Producers Lothar Hellinger and Christopher Doll already had several years of working in various positions on numerous German feature film productions before they decided to take the plunge in 2014 and set up their own production outfit Hellinger / Doll Filmproduktion.
“I had initially begun studies at university in Munich, but then realised that film was really where I wanted to be and so in 1999 I applied for an internship at Claussen+Wöbke Filmproduktion”, Doll recalls.
Thomas Wöbke and production coordinator Gabriele Roß then took him on as a set intern for the production of Hans-Christian Schmid’s CRAZY, and Doll often worked for the company on such films as DISTANT LIGHTS and REQUIEM in subsequent years.
Meanwhile, it was on the set of Michael “Bully” Herbig’s sc-ifi parody DREAMSHIP PARADISE – EPISODE 1 that Doll as set manager first met Hellinger who had been hired as an intern. “I had just begun studying in the Production and Media Economy department at the University of Television and Film (HFF) in Munich and we often found ourselves working together again on Herbig’s VICKY THE VIKING and BUDDY”, Hellinger says.
While the shoot of BUDDY was underway, Willi Geike, the head of US major Warner Bros.’ operations in Germany and the film’s co-producer and distributor, approached the two and asked them if they had considered establishing their own company. “And, in the same breath, he introduced us to writer Anika Decker who was looking to make her directorial debut with DREAMGIRLS”, Doll recalls. “...and there it was, our first project as Hellinger / Doll.”
Since then, the company with offices in Berlin and Munich has worked with Decker on her second feature HIGH SOCIETY and enticed veteran director Wolfgang Petersen back to Germany for the shooting of FOUR AGAINST THE BANK, which was inspired by his 1976 TV movie of the same name.
Doll and Hellinger have also served as the producers for actress Karoline Herfurth’s four outings to date as director, beginning with TEXT FOR YOU in 2016 and followed by SWEETHEARTS (2018) and WUNDERSCHÖN (2022), while her latest project MAL WAS NEUES will be released in German cinemas by Warner Bros. this winter.
In addition, they were co-producers on Philipp Leinemann’s thriller BLAME GAME and made their first foray into the world of TV series production with Marco Kreuzpaintner’s Grimme Prize-winning BEAT which was aired by Amazon Prime in autumn 2018. “We coined the expression ‘adaptive producing” for our approach to our work”, Hellinger explains. “It’s not for us as producers to say the kind of subjects or genres that should be followed. Each director has their own personal style and subjects they want to focus on. Our role is to provide them with an environment where they can tell their stories in the best possible way.”
“We want our company to be like a creative home for writers and directors where they can use us producers like a mirror to test out their ideas”, Doll adds. “I like the thought of setting out with them on a creative journey, accompanying and giving them support from the beginning to the end of a project.”
Although they are very pleased about having the strategic partnership of a first-look deal arrangement with the German outpost Warner Bros. since 2014, Hellinger and Doll are both happy that they are still a 100% independent outfit. “The most important thing for us is to remain small and independent because that way we keep close to the projects we’re working on”, Doll says. “We’ve never wanted to get into a situation where you then have another producer between us and the actual production.”
While they have series in development, “our hearts are beating more for the cinema”, with one feature film project possibly being greenlit to go into production later this year. Talks are currently underway with potential service producers and co-producers for an adaptation of Wolf Küper’s 2016 book Eine Million Minuten which would also have international locations outside of Germany.