VIP's Schmid reconnecting at Berlinale

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BERLIN -- The rehabilitation of Andreas Schmid, former head of German film fund VIP, has officially begun.

The one-time financier, who has spent the past two years in a Munich jail and was sentenced in December to six years in prison for tax evasion, is out on bail and showing his face at the Berlin International Film Festival.

"I put on a few pounds (in jail), but otherwise I'm fine," Schmid told The Hollywood Reporter. "We are expecting (the court's) written judgment in the next 2-3 weeks and then we will have four weeks to submit our appeal. We expect a final ruling by November or December at the earliest."

Until then, Schmid is quietly working to smooth ruffled feathers at VIP, talking in an unofficial capacity to the VIP board and shareholders.

"Things just need to calm down a bit so we can move forward, before it becomes impossible," Schmid said. "I think the focus should be clearly on distribution, exploiting the rights to the (40 odd) films in our library and not on investing in new, big productions."

VIP is currently locked in a legal battle with London financier Brass Hat Films over a deal set up by Dirk Specht, Schmid's successor as VIP head, which would see Brass Hat take the cash remaining in VIP's last fund, VIP 4, to use for its own projects.

Schmid said the bulk of his energy at the moment is taken up in dealing with his appeal and with the flood of civil suits from VIP shareholders.

Whatever the outcome of the criminal and civil cases, Schmid said he has no plans to return to his high-flying days as one of Germany's top film financiers.

"I would like to continue working in the business in some capacity, I think I have learned a few things (in my time with VIP)," Schmid said. "But the most important thing now is to spend time with my family, which I had neglected before."
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