SchspIN

An Actress's Thoughts

5. October 2020
by SchspIN
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WIFT Germany & SchspIN on Top Cop Drama. Part 4: Cinematographers

Exclusively for WIFT Germany, I’m looking at the list of the 50 Episodes for the Summer Vote (see ARD website) for the 50th anniversary of this Sunday evening crime series with the film women’s magnifying glass. The texts were first published via the social channels of WIFT Germany on Instagram and Facebook, then in more detail here.

TATORT Cinematography – The Missing Female Gaze

Does it make a difference if a man or a woman is cinematographer of a cop drama? Is the female or male gaze created via the camera lens? And who decides who gets hired for this position?

The first two questions can be answered with yes and yes respectively. The third answer is not so easy, sometimes the director has to choose from a list of suggestions, sometimes they may bring someone along and sometimes someone is predetermined. It is easier to say who is looking through the TATORT lenses, these are mostly men. That may not be so surprising, given the fact that 75% of camera graduates at film schools are men, but something else is.

Let’s take the 50 TATORT (Crime Scene, German top cop drama) episodes up for this year‘s summer vote. Scenes, here we only find three camerawomen, that’s 6% of all DoP’s: Christine A. Maier (BOROWSKI UND DAS MEER and ANGEZÄHLT) and Birgit Gudjonsdottir (FRÜHSTÜCK FÜR IMMER). They get to share a small piece of the birthday cake, – and they all worked in films directed by women (Sabine Derflinger twice and Claudia Garde once). The fourth female director, Christine Hartmann (TODESBRÜCKE) and the 46 male directors all had men behind the camera.

Don‘t men want to work with camerawomen or are they simply somehow unable to? Or is it just a problem of films with high ratings? For comparison let’s look at other episodes of the TATORT series to get further insight: Continue Reading →

8. September 2020
by SchspIN
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WIFT Germany & SchspIN on Top Cop Drama. Part 3: Writers

Exclusively for WIFT Germany, I’m looking at the list of the 50 Episodes for the Summer Vote (see ARD website) for the 50th anniversary of this Sunday evening crime series with the film women’s magnifying glass. The texts were first published via the social channels of WIFT Germany on Instagram and Facebook, then in more detail here.

TATORT Script Writing – Piece of cake for Everyone?

50 TATORT Episodes up for the Summer Vote

Of all writers of the 50 TATORT crime scene episodes up for the summer vote, the female script writers make up 15.2 %, that is two pieces of cake, one regular and one slightly smaller. 5 TATORTs were written by women: TODESBRÜCKE by Frauke Hunfeld (Berlin 2005), IM TOTEN WINKEL by Katrin Bühlig (Bremen 2018), DER FALL REINHARDT by Dagmar Gabler (Cologne 2014), FRÜHSTÜCK FÜR IMMER also by Katrin Bühlig (Leipzig 2014) and VERSCHLEPPT by Khyana el Bitar and Dörte Franke (Saarland 2012). In addition, four more episodes were created by woman-man writing duos. The remaining 41 films were all written by men. That means that the absolute majority of the stories, the episode characters, the dialogues were invented by men alone.

 

This is not a phenomenon however that only affects the Summer Vote Episodes of TATORT, the ones with the highest ratings from the last 20 years. The TATORT scripts 2011 to 2019 show a similar picture with an average of 14.9 % female writers only. This striking imbalance brought female screenwriters to the plan in the spring of 2019, when they founded the Tatort: Drehbuch initiative (Crime Scene: Scripts) and adressed the ARD stations in an open letter. There, they demanded a cross-format screenplay quota of 50/50 by 2021, and announced the initiation of a round table for a joint action plan 2019 to 2021. (see also Why Aren’t You Working with Female Scriptwriters?). The answer they got was that only artistic quality would be decided upon and creativity could not be put under a quota – but that does not really explain the enormous discrepancy between female and male writers in numbers. In November 2019, they wrote another open letter (in German), which unfortunately has not received much response so far.

For Comparison: The TATORTs 2011 – 19

The next figure shows the shares of women and men for the TATORTs 2011 to 19, and in the last column for the first half of 2020. The lowest value for female screenwriters – 5.5 % – has only just been eached in 2018 – i.e. after the efforts to get more female directors in the TATORTs were in full swing. The lowest value for male screenwriters – 71.7 % – is for 2016. Just to remind you: at film schools, an average of 48 % women and 52 % men graduate in screenwriting. But somehow the women aren‘t really allowed to have a go at the TATORTs, Germany’s top TV cop drama.

Prospects

As for 2020 and the TATORTs of the first six months, with their female directors‘ quota of 47.6 %: well, as far as screenwriting goes it remains a men’s club. Female writers were only involved in male-female-teams in five out of 21 TATORTs, not a single one of these cop dramas was written by a woman or two women. With a male rate of 81.5 %, it is difficult to reconognize any determination to do more towards change, equal opportunities and narrative diversity.

The last figure in this text depicts the female shares for directing and scriptwriting. From 2011 to 2016, the percentage of female screenwriters is higher than that of female directors. We can also see that from the moment the public‘s and broadcasters‘ focus was put on directing, with a women’s quota being called for and discussed, and public broadcaster‘s production company Degeto started setting its own targets, this ratio reversed. From 2017 to the present day, the share of women for scriptwriting is very distinctly below that for directing. For the first half of 2020, the difference is almost 30 percentage points. This is not a good development because it should not be about either – or, but about as well as.

In the 51st year of TATORTs we definitely and finally need more stories told by women. We need a change of perspective. And a quota or target only for one trade – usually directing – is not enough to get diverse stories that reflect our diverse society. I like to leave the final word to the Tatort: Drehbuch female screenwriters:

The authority of interpretation must not be exclusively in the hands of our male colleagues. Women are not a minority, but public broadcasting makes them one.

28. August 2020
by SchspIN
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WIFT Germany & SchspIN on Top Cop Drama. Part 2: Directors

Exclusively for WIFT Germany, I’m looking at the list of the 50 Episodes for the Summer Vote (see ARD website) for the 50th anniversary of this Sunday evening crime series with the film women’s magnifying glass. The texts were first published via the social channels of WIFT Germany on Instagram and Facebook, then in more detail here.

Focus on Directing

The Summer Vote TATORTs

The female directors of the 50 Wunsch-TATORTs with a share of 8 % only get a small piece as a share of the 12-piece birthday cake. Only four TATORTs were not directed by men: TODESBRÜCKE (Berlin 2005) – directed by Christine Hartmann, ANGEZÄHLT (Vienna 2013) – directed by Sabine Derflinger, BOROWSKI UND DAS MEER (Kiel 2014) – also directed by Sabine Derflinger and FRÜHSTÜCK FÜR IMMER (Leipzig 2014) – directed by Claudia Garde.

For Comparison: The TATORTs 2011 – 19

A look at my nine years of TATORT evaluations shows that the average share of female directors in 2011 – 15 is similarly low with 8.7% female directors. After that, however, a tentative upward trend can be seen. The average value for 2016 – 19 is 17 %. This was preceded in 2014 by the First Diversity Report by the BVR Bundesverband Regie German Directors’ Association for 2010-13 and the founding of Pro Quote Regie / Pro Quota Directing (plus the start of my analyses, the blog SchspIN was launched in 2013).

As a reaction to the model of a quota in three stages – 30 % in 3 years, 42 % in 5 years, 50 % in 10 years – which Pro Quote Regie advocated with emphasis and sound arguments, the ARD subsidiary Degeto Film GmbH committed to increasing the share of female directors in its productions to 20 % for an initial period of three years as of August 1, 2015. The 20 % mark was narrowly missed in 2018 and 2019. The first half of 2020 leaves room for hope, with a female director share of 47.6 % for 10 of 21 TATORTs.  

There you go!!!” comments WIFT Germany board member Cornelia Köhler.

Age and Experience of Female Directors

21 films are not a large data base, but a look at directors‘ age is quite interesting nonetheless as the following figure shows. This is similar to the age of actresses and actors in main casts: women are younger. So maybe not only the working years of actresses are significantly shorter than those of their male colleagues, but also those of women behind the camera. But this requires further and thorough research.

Today‘s last figure shows the number of TATORTs that each director of the first half of 2020 has aloready worked on. What do we see? No female director, no matter how old, did more than two TATORS. For the men we find four with more than two films in the TATORT series. At the top of the list we have Torsten C. Fischer and Jobst Christian Oetzmann with 12 and 9 respectively.

The Audience

To end with another quota, the audience ratings: Nina Wolfrum had the most viewers in the first half of 2020 with NIEMALS OHNE MICH. Friederike Jehn followed in 3rd place – as the female first director in 25 episodes of Stuttgart-TATORT – with DU ALLEIN. And on 6th place it‘s Petra K. Wagner with DIE GUTEN UND DIE BÖSEN, for which she won the special prize for directing at the German TV Crime Movies Festival 2020 in Wiesbaden. In 2nd, 4th and 5th place there are the TATORTs directed by Felix Herzogenrath (KEIN MITLEID, KEINE GNADE), Christian Theede (DAS FLEIßIGE LIESCHEN) and Christopher Schier (LASS DEN MOND AM HIMMEL STEHEN). (Source for the audience ratings: Prisma 6/24/20.)

The audience seems to get along fine with 50:50.

What’s happening next?

In the third episode we take a look at the authors of the 50 Wunsch-TATORTs.

17. August 2020
by SchspIN
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WIFT Germany & SchspIN on 50th Birthday of Top Cop Drama. Part 1

WIFT Germany & SchspIN

It is with great pleasure that I can report that the German chapter of Women in Film and Television, WIFT Germany has made me an honorary member. Many thanks for this great honour!

I have been in contact with WIFT Germany and WIFT UK on various projects for years. I think the first time was six years ago in January 2014, when a panel discussion on “Who plays a role in German television? The image of women between television reality and reality”, organized by WIFT Germany. I was also a panelist, delivering figures and thoughts from my blog. (read more in the old article Women’s Patience is Men’s Power).

From the current WIFTG newsletter / Aug. 11.:

Belinde Ruth Stieve is our new WIFT Honorary Member

The actress and expert for gender issues in film and TV has been writing about the situation of women in the industry for many years in her blog “SchpIN – An Actress’s Thoughts”. We look forward to her contributions to the 50th anniversary of the German cult police drama “Tatort” (crime scene), where we see many female corpses but few female filmmakers.

Belinde Ruth Stieve - new honorary member of WIFT Germany

Indeed, exclusively for WIFT Germany, I am currently investigating a list of 50 films, i.e. 90-min episodes of TATORT / CRIME SCENE, through the film women‘s looking glass. This list is a pool of films for the public to vote their favourite ones from, and the ones with the most votes are broadcast over a number of sundays during the show‘s summer break. These texts will first be published on WIFT Germany‘s social media channels (Instagram and Facebook), and after that in greater detail here on my blog SchspIN – An Actress’s Thoughts.

Partytime at the TATORT

The TATORT series is very popular with German-speaking audiences in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. And also with filmmakers, because a TATORT job is very good for the CV; and on top of that, in many positions in front of and behind the camera you can earn considerably more than in other German 90-minute television film productions.

In 2020 the TATORT will be 50 years old, and for this occasion the ARD has organized a “Wunschtatortvoting” for the summer break, where they don‘t broadcast new cases – there are on average about 35 TV premieres every year. The 50 most popular episodes of the past 50 years were up for voting. No. Not true, they were from 1999 to 2019 only, so from 20 years. And it weren‘t the overall 50 most popular film – that is to say, the ones with the highest overall so-called TV ratings – but the most popular from 23 regions, so that all regional broadcasters are happy and that all fans of certain cop teams or cities can be happy as well.

For the German public broadcaster ARD, the team positions director, author, director of photography and composer seem to be the most important – that‘s what I‘m guessing at least, since for these positions they publish the filmmakers on the TATORT website. So let’s take a closer look.

50 TATORTs, great! I wonder how many women were employed and for which jobs? The empirical analysis won’t even be that difficult, because in only 12 of these 50 TATORTs there was a female participation in at least one of the four departments. We are celebrating the 50th TATORT birthday, translated into a cake – which is classically divided into 12 pieces – the film women get 3 pieces. Hmmmm!

Not surprisingly, there is no TATORT with women in all four positions. One episode from Leipzig, FRÜHSTÜCK FÜR IMMER, had a female director (Claudia Garde), a female scriptwriter (Katrin Bühlig) and a female camerawoman (Birgit Gudjonsdottir), i.e. three departments; and four TATORTs had females in two departments each.
So we‘ve baked a second 12-pieces cake, and offered it to all filmmakers in the four trades for the Wunsch-TATORTs. Of this cake the 19 female directors, screenwriters, DoP‘s and composers can share one delicious piece. The 211 men get the rest. Bon appetit!

By the way, out of the twenty-three TATORT locations, only two – Bremen and Saarland – had female involvement in one of the four departments in their two episodes; namely as scriptwriters alone or as part of a mixed team.

Comparing the Wunsch-TATORTs with the films from 2011-19

I have been investigating TATORTs several times in the past, for example all premieres over the period from 2011 to 2019. The most recent article – Once again: TV‘s Crime Scene TATORT – contains links to other articles.

Out of the 329 TATORTs 2011-19, I have identified those in which women were solely responsible for the top four trades. There are three TATORT locations – Hamburg (5), Erfurt (2) and Wiesbaden (7), that come up to four zeros here. Northern Germany (12) and Stuttgart (17) each have three zeros, meaning that in the period 2011-19 there were only one female filmmakers in one of the four departments. No cause for a party here.

What’s happening next?

In the second episode we take a look at the directors of the 50 Wunsch-TATORTE.

12. June 2020
by SchspIN
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Carpe Temporem – Seize the Time!

The Film Industry in Corona-Standstill

For weeks and months we‘ve had the – now fading – corona alarm and corona standstill, or whatever this phase will be called in retrospect. The film and television industry paused for a long time and was held in some kind of waiting mode, even more actors and actresses than usual were without work. Only a few productions continued shooting after a while, e.g. Dresden TATORT (“Rettung so nah”), early evening series like NOTRUF HAFENKANTE and telenovelas like STURM DER LIEBE and ROTE ROSEN. Gradually more productions are starting now, but still with the great uncertainty of how to protect the health of those involved and whether health really is a priority and with the task of having to rewrite scenes, and change of how many scenes have to be rewritten, how the staging and directorial ideas and concepts need to be changed in order to abide the new safety guidelines.

Seize the Time! Opportunities and Chances

It was and is of course completely ok to do nothing at all in this standstill except to go for a walk and eat chocolate. Or taking care of the family or just getting along with everyday life (to observe something as simple and sensible as distance rules seems to overtax or provoke many fellow men, which can lead to considerable stress).

The emergency break was used in different ways within the film industry. Distributors and production companies were waiting for new cinema release dates for their films or moved them to streaming platforms. Others were and still are in the starting blocks, ready to continue projects or finally get the go ahead for them. Casting directors familiarize themselves with lesser-known actors and view their material with more time than usual. Scriptwriters, editors and production companies can spend more time on material and reworking scripts in the extended pre-production period (how often are books rewritten after shooting has already started!) Filmmakers revise their material, actors produce new video clips (e.g. for the actions #wirspielenzusammen and #becreativeathome) or participate in one or more of the countless, mostly newly created online training courses and workshops.

In the film and television industry, for example when putting together production teams, (too) much is (too) done with vitamin B. How about vitamin N instead? Directors, producers and editors can find out how many film people they don’t know, especially how many competent film women there are, and discover them for possible future projects. There aren‘t any female DoP‘s, sound mixers or composers for film music? Oh yes there are.

Let’s Continue, but in a Different Way

We all hope that at some point in time the everyday life of film making will begin and be filmed again, often coupled with the justified wish that things will turn out differently than before. I, for example, wish for models like the 8-hour shooting day that has long been normal in Denmark and probably Norway, and as an actress and part of the audience, I wish for more courage for other faces and other stories. Just to name two wishes. (More on request!)

Interest groups and other organisations are developing ideas and launching online petitions and calls, partly for funding, partly for how it is produced, what, and with whom.

The disadvantage and related under-representation of women in film has been extensively investigated and proven; now changes, improvements, remedies, solutions are needed. In mid-May, Pro Quote Film launched the call “When the film world starts up again, then only with Quote! Maybe because there are currently even more petitions than usual. And even more newsletters, even more digital information. And Christian Drosten, who together with the science journalists Korinna Hennig and Anja Martini was nominated for the Grimme Online Award for the NDR – Der Coronavirus-Update Podcast; you have to check and vote for all the nominees. Perhaps also because appeals, no matter how justified and argumentatively well formulated they may be, usually lack the decisive lever for implementation.

Behind the camera, gender quotas make sense, although it’s one thing to do with concrete implementation. That’s why some time ago I brought into play the proposal #2v6pN Two of Six (plus NEROPA), to which every production could voluntarily commit itself, from now on at once. This would require no great effort, no additional money, no overall view of several productions or broadcast slots. Because it is created individually for each production. Of course, a six out of fifteen or whatever is also possible. And no, I do not think it makes sense at this stage to demand 50% of all Heads of Department for women. We can discuss this in more detail another time. Just this much: For #2v6 I have taken into account that only 25% trained camerawomen and only 11% sound engineers leave film schools (there are no real training figures for film composers), so not three out of six. But don’t worry, #2v6 in German film and television would already be a small revolution. As a reminder: 71 % of the Top 100 German cinema films in 2018 and 73 % of the TATORTE 2019 did not reach this level, there was one or no Head of Department in the trades direction, script, camera, sound, editing and music. TATORTE are financed with public money and the vast majority of cinema films have received money from some source – be it film funding or the participation of public broadcasters. Surely a linkage to basic constitutional values (e.g. to Article 3) could be incorporated into the assemblance of a film team.

Here, too, there is the possibility that an individual production may work with the method or that an editorial department or film funding body may make it obligatory to work with or apply NEROPA.

More Female Variety in Front of the Camera

A 50% quota for women’s roles can of course be a good demand, but the implementation is not as easy as it would be if the team positions were behind the camera.

That’s why I invented the NEROPA Neutral Role Parity method, which in the first step (NEROPA Check) reduces the usual male overweight in scripts in favour of female roles, so that we get more female age diversity and more female characters with a profession. And in the second step (NEROPA fine-tuning) the diversity of the character ensemble is expanded.

Of course directors and scriptwriters can also work wih the method!

photo of Eoin Moore and Anika Wangaard

Writing partnership Eoin Moore and Anika Wangaard

NEROPA is effective, colourful and fun.

Women and Other Minorities

sdflksd jfkl

20. March 2020
by SchspIN
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If I had the German “Order of Merit”….

Spatial isolation does not mean social isolation. There are sufficient serious media, professional associations, trade journals and blogs, individuals and many others who report sensibly and comprehensively on Corona / Covid-19, necessary precautions and help for those directly and indirectly affected. The Berlin Charité has developed the CovApp (in German and English), where you can “answer a catalogue of questions within minutes and receive specific recommendations for action“. Other than that: stay as healthy and calm as possible! Wash your hands (and the displays of your mobiles) and keep the 2 m. distance. Protect yourself and others, help where you can, reward yourself with the Coronavirus Reward Stickers from Gemma Correll and use this retreat stayathome time to read, for example my blog. Best regards, BRS

If I had the German “Order of Merit”….

… this would be the moment to return it.

On Friday, 6 March 2020, fourteen women and five men were awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany, the highest distinction of this country, by Monika Grütters, Minister of State for Culture and Media. The press release 77 of the Federal Government states:

“Shortly before International Women’s Day, many women will be honoured for their outstanding artistic intermediary work and women and men for their commitment to greater gender equality. Minister of State for Culture Grütters praised the 14 women and five men as “courageous fighters for fair opportunities and successful role models in helping women in culture and the media to achieve equality. With their commitment, they are all helping to ensure that great women in culture and media receive the appreciation they deserve.”

Grütters continues: Women are still underrepresented at the top of cultural institutions and media companies, in committees and on juries. Since the beginning of my term of office, I have therefore been committed to improving gender parity at all levels in culture and the media”

Bundesverdienstorden / Order of Merit, Germany

This news reached me even in far away in Hessen (I was a jury member at the German TV crime dramas festival, more about that next week), several colleagues, friends and acquaintances from the film industry texted and e-mailed me. The most frequently used words were, however:

Joke, Farce, Outrageousness, Fiddling, Punch in the Face

Basically it is true of course that awarding women and men for “exemplary commitment to fair opportunities” is a good thing. However, a glance at the list of awardees is doubly sobering. For one, important personalities were passed over, and on the other hand, because some men received the order who had not really stood up for gender equality and women‘s rights in their area.

So why these 19? That‘s not all that understandable as there is little information available. Stefan Mertsch, BKM employee, explained:

Beyond the press release, there are no individual texts on the order recipients available unfortunately. At the ceremony last Friday, Ms. Grütters paid tribute to all individually with very personal words, which she phrased as she spoke. Please understand that there are no transcripts available. The reasons for the distinctions, on the basis of which the Federal President decided to award the Order of Merit, are subject to confidentiality.

I find this secrecy and confidentiality business a bit strange, even problematic. If there are good reasons to honour these 19 people, then Frau Grütters should share them with us, to make the decision transparent and as additional informative for all (who may not know all the people on the list). It also prevents any possible suspicion that the awarding of awards is something like the awarding of supervisory board positions, with possibly a bit of fiddling taking place behind closed doors.

The award ceremony was for invited guests only. It was open to the press however, i.e. members of the press with a press card. Unfortunately there are no longer video recordings. You can find a short video summary on our Twitter account.
(Stefan Mertsch via mail)

I don’t know whether any of the media present asked or even questioned the list, I found nothing about this in the reports on 6.3. In fact in most cases they only quoted above mentioned press release, without any comment.

Who are the 19?

Here‘s the alphabetical list. I did a bit of research to supplement the sparse information from the press release:

  • Dr. Ingrid Bodsch, Austrian historian, director of the Stadtmuseum Bonn
  • Michael Brandner, actor, BFFS acting union‘s founding member
  • Prof. emerita Dr. Ewa Sabine Chojecka, Polish art historian, co-founder of the working group of German and Polish art historians and monument conservators
  • Dr. Maria Gazzetti, publicist and translator, director of the Casa die Goethe in Rome (Germany’s only museum abroad)
  • Sylke Gottlebe, Film Curator / Cultural Manager, Director Filmfest Dresden / Short Films
  • Prof. Ulrich Khuon, Dramaturg, Director of the German Theatre Berlin, President of the German Stage Association
  • Dr. Ursula Krechel, writer, lyricist, playwright
  • Prof. Jeanine Meerapfel, film director and scriptwriter, President of the German Academy of Arts
  • Prof. emerita Dr. Irmgard Merkt, music educator, initiator of Network Culture and Inclusion
  • Regine Möbius, Writer, Vice President German Cultural Council
  • Heinrich Schafmeister, actor, BFFS acting union‘s founding member
  • Dr. Ralf Schenk, film critic, journalist, film historian. 2004-19 Member of the selection committee for the Berlinale Competition, board of directors of the DEFA Foundation
  • Gabriele Schulz, Deputy Managing Director of the German Cultural Council, author of the study “Women in German Culture and Media“
  • Dr. Irmgard Sedler, museum scientist and ethnologist, 2003-18 Director of the Museum in the Kleihues Building, Kornwestheim
  • Dr. Charlotte Seither, composer, GEMA Supervisory Board, Member of the Executive Committee German Cultural Council
  • Franziska Sperr, writer, journalist, translator, vice president German PEN Centre
  • Laurie A. Stein (Chicago, Berlin), art historian / freelance provenance researcher
  • Christel Strobel, film journalist, co-founder of Kinderkino München, co-initiator of the children’s film section at Filmfest München, co-founder/editor of children’s and youth film correspondence
  • Olaf Zimmermann, Managing Director of the German Cultural Council

Who is missing?

There are more women who represent “outstanding artistic mediation work” and more women and men who are committed to greater gender justice. Where, for example, are the representatives of Blickpilotinnen and the Verband der Filmarbeiterinnen? Where are women theatre professionals? The women from Pro Quote Bühne (pro quota stage)? Where are the film historians who campaign for preserving female film heritage? Where journalists like Ellen Wietstock (black box Filmpolitischer Informationsdienst) and Sophie Charlotte Rieger (Filmlöwin – the feminist film magazine), who tirelessly provide facts and open eyes? Where are the representatives of WIFT Germany, Pro Quote Regie (Directing), Pro Quote Film? Where actresses who advocate more visibility and more opportunities for women in front of the camera, fight for equal pay, for more participation and more power of female colleagues in the acting profession? Since people from film associations, are on the list, where are the others? Why not include directors Esther Gronenborn and Verena S. Freytag, who during their time on the board of directors of the film directors’ association initiated the First Diversity Report on Directing (annually updated, the 6th was published in 2018), and who were also involved in the founding of Pro Quote Regie? Why are there so few film departments, are there really no female producers, screenwriters, DoP‘s, commissioners, etc. who can be role models or who campaign for gender equality? Nobody from a film funding body? And what about Silke J. Räbiger, who was director of the International Women’s Film Festival Dortmund|Cologne from 2007 to 2018 (the 37th edition at the end of Mach has unfortunately just been cancelled)?

Of course it cannot be everyone’s turn at once, awarding 100 medals would be a bit unusual. But the fact that, of all people, two actors and co-founders of the Bundesverband Schauspiel BFFS, Michael Brandner and Heinrich Schafmeister, are being honoured on this very occasion and with gender politics reasoning, and at the same time no actress is on the list, is a slap in the face of all the women in the BFFS who wanted to get involved and were thwarted under the rule of Brandner / Schafmeister. A slap in the face of all women who have actually and for years and decades worked for gender justice, behind and in front of the camera.

What kind of signal is Frau Grütters sending out here? Doesn’t she know about the dedicated, politically active film women? Yes, I think she does. Then why is she ignoring so many of them? And if she wants to honour particular men (she may well do so), why on this particular occasion? Couldn’t this be done without claiming an alleged extraordinary commitment to women?

A woman needs to be Twice as Good

There is currently a trend where men are taking up women’s issues in order to distinguish themselves, while women artists continue to be excluded and continue to breathe through their invisible lives, even without veils. Theses orders of merit certainly partly fall into this category. Anyway, it’s quite something when a prize for gender justice goes to men five times! It seems to be enough to be accessible to the Pro Quote stage movement without at the same time hiring more female directors. This is always astonishing and shows how wonderful public life can be without women.
Amina Gusner, director, author, co-founder Pro Quote Bühne / Stage

In the context of job and board positions, it is sometimes said that a woman needs to be be twice as good as a man in order to be recognised as equal. So is the opposite true that a man only has to be half as good? That is polemical, of course. But I was a little surprised at the men selected and the great commitment to women in the industry attested to them in the ceremony. (as I said, unfortunately I do not know the official reasons). A quick online search showed:

Ralf Schenk has published the book “Sie – Regisseurinnen der DEFA und ihre Filme” (She – female directors of the DEFA and their films) together with film scientist Cornelia Klauß in 2019. OK. His many years of involvement in the selection committee for the Berlinale Competition did not really lead to a large involvement of women directors, but perhaps he was a pioneer in the minority (I mean that seriously).

I found two quotes from Ulrich Khuon on the subject. One at a Bühnenverein meeting: “There must be a gender-equitable cast for the committees in the foreseeable future. Not today or tomorrow, but during the next two terms of office“. (N.N., BR Classic 10.6.18). This is not particularly bold, is it. Neither is his statement that “women should dare to follow their desire for children in the theatres too”. (quoted after Christiane Peitz, Tagesspiegel 18.7.17). But again, perhaps he has done much more for gender equality, I just couldn’t find it.

In the above mentioned short video of the BKM from the ceremony, you can find this statement:

Olaf Zimmermann: The fact that the gender paygap, i.e. that women, freelance women in the cultural sector earn so significantly less than men, namely 25% less, was really very frightening for me. I could not imagine that this was the case, and so I said that we must do something about it together.

Once again, I do not know the official reasons for the order, nor do I know what Mr Zimmermann has actually done or achieved in terms of equality for women in the cultural and media sector. The quote from the video, i.e. a new insight for him and a declaration of intent, would be too little.

Not to be misunderstood: I do not presume to be able to judge the cultural and political work of the recipients of the Order of Merit. I just wonder if it is possible that maybe one or two were to have been honoured for something else and for whatever reason ended up in this group and in this context. That would be bad for both (the honoured and the context).

It‘s interesting, by the way, to look at the official response from the acting union BFFS, who usually aren‘t exactly famous for restraint and modesty when it comes to mentioning actual and supposed merits. Several weeks or months ago they mentioned in a newsletter that Michael Brandner would be honored, omitting both Heinrich Schafmeister and ‘the gender context’. Both are also absent from the article “It is an honour for us” on the BFFS website dated 10.3., where the order of merit – only for Brandner – is explained with the founding of the BFFS. Why?

Anyway, here‘s Michael Brandner‘s comment in the BKM video clip:

Michael Brandner: Women must also compete and participate in politics, art and culture, even among the broad masses. And commitment is very important. To do this, you might have to push and pull them a bit, or convince them, or persuade them. As long as we don’t have parity, I don’t think the world will change significantly.

Well well.

I don’t feel like writing any more about the BFFS, about the problems of the male-dominated and male-determining board from the very beginning, the negative experiences of the first three women, who were each alone among men on the board. I have no desire to write about the impossibility of becoming involved in the association as an actress and putting gender issues on the agenda, about the undemocratic structure of the association. Ask other ex-members, and/or read my old articles:

By the way, Mrs. Grütters personal words at the tribute to Michael Brandner began like this:

Michael Brandner is not only here today as a gifted and celebrated actor in film and television, but also as co-founder and long-standing first chairman of the Bundesverband Schauspiel Acting Union. I believe that you have all earned great merits, Herr Schafmeister is also here. Under your leadership, the association has initiated considerable social improvements for actors and actresses, but also for actresses (source: a video recorded with a mobile phone that was sent to me)

what she actually means with „the social improvements for actresses“ in particular remains open, or is it enough to do something for everyone, with women being included, as action for gender equality? I don’t think it does. Frau Grütters continues:

and also as I have just mentioned the foundation of Themis, the Advise Centre against Sexual Harassment and Violence, the acting union really did play a central and, for us, very important role, and that is why I am pleased to be able to thank you here today for this, not least with the Order of Merit.

“Themis” is one of those things. I found, for example, that the installation of it went far too fast and was a bit over the top (there were rumours that funds (from the BKM? I don’t know) were available and had to be acted upon quickly. But this is a different topic and too much for this article. Just this much: there are women’s emergency calls and advice centres throughout Germany, some of which originated in the autonomous women’s movement. Why start something completely new from stratch when there are already very good and highly qualified, decentralised structures? And why did the BFFS from the beginning send only men to the meetings, why were no female colleagues taken along, asked, included? Apparently Heinrich Schafmeister and Bernhard Störkmann (legal consultant of BFFS(went to these meetings from the beginning with an alreadz more or less finished concept, but I that is just from hearsay. Just a reminder: my blog text Weinstein and the Silence of the German Film Industry was published on 16.10.17, which was, as far as I know, even before the first articles in the media about the German situation, so I was already ‘in’ the topic. Other colleagues, at that time also in the BFFS, as well.

In any case: I find men who talk to women, or even better, who let women talk and listen to them, more constructive than men who – unasked – talk for women and leave them behind. That is not something I would file under ,commitment for gender equality‘.

But back to the Order of Merit, because I want to describe the basics on this award and also something particular about the events on 6.3:

So how is this “Order of Merit” Thing usually done?

It’s a side effect of the background research for my blog texts that I’m learning a lot of new things. And I’m happy to share that with you. Did you know that the initiative for such an order can come from all of us? Quoting from the website of the Bundespraesident / Federal President:

Everyone can suggest another person for the Order of Merit.
The proposal should be sent to the administration (Staatskanzlei / Senatskanzlei) of the federal region which the person to be decorated lives.
Proposals are examined by in the federal state or at the Federal Foreign Office. Formal proposals may only be submitted to the Federal President by the heads of the regional government of the 16 Länder / federal states for their citizens and by the Minister for Foreign Affairs for foreigners or for German residents abroad. The President in principle bases his decision on their examination results and only awards medals in consensus with them.

It continues:

Many volunteers in our country have been working for others for many years and for a considerable amount of time. You know such a particularly active volunteer and want to encourage him or her to be awarded the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany? You are welcome to fill out the following form online and then print it out or print it out directly and fill it out by hand.
We would like to point out the following:
– Merely fulfilling professional duties or the flawless fulfilment of official duties of members of the civil service or the undertaking of honorary activities alone is not sufficient for an award. The honorary activity must have been carried out with great personal commitment for a longer period of time, putting aside personal interests. (…)
– Only individuals can be proposed, honouring groups are not possible.

By the way, n the case of the 19 Orders of March 6th, things went differently, as Stefan Mertsch informed me:

Frau Gruetters presented her proposals to the heads of the federal states and the Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs, respectively, and asked them to cede their rights of proposal. The proposals were sent via Frau Grütters to the Federal President, who made the final decision.

Actually it would be good to publish the reasons for the proposals and choices, so as not to give the impression of possible preferential treatment and to make the decisions comprehensible. Why does this not happen automatically anyway with this ‘highest award of the Federal Government or the whole state’?

A Short Conclusion

It makes sense to give great women in culture and media the formal appreciation they deserve. And also to honour men who work for equal rights. However, a number of names are missing from the list compiled by Frau Grütters, and a few do not quite fit.

If I held the Order of Merit, this would be the moment to return it.

6. March 2020
by SchspIN
1 Comment

A Commentary on German Public Radio

On Feb. 1 I was listening to a literature show (LESART) on a German public radio station (Deutschlandfunk Kultur) when I noticed that the report on political books was only about men. I checked the website and for sure it was monogender: 0 women 7 men, 4 male authors, 3 male reviewers. I tweeted my dissatisfaction:

A few weeks later Tarik Ahmia of the Deutschlandfunk editorial office „background culture and politics) contacted me and asked me to write a commentary for the programme slot Politisches Feuilleton / Political feature pages. He told me that I had been recommended by colleagues of the LESART because of my tweet (which they had answered to before: “We strive to offer a varied and balanced programme, also in regard to the gender of authors and reviewers. To our regret, however, this cannot always be implemented in day-to-day business. But we are doing our best!” Continue Reading →

12. February 2020
by SchspIN
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New Campaign #morethanCorpses

TV Cop Dramas – Actresses can do more than play victims

German television is known to be quite crime-oriented. More and more formats, series and individual films of this genre are being produced, and it‘s increasingly rare that they get by without staging brutal murders and corpses in close-ups. However, it is possible to tell a thrilling and entertaining crime drama in a different way, and this is why I want to give the example of a Swedish mini-series, as counterbalance to the films that begin with a brutal rape or the discovery of a young, pretty, abused, dead woman. Actresses can do more than play victims.

Two Female Criminals and Two Corpses Off-Screen

By coincidence – because the films and series on arte tv are unfortunately not advertised enough – I discovered JUST A BANKROBBERY / ENKELSTÖTEN shortly before its term in the media library expired. The 6-part Swedish series (44 min. each) by Felix Herngren is based on the novel ENKELSTÖTEN: PSYKOLOGISK THRILLER by Swedish author Tomas Arvidsson (*1941), which does not seem to have been published in German nor in English. I rang the Swedish embassy in Berlin and a friendly employee – whose name I unfortunately didn’t catch – told me that Engelstöten means ‘single thrust’. Arvidsson also wrote the crime novels DUBBELSTÖTEN and TRIPPELSTÖTEN (and others). Continue Reading →

31. December 2019
by SchspIN
1 Comment

Once again: TV‘s Crime Scene TATORT

German Cop Drama TATORT 2019 and Female Writers

Before the year 2019 ends, – but not yet the decade! – here is a short update on the ARD series TATORT (German top TV cop drama) and the female writers’ initiative Tatort: Drehbuch.

I already analysed TATORT several times under different aspects, such as the percentage of women in 6 departments and in the main cast, from 2011 onwards, and also looked at the situation in the different TATORT regions. For example:

The reason for this is not that I’m a TATORT fan or love crime fiction, and not even because it’s considered the most prestigious fictional TV production (with the highest wages on public TV?) – but one of the reasons is that the data output is so convenient which makes analysis easier. There are the TATORT subpages on ard.de, where all films (90 min individual episodes) of the last TATORT years are listed. That’s great, because if I wanted to analyze the ZDF TV movies of the week, for example, research the titles alone would take a lot of time as they are not systematically listed online. For the TATORTs they give the main cast as well as the film titles and usually three to four team positions: director, writer, DoP and composer. TATORT fans can also find photos and synopses and interviews and information from the shootings and the music titles used. Good service, thanks for that!

TATORTs 2019: The 6-Departments-Check

Today I’ll first present the 6-departments-check for the 37 TATORTs that were first broadcast in 2019, set in 20 different cities. The most frequent ones were Cologne and Vienna (three times each). The percentages of share of women and men are shown for the departments:
Continue Reading →