When is it a good Story? – German Film Awards for Screenplay 22
Lola for the Best Screenplay
Lola for the Best Unfilmed Screenplay
Acceptance Speech “But at Second Glance…”
When is it a Good Story?
Cobbler, Stick to your Last
A Cast is more than its Main Characters
Chances for Diverse Writers
Breaking New Ground – Think Outside the Box
Who can do it?
They can do it!
Lola for the Best Screenplay
On 24.6.22 the German Film Awards were presented in Berlin. I will analyse the films nominated in all categories in more detail soon, including a 6-departments-check. Today I just want to mention that Thomas Wendrich won the German Film Award for Best Screenplay with LIEBER THOMAS.
But that is not the only screenplay award, because there is also a Lola for the best unfilmed screenplay, and this was presented on 5 July at an event organised by the Screenplay Association (with the unfortunate name VDD Verband Deutscher Drehbuchautoren) and the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media BKM Claudia Roth at the Rhineland-Palatinate State Representation – under frighteningly lax corona prevention rules – in front of four hundred invited guests.
Study on the participation of female writers in the creative areas of script writers, creators, showrunners and headwriters of publically funded and non-funded German series for streamers or VoD providers, private broadcasters and public television.
Belinde Ruth Stieve SchspIN – An Actress’s Thoughts Berlin, May 16, 2022
So far no English version of the report available.
The different participation of women and men on and off screen in the German film and television industry has been a topic of discussion for quite some time. At first, the focus was on directing, while scriptwriters and related fields such as creators of series were often only mentioned in passing and not yet examined in depth. Yet they are the ones who create the stories, the ones who should get the label “a series by”. Consequently, an answer to the question of whether gender imbalance continues to exist in scriptwriting and to what extent is long overdue.
Series of every genre and format are what novels used to be in former days; they entertain, mirror the familiar and can be the “Bildungsroman” of our time. Fictional narratives help to build identities. So it is glaringly important to look at the people in whose minds the characters and stories are created. We have been observing for years that significantly more male authors are commissioned and promoted with series. So we wanted to check if this perception was true.
Kristin Derfler and Annette Hess (Creators, Writers, Creative Producers), who commissioned the Series Report 2022.
It won’t come as a big surprise to regular readers of SchspIN that I’m not a big TATORT fan. In addition, since the escalation of Russia’s years-long war against Ukraine in February 2022, there have been so many news stories of murdered, tortured civilians, raped women, abducted children, that I don’t want to see any more – even fictional – brutal violence against people.
Nevertheless, Germany’s top cop drama TATORT is a good indicator of possible gender imbalances in front of and behind the camera in German television; they are the 90-minute format with the highest budgets, the greatest reputation and the highest measured and extrapolated ratings (which, however, are not without controversy, but that would be a topic for another day). And a statistical view is also possible without having seen TATORTs.
Recently several people approached me, filmmakers from various departments, regarding TATORTs 2021 and what might be the situation regarding the participation of women in the core departments. Therefore, here and today let’s look at the annual 6-departments-check:
The share of female directors is still over 40 %, which is good news. There were 14 female and 19 male directors, including one twice: Torsten C. Fischer for DER TOD DER ANDEREN in Cologne and DER KALTE UND DIE TOTEN in Berlin.
At the same time, however, the share of female writers is again below 20 %, which means that four fifthsof the writers involved were male. They are the ones who ‘invented’ the cases, wrote the stories and developed the events around the investigation teams, some of whom have been solving cases for many years. The question is how much a director can still change in the plot, unless they also wrote the script, were involved in it or had rewriting rights. Their number is surprisingly high.
Four directors were solely responsible for their scripts: Tom Bohn (HETZJAGD) and Martin Eigler (DER BÖSE KÖNIG), both in Ludwigshafen. Petra Lüschow (WER ZÖGERT, IST TOT) in Frankfurt and Niki Stein (MACHT DER FAMILIE) in Hamburg. Co-authors or writers‘ duos were Katharina Bischofwith Johanna Thalmann (LUNA FRISST ODER STIRBT) in Frankfurt, Dietrich Brüggemann with Daniel Bickermann (DAS IST UNSER HAUS) in Stuttgart and Jan Martin Scharf with Arne Nolting (DER REIZ DES BÖSEN) in Cologne. There was no overlap between the two departments in the other 26 Tatorten.
Let‘s investigate the script situation a little further: in the first half of 2021 only two out of twenty scripts were written by women, Elke Schuch wrote RHYTHM AND LOVE (Münster) and Katrin Bühling DIE DRITTE HAUT (Berlin). That’s ten per cent. By the end of the year, five female authors were added, which sounds great at first, because after all, there were only 13 crime scenes in the second half of the year. So just under 40 %? Almost. But not really, because of the five female writers, only Petra Lüschow (WER ZÖGERT, IST TOT. Frankfurt) wrote her TV movie alone. Four TATORTs by women only, two more with female participation. And on the other hand, twenty-seven TATORTs by men and two more in teams with women. That makes a total of 35. No, of course 33. (In fact, I’m trying to keep my spirits up a bit while writing because there is so little positive to report on the scripts, unfortunately.)
Only two authors wrote more than one TATORT script in 2021: Arne Nolting, together with David Sandreuter and Jan Martin Scharf, wrote TÖDLICHE FLUT for Hamburg, and with Jan Martin Scharf DER REIZ DES BÖSEN for Cologne. And Johanna Thalmann, who wrote LUNA FRISST ODER STIRBT with Katharina Bischof, and formed a team with Moritz Binder for DREAMS in Munich.
And what was the situation for female filmmakers in other departments? The proportion of female cinematographers rose above 20 % for the first time since I started these evaluations in 2011, with six female cinematographers, Cornelia Janssen (HETZJAGD and BLIND DATE), Katharina Diessner (WIE ALEREN AUCH), Judith Kaufmann (BOROWSKI UND DER GUTE MENSCH), Julia Daschner (LUNA FRISST ODER STIRBT), Leah Striker (UND IMMER GEWINT DIE NACHT) and Bella Halben (ALLES KOMMT ZURÜCK).
After three zero-years, there is at last onefemale sound mixer in 2021, Antje Volkmann – with whom I have worked already! She pushes the percentage of women to 5.4 %, as she was the sound mixer on two Dresden cases: one on her own (UNSICHTBAR) and one together with Erich Lutz (RETTUNG SO NAH).
Women edited just under 60 %of all TATORTs and took part as composers in, er, 4 %. The music for the 35 TATORTs was composed by two women and 48 men: Iva Zabkar, solely responsible for VERSCHWÖRUNG in Vienna, and Jasmin Shakeri in Bremen (NEUGEBOREN) together with the duo Beathoavenz.
As always, I also did a roles analysis of the first-named characters and the main cast, i.e. the actors named on the ARD website. Good statistical news: the proportion of women among the first-named roles, i.e. the respective number one on the cast sheet, is 45.5 %. And – even more astonishing – the proportion of women in the main cast is 46.9 %. So there has been quite a bit of change.
I don’t know what these roles did and said because I don’t know the scripts or the films. However, the ARD website provides a short description of the plot for each case, and I would like to conclude with this.
Always a favourite: Dead Young Women
The presumed favourite corpse group of German crime scriptwriters are the “young women”, so probably the 14- to under 25-year-olds. This can be seen again and again in TATORTs and other TV thrillers (see also TV Cop Dramas – Actresses can do more than play Victims. SchspIN 12.2.2020)
Yes I’m finally working on the English version, give me a few more days to finish it. Thank you! (and sorry about the delay).
6. April 2022
by SchspIN Comments Off on Demand Change (from: The Age Buster)
In December 2021, I was interviewed by Italian journalist, sociologist and author Stefania Medetti. She currently lives in Thailand and runs, among other things, the English-language blog The Age Buster, which focuses on the topics of age, age valuation and ageism / age discrimination. The interview along with Stefania‘s introductory text about her experiences in Germany were published on 13 Jan 22 under the title Demand Change.
With Stefania’s kind permission, I am publishing the German version today. Grazie sincero!
It was all because of my love for cats that on a frosty St. Valentine’s morning I found myself under the high arches of the Milan Central Station. Standing in front of the train that would have taken me to Germany, I looked at the tracks extending outside the building in a foggy, yellow-pale light. I thought about my grandmother who, a fifteen-year old, got on a steam-engine train to come to the city to work as a maid. Two generations later, a bit older then her, I was traveling in the direction she came from (she was born on the border with Austria) to work as an au pair and improve my German. The family wanted a Spanish candidate, but in my introductory letter I mentioned cats and this convinced them I was a good fit anyway. As the train travelled east and then northeast, the plains first and the vineyards later passed in front of my window. When the train reached the Alps, we travelled through a narrow valley between two high walls of mountains and then the names of the railway signs were written in German.
12 Film Festivals 2019-21: Share of Women Directors, Writers and Cinematographers in Competitions
To start the year, I would like to present a film festival analysis. It deals with the proportions of women in directing, scripts and cinematography – the so-called 3-departments-check – in the main competitions of twelve German film festivals.
I briefly considered evaluating music / composers. But since music, similar to sound, is listed very incompletely (both on film websites and in databases) the research would have been very time-consuming and just beyond the scope of my capacities.
The first table shows the festivals and the number of films in their main competition in the three years examined. The majority were feature films, you’ll find the number of documentaries in brackets:
Most festivals provide programme notes or film lists on their websites, often in the digital archive, from which at least the film title and often also the director can be seen. More detailed information is often available, including synopses and a short biography of the director, as well as other team positions. In some cases, friendly and helpful staff members have sent me lists or links. (All enquiries were answered promptly!).
I was able to complete the information on the three trades mostly via the IMDB database, the question about the gender of the filmmakers came partly from the short biographies on the festival pages (director), supplemented from IMDB (author and DoP), and some film websites, interviews or through further online research.
Out of a total of 401 competition entries, I only failed to identify a position twice, both times it was the DoP. That is 0.5 % of all (401 x 3) positions. (These are only the feature-length films, i.e. not counting the Oberhausen Short Film Festival, where 153 films were shown in the competitions).
For some documentaries, I could only determine the director and DoP, no matter how thoroughly I searched. In these cases, I took the director’s entries for the script as well.
A gap in the table can be found at the Hof Film Festival. They don’t have a competition in the conventional sense, but: “It has to be the first feature-length film (feature film) by a filmmaker. In accordance with this criterion, the Hof Film Festival sifts through all the films submitted (…)” (information from Sabine Reiter, Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts). Unfortunately, the corresponding lists are not available through the festival office, nor can they be found on the website. I have been promised that I will still receive the information and will then complete this evaluation.
Another gap is due to the fact that there was the Munich Film Festival did not take place in 2020. Other festivals were held online and had smaller competition compared to pre-pandemic years.
Due to the mass of an average of 51 films in competition at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival and the special short film situation, I had to make the decision to only evaluate the position of director from this festival. For some films, screenplay and camera were also available; for example, in 2019, for 26 of the 53 competition films the festival website provided information on scirpt, and 24 films on camera. That’s less than 50% for both. For most films – including those of other years – these items are missing, and they are also not listed on IMDB and other online sources. In the case of short films, the script is often written by the director, who often also films the short, though if this is not explicitly stated anywhere I can’t take it for granted. And I cannot contact 153 filmmakers on these issues.
My initial assumption was that the proportion of women directors and screenwriters is highest in competitions with first to third feature films (Saarbrücken, Hof), documentaries (Leipzig, Munich Doku) and short films (Oberhausen). And that the proportion of women cinematographers is higher in documentaries and short films than in long feature films.
I also wanted to check whether the assumption that in cinema the directors always write the scripts as well is true. And thus the tag “a film by” is even more true here than in television, where there are significantly more independent, non-directing authors.
In the diagrammes, I replaced the festival names with the respective cities, I added D (documentary film festival) and F (film festival) to the two Munich festivals and slightly abbreviated Mannheim-Heidelberg.
The following tables show how many of the competition films had no women at all in directing, screenwriting and cinematography, or how many had only women in all three sections. Values above 50 % are highlighted in each case.
You can see that 2019 was the year with the fewest competitions with films involving women in the three departments. However, this does not apply to all festivals, see Berlin for example.
In general, there is a focus on female directors at festivals within the industry and the media, but I cannot say whether this applies to all festivals and wherer it is also a topic within the festival organisation, whether there are even considerations about voluntary commitments or the like. In this respect, my evaluation may be about something that is perhaps not a topic or goal at the festival itself: gender equality. Nor do I know how many films applied to the festivals in each case and what their composition was in the three departments. It is not possible to speculate on whether films by women (= director and screenplay) are favoured or disadvantaged or treated equally in the application process.
In 2021, there were still three festivals where half the films had only men in the the three departments; For Munich Film Festival, this was the case with eight out of ten films. The second table has a lot of zeros, which means: no film in the competition with a female director, writer and cinematographer. Whereas even one participation, a collaboration with men at the head of the deaprtment, would have been enough to qualify. Documentaries in particular often have several DoP’s, and there are also teams in the screenplay section. Nevertheless, zeros en masse, the highest value of 25 %, i.e. every fourth film with women in all three departments, can be found at the goEast Festival of Central and Eastern European Films Wiesbaden 2020. In 2019 it was already 23.5 %(= second highest value), but in 2021 only 5.9 %. Let’s wait and see what it looks like this year.
As I said, there are twelve festivals, three departments and three years each. This is difficult to represent in one figure, so it is divided into nine diagrammes. Each year separately, the three trades separately, and the festivals arranged according to the number of women. (To enlarge and browse, simply click on an image):
The same figures, only separated by festival, are shown in the next eleven charts (Hof is still missing), Cottbus and Munich Film Festival are competing for last place, and even Hamburg doesn’t do as well as I would like as someone from Hamburg.
(subchapter added Jan 27).
In the total of 554 films in all eleven competitions 2019-21 (Hof is still pending, as mentioned), 254 were directed by women and 365 by men. That’s a total of 619, significantly more than there were films, which is due to the fact that some films – not only documentaries – had directing teams.
The average proportions of women directors through all 11 festival competitions were: 32.1% in 2019, 45.8% in 2020 and 37.9%in 2021.
Phrases like “films by women directors” are problematic as long as it is not clear what exactly is being talked about. Films by one female director? Several women directors? Films with mixed teams of women and men directors?
The average of all festival averages for the proportion of women directors is 37.7 %. But if I only count the films in which one or more female directors directed without a male director, then their share is 32.8 %. Or perhaps to put it in more understandable terms:
In the 11 German film festivals in total, just under a third (32.8 %) of the films screened in the main competitions from 2019 to 2021 were directed exclusively by women.
And finally, the answer to the question about auteur films: yes, it looks quite different from (German) television. In very few films (this is the first value in each series of three) the director is not involved in the script at all. The second value – usually the highest – shows the films in which the directors wrote the screenplay alone or as a directing duo. The third number shows the scripts written by the director in collaboration with other authors.
I hope to receive the titles of the films that qualified for the Hof Gold Award soon. Then I can add them to this analysis, and perhaps also evaluate the first-named cast members of the feature films.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to May Ho Ho, Berlin, for gender research assistance with some Chinese filmmakers, and to Aki Sato-Johnson, Toga / Japan, for clarifying a Japanese filmmaker.
Furthermore, many thanks to Angela Heuser, Dramaturg (VeDRA), who confirmed my approach in dealing with unstated script positions in documentaries.
Also many thanks to Dario Becker / Filmfest Hamburg, Sabine Niewalda / Kurzfilmtage Oberhausen and Anne Thomé / DOK.fest München for catalogues, film lists and notes on the competitions on the festival pages. Special thanks to Sebastian Hammer / Film Festival Cologne for film lists and links to all competition films of the three years.
My net working time on this study, including the German and English publication, was 63:47 hours.
2. January 2022
by SchspIN Comments Off on Looking Forward, Looking Back: Tiger, Cow and Mouse
SchspIN in times of Corona: 23 articles in two years
2022 has just begun, 寅年 (toradoshi), the Year of the Water Tiger. As the Japan Times wrote: “The slow, gentle and hardworking nature of the ox, which manifested the mood of 2021, will be replaced by the speed, strength and power of the tiger in 2022.”
Annual animal as a Japanese mobile phone tag: left for 2010, right for 2022. Photo SchspIN
In a fortnight, on January 16, my blog SchspIN – Thoughts of an Actress will be nine years old. That’s a long time, during which I have published over 150 analyses, comments, articles. – By the way, on 20 January NEROPA will be five years old, but that’s a topic for another day.
In the first three years of SchspIN, I created annual indexes where texts were sorted by topic to make them easier to find. Unfortunately, I did not continue this. But by the 10th anniversary at the latest, there should be a comprehensive index and also some design flaws should be fixed (by that I mean, among other things, that the current theme undermines the comment function).
Anyway, let‘s have a look at my blog’s activities in Corona times: here‘s a compilation of the 11 articles of the last year of the cow / ox and the 12 articles of the year before last of the mouse / rat. Have fun (re-)discovering them!
In the first Corona year, the 4-departments-check – directing, script, camera and music – on German top cop drama TATORT were the biggest group with five articles. They were produced in cooperation with WIFT Germany on the occasion of the “50 years of TATORT” anniversary. In addition, the second text on violence against women in film* appeared in February, followed by thoughts on some incomprehensible German Order of Merit awards in March. In the summer I wrote a text on the Corona situation.
Annual animal as a Japanese mobile phone tag: for 2020. Photo SchspIN
Annual animal as a Japanese mobile phone tag: left for 2009, right for 2021. Photo SchspIN
In the second Corona year I published three investigations in front of and behind the camera: NDR Prime Time Krimis (reprint of an analysis for the Film and Media Office of Lower Saxony), Filmfest München and Deutscher Fernsehpreis. In the last quarter, the trilogy “Old Women. Visibility”. As well as the 3rd text of the “Violence against Women on Television” trilogy.
I am currently working on two studies that I will publish here in due course, and also another text is already in the works. So feel free to check back!
And if you’ve always wanted to know how you can support SchspIN: share blog articles you like or are interested in, invite friends or colleagues to stop by or subscribe to the blog, comment on articles, post SchspIN links on your social networks (but mention 1) the source and 2) my handle if I’m also active in the network = Instagram / Twitter: @schspin, Linkedin: Belinde Ruth Stieve).
Citing sources and including authors should be a matter of course, but unfortunately many people forget this when they post pictures, photos, insights, works and content of others on social media. But now that a new year has just begun, this makes for a good resolution!
And finally: I wish all old and new readers of SchspIN a happy, exciting, insightful, healthy and cheerful new year. Thank you for your interest, your messages, your criticism, your encouragement and your suggestions. (Unfortunately, the comment function is not working properly at the moment, but what you write will get to me, and perhaps I will be able to get it working again in the foreseeable future). Good luck with your projects!
Warning: this text is about, among other things, violence against women portrayed on television.
Warning: some of the photographs used may cause unpleasant feelings.
I recently read the appeal by Liz Tucker, Chair of Women in Film and Television UK, on the issue of violence against women in fictional programs. It began with the question “Why do so many shows feature violence against women?” – which goes with two older texts of mine, one published, one unpublished, which I will present today.
WFTV UK is asking Why?
Liz Tucker published the following on 1 November (You can find the full text on the WFTV UK website and on Broadcast Now, emphasis in the quote by me):
Every night of the week across a wide range of broadcast platforms, if I so wish, I can watch stories about women being raped, decapitated and murdered in ever more imaginative and gruesome ways. As it happens, I don’t wish, because I think the time has come for all of us working in the broadcast industry to think much more carefully about the message we are sending out when we continually produce TV crime dramas and documentaries that have women as the central victims. Recent years have seen an avalanche in this type of programming and there seems to be a spiralling competition between some writers and directors to escalate the violence and come up with ever more graphic and disturbing ways to portray the murder of women. (…) Would it really be so hard today to come up with imaginative new plots that don’t involve the brutalisation and murder of women?
No. Of course not. It just has to be wanted.
A tick is biting into a human breast. Photo: SchspIN
Here is the last episode of my Old Women. Visibility. Trilogy.
Old Women, visible. Made younger.
In Part I from Oct. 29 I mentioned, among other things, that it is not uncommon to rejuvenate characters in film and television through casting, i.e. to have older characters played by younger actors. Since I’ve received several questions about this, I‘d like to talk about this today again, with a bit more detail.
Can they actually do that?
A never-ending discussion revolves around the question whether actors can take on a role that, unlike them, is white / black / brown / Eastern European / Asian / flawless / handicapped / young / old / good-looking / fat / slim / heterosexual / homosexual / transgender / female / male / stable / psychotic / depressed / boring / stubborn / cheerful or has a different nationality and mother tongue. Many deny this, at least in relation to certain characteristics, others say “Yes, because you don’t have to have murdered anyone to....”.
I think it depends.
Regarding age: Is it bad if someone younger is cast for an older role and the older age is simply claimed, or if a role is unceremoniously made younger or older so that the desired casting fits?
A few days ago I wrote in the text Old Women. Visibility. Part I that I would compile and publish a gallery of “older and old women from real life. You can now view it here, either as a general overview, or click through the portraits individually and read the German explanations under the pictures: Name, age in the photo, profession and photographer:in / Common Licence. This information should also appear when you move your mouse over the pictures (the photos also function as an occupation game, which is why I have added the occupation to the female politicians).
As I said, there are many female politicians, on the one hand quite banal, because they are so easy to find as a larger group of older women in Wikipedia, with public domain photos. But there are also other women, I have, for example, looked through the lists of the Order of Merit Ribbon Awards – which are mostly made up of men, but a few women have also been awarded. Most of them have an entry in Wikipedia, but many without a picture. And women scientists, writers and a few actresses and a few under 40 are there too.
What I haven’t done is to make a percentage distribution of all possible population groups. But I think the pictures are already much more diverse in terms of older women than those who populate German fictional TV.
As a reminder: “Since they are mostly official photos or photos of professional appearances, the women were of course also made up and the pictures were certainly also edited, which is perfectly okay.” Nevertheless, they look different from PR photos of older actresses.
We Should be seeing Women like These on Fictional TV Programmes
Yesterday I was standing at the checkout in an organic supermarket. The cashier asked the customer in front of me if she had a student card – that must have given her a discount. The woman went completely berserk with pleasure for having been mistaken for a student. She was wearing a mask of course and a beanie, but from her eyes, among other things, I would have guessed she was easily in her late 30s or early 40s. Anyway. She was beaming all over, “This is the most beautiful thing I’m going to experience today!” It was 10:45 a.m.. What a prospect.
Hardly anyone wants to be old, people are turning 60 years young, old has become a dirty word. Actually, not always, in German. There‘s the phrase „Was geht ab, Alter?“ / “What’s up, dude?” – originally from youth language. Alter (dude) literally translates to old man. I’ve never heard the word “Alte” (old woman) in a similar context. Have you?
Old Women, visible. In Film and Television.
Being thought of as younger is enormously important for many people. Not only for women, by the way, but especially for them, because youth mania with everything that goes with it, partly presented by society, partly by the media, leaves its mark. The Hamburg-based initiative Pink Stinks (“Magazine, campaign office and an educational organisation against sexism.”) has been addressing the connection between a format like GERMANY’S NEXT TOP MODEL and slimness mania up to bulimia among young female viewers for years.
Age and eternal youth are also topics in the film and television industry. If a – famous – actress is over 50 or 60 or 70, it is always emphasised that she looks at least ten, if not twenty years younger. Famous older actresses play much younger roles (e.g. still a pregnant woman at 53), which – if you didn’t know their age – they could often pass as, because they work on their appearance and / or have it worked on and look tremendous. When older actresses like Iris Berben, Senta Berger or Hannelore Elsner once showed a grey hair in a role, it was highlighted as a special achievement. Continue Reading →