller about her plan to rebrand the region -- best known for its television production -- into Germany's No. 1 media location.
The Hollywood Reporter: As head of the Medienboard, you helped turn Berlin into the hottest media city in Germany. How'd you do it?
Petra Muller: There was a structural secret to the success, which was to have everything that deals with film and media questions go through one centralized body -- the Medienboard. The core was subsidies and film but we went beyond to look at new digital media and build networks. We also increased funding. In the first year, we added €3 million ($4 million) to our budget. We started with a budget of €22 million ($28 million) and when I left it stood at €30 million ($39 million). That's not bad. Everyone else was cutting but we got more money.
THR: What concrete changes do you have in mind?
Muller: First we want to transform the Film Board into something closer to a Media Board. That means centralizing all aspects that have to do with government support of the media so it's all coming from one place. One focus I want to have is one new media. We have an interesting games cluster here -- with the German affiliates of Ubisoft, Electronic Arts and Microsoft based in NRW. We shouldn't ignore that. The old Filmstiftung NRW didn't see that as their remit but I see the whole thing as a content continuum. It's not about playing one area -- film or TV -- against another, games, Internet or mobile.
THR: Does NRW need a brand makeover?
Muller: Well, Berlin's image was poor but sexy, very hip.
I think we helped create that "brand" which attracted a lot of creative people to the city. NRW has an enormous and lively media landscape. There are a lot of creative people here and there's a real interaction between art, media and culture. There's certainly a lot to show off. ... Berlin is said to be 'poor but sexy.' NRW has got the infrastructure, the money and the creative talent. What's missing is maybe a little sex appeal.