• Helena Wittmann © Sinje Hasheider
    A portrait of sales company MAGNETFILM

A portrait of sales company MAGNETFILM

Georg Gruber and Frauke Knappke © Ana Baumgart

“It’s always been fun selling films because there’s the international dimension and you’re dealing with people from all around the world,” says Georg Gruber, Managing Director and Founder of MAGNETFILM, about some 20 years in the business.

Georg developed his taste for selling films while still studying Production at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg where he graduated in 2004 with the Academy Award-nominated short ROCKS (DAS RAD).

“Even though I then had a regular day job, I still kept on my professional hobby of selling short films through MAGNETFILM,” he recalls. “I liked the fact that I could be my own boss and responsible for everything from deciding on the company logo through to deciding on which films to pick up.”

In 2013, Georg took the step to expand the company’s portfolio to also include documentaries. “The idea of adding documentary films to the shorts had existed for quite some time and I had always thought that could be a good fit, and I really like being in the niche” he explains.

Two years later, Frauke Knappke joined MAGNETFILM as the company’s festival manager for the company’s feature documentary line-up, developing festival strategies and handling all festival and theatrical bookings.

“I come from a background in festival organisation as well as distribution and exhibition and originally got to know Georg through phone calls when I was working interfilm Berlin sales and distribution.” she recalls.

“We really hit it off and found that we share a passion for documentaries and have a very similar taste,” Frauke adds. “We like to reach a good balance between potential festival hits, some political and current affairs documentaries and other thematic titles on such areas as art, fashion, design, music and architecture,” she explains.

“We aim for a bouquet of gems,” Georg explains, “because it’s more about quality than quantity.”

At least 50% of the documentary titles on MAGNETFILM’s books are from German-speaking countries whereas it is quite the opposite for the shorts they represent where under 20% are coming from Germany.

MAGNETFILM has been pleased to see some of its recent titles – documentaries and shorts – doing the rounds of the international festival circuit with great success.

THE PROMISE. ARCHITECT BV DOSHI about the late Balkrishna Doshi, one of India’s most influential architects of the 20th century, had its world premiere at this year’s Millennium Docs Against Gravity Film Festival in Poland and has since been shown at festivals as far apart as Galway Film Fleadh in Ireland and the Seoul International Architecture Film Festival in South Korea.

The next stops in October were the Architecture Film Festival in Rotterdam and the film’s US premiere at the Architecture & Design Film Festival in New York. Melanie Liebheit and Gereon Wetzel’s portrait of a newly crowned culinary world cup winner Agnes Karrasch SHE CHEF premiered in the 2022 DOK Leipzig’s German Competition and was also shown at Visions du Réel and Crossing Europe before winning the FFF Talent Award Documentary Award at DOK.fest München last May.

Moreover, the latest stage in the film’s festival career couldn’t be more appropriate when the invitation came to screen in the Culinary Zinema sidebar at the San Sebastián International Film Festival at the end of September. Meanwhile, Georg admits that the market for selling documentaries is getting tougher, pointing out that “to make the same money compared to three years ago, you have to do twice as many deals. And the public broadcasters have less money to spend and are under pressure from all sides.”

But being a small, nimble and flexible outfit MAGNETFILM has made advances in its digital operations and monetised its films on YouTube over the past 10 years. “We have close to 500,000 subscribers on our YouTube channels and the most successful short film had more than 54 million views!,” Georg concludes.

Martin Blaney