Berlin: eOne's Benjamina Mirnik-Voges on Finding "Quality" Films, Arrival of #MeToo in Germany
The head of the company's newly opened Munich office also discusses why she joined the Canadian powerhouse and the challenges of launching an indie distributor in Germany.
Germany is the latest beachhead in Entertainment One’s plans for world domination. After setting up distribution outposts in the U.K., Australia, Spain and Benelux, the Canada-based media group launched in Germany this year, hiring veteran producer and film exec Benjamina Mirnik- Voges to run an operation that will cover the exploitation chain from theatrical to online. The former acquisitions head at German mini-major Universum, whose production credits include Samuel Maoz’s Venice Golden Lion winner Lebanon, will handle distribution of eOne titles in Germany — starting with Jose Padilha’s 7 Days in Entebbe, starring Rosamund Pike and Daniel Bruhl, which premieres in Berlin — as well as coordinate acquisitions with eOne’s international team and buy local titles. “It’s a perfect fit for me,” says the married mother of two, who boasts a law degree and an MBA alongside her decades of film industry experience. With eOne Germany, she finally has a chance to put all her skills to work.
You’ve been head of film acquisitions and co-productions at Universum since 2007. What made you want to jump ship to set up a whole new operation under eOne?
Joining eOne is just a fantastic opportunity to work with one of the leading content studio providers and to really build a business from the ground up. To use all my years of experience and the knowledge I’ve acquired, it was really an opportunity I couldn’t refuse.
How many films do you want to release in Germany per year?
We are looking to have a slate of 10 to 15 films per year, from year three onward. Most of them we are looking to get from our eOne partnerships. Germany may not be part of the eOne output deals, but we benefit from eOne’s financial connections to The Mark Gordon Company (which eOne owns), Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Partners (in which eOne has a minority stake) and Brad Weston’s Makeready Productions (of which eOne is a financial backer). That gives us preferential access, for our territories, to their productions. I’m also going to be looking for product locally in Germany and looking to the markets to acquire films, but the bulk of our German slate is likely going to come from our existing partnerships.
What is the biggest challenge of launching an indie distributor in Germany right now?
It’s a tricky market, no doubt about it. And for a major with existing deals that can promise exhibitors a large number of high-performing titles, it’s easier. But eOne has a broad spectrum of capabilities. We just announced a distribution partnership with Fox, who will do our booking and billing in Germany. I’m confident we’ll be able to get the screens we need to get our films seen.
What sort of movies are you looking for?
We’re looking for quality filmmaking with commercial appeal. That’s what eOne stands for internationally. For award-winning films like Spotlight or 12 Years a Slave or the Hunger Games franchise. I’d say prestige titles, but I’m wary of the word “prestige.” They could be titles that win awards, but essentially I’m talking about quality films from great directors with great subject matters.
Are there underserved audiences in Germany you are looking to tap into?
I don’t know about underserved, but I believe one opportunity could be to reach an older target group, with a film like Finding Your Feet [a British comedy with Timothy Spall and Joanna Lumley]. I also feel that a more sophisticated urban target group in Germany is looking for high-quality films.... We are looking at all target audiences, but a lot of the films on our slate tilt slightly older and more intellectual.
Will you be buying films together with eOne’s other territories as a way to counter the strength of buyers like Netflix?
We have multi-territory relationships so we can leverage a number of territories. Now that doesn’t help if a studio swoops and buys the whole world or if Netflix or Amazon buys the whole world. What makes us stronger is that we have production partners and that we’re quick and nimble, entrepreneurial. We’re involved in everything from production and financing to development. We hear about projects at the earliest stage and we can move fast. That gives us an advantage.
The #MeToo movement has reached Germany, with abuse allegations against German director Dieter Wedel. What’s your take on the impact of the movement on the industry here?
I’m really happy this is coming to Germany as well — it’s great for everyone in the business. And the Dieter Wedel revelations show we aren’t immune, that people who have great power in an industry abuse that power. I’m all for measures to prevent this in the future. I’m grateful that, personally, I’ve never experienced anything in this regard, but I guess I’m one of the lucky ones. What we have to do is pay attention and give women a voice. To make sure things change in the future.
This story first appeared in The Hollywood Reporter's Feb. 15 daily issue at the Berlin Film Festival.