An interesting new FFHH forum this year, “Book Meets Film,” was presented to a packed audience at the lovely Literaturhaus Café on Schwanenwik facing the Alster.
Six publishing houses each presented one book, written for young adults and older, for possible film adaptation. These choices had been studied earlier by a panel from the film industry including Heike Wiehle from Relevant Films and Sebastian Andrae from the Verband Deutscher Drehbuchautoren (Organization of German Scriptwriters). The panel members then gave their individual assessments on the adaptability of the book after each presentation. Audience participation was encouraged, and all was moderated by radio journalist Dr. Jens Buchsensmann.
Below are my observations of the last four presentations:
Hoffman und Kampe publishers, who usually look for material from northern Germany/Europe, chose a 2009 work by famed author Irina Korschunow, Langsamer Abschied (A Slow Farewell) about a married, busy, professional couple Nora and Pierre. Pierre particularly wants to have a child. Nora discovers Pierre made someone else pregnant. They argue. He walks off angrily then has an accident leaving him permanently disabled, needing care for the rest of his life. And Nora becomes the caregiver, full of pain and guilt for parting in anger. Can she love again?
The panel unanimously felt this story was best for a TV film, rather than for a wider audience. However it was a sad story and would be considered a drama. In the German TV film market, a drama is difficult to get produced.
Carlsen publishers was represented by both Klaus Voormann and Daniela Steiner, who presented the 2008 Mücke im März (Mücke in March) by the first-time authoress, 29-year-old actress Veronika Rotfuß. It is a highly observed and finely detailed account of the life of Mücke, a 15 year old, who lives in Hamburg with her younger brother and parents. Mücke must now take responsibility for her 57-year-old mother who has dementia.
The panel said this could not be considered “family entertainment,” a popular category for TV films, because it would need to lighter in tone. Producers could call it a “coming of age film,” but the whole theme of Mücke in March leans more towards realism, and, for children’s TV films that is a very small market.
Mareverlag a publisher of northern German authors located in Hamburg’s Speicherstadt, presented the novel Schneetage (Snowdays) by first-time author Jan Christophersen of Flensburg. His story mainly covered the 1978-79 great north German snow storm catastrophe, including an angel's visit to a hospital and New Years Eve.
Panelist Heike Wiehle said the main problem would be that films about a snow catastrophe would be hard to make. Also the story starts after World War II, which was considered too wide a time frame for a TV film. It was suggested that ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen), as the biggest producer of films, may have historical footage. However, the book was considered to be too literary and quiet for a TV film.
Rowohlt publishers was represented by Michael Triteberg, who said that Rowohlt also produced the screenplays for five of the twelve made-for-TV films in this year’s FFHH. They discussed a true story involving going to Rostock, Westgeld (West German money before 2003) and horror.
Panelist Sebastian Andrae said the seven-year-long story situated in the DDR would be very difficult for a screenplay, although the book is interesting. Panelist Heike Wiehle said the waves on the Baltic do not interest her, and the Berlin Wall is no longer standing and cannot be filmed.
A panelist quoted Alfred Hitchcock, “The more inferior the book, the better the film.”