„Very hands-on“ is a characteristic that comes into mind with the Berlin-based producer Marco Mehlitz. „I’m not the kind of producer who is just happy to tend to his projects like a manager from his office,“ he explains. „I need to be a part of the whole enterprise, be close to the various aspects of a production and feel the passion of all those involved.“
„Moreover, I don’t tie myself down to any particular genre when I am looking for projects to develop. The subject matter must move me and stir up emotions.“
Mehlitz initially came into contact with the film world after working as part of the production team staging various editions of the European Film Awards and German Film Prize during the early 1990s.
He got to know so many people from the film industry through those awards ceremonies that these contacts led to him being hired as a production manager or line producer for various productions. Moreover, the boom of German media funds around the turn of the millennium was something of a godsend for Mehlitz’s ambitions to establish himself in the field of production.
„From the outset, I had always been interested in international production and so was able to gain a valuable insight into the workings of the international film business overseeing projects backed by the media funds,“ he recalls.
During five years overseeing production at the VIF, IWP and Cinerenta funds between 2000 and 2004, Mehlitz worked with filmmakers as diverse as Michael Moore, Peter Sehr and James Foley.
When changes in German tax legislation then spelt the end of the funds, Mehlitz saw this as an opportunity to take the plunge and set up his own production company.
„My first production – Jennifer Lynch’s Surveillance which premiered in the ’Official Selection out of competition’ at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival – was a real baptism of fire,“ he notes. „I was a one-man operation, establishing a production company in LA to co-produce and then a service company in Canada and putting the budget together with presales and bridge financing.“
And Mehlitz has never been one to shirk a challenge in subsequent international projects involving Lago Film: his co-production of Jaco van Dormael’s fantasy romance Mr Nobody, starring Jared Leto and Diane Kruger, had no less than 35 financing partners, while the adaptation of Christopher Hampton’s play A Dangerous Method saw him working with the acclaimed Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg.
„I ended up being the co-producer, executive producer and line producer because Cronenberg didn’t want to have anyone else on the film,“ he recalls. „Emotionally, that has been the most exciting production for me because my work covered so many areas including researching background for the screenplay as well as scouting the locations.“
Meanwhile, the German production scene was able to benefit from Mehlitz’s international credentials when he was hired in spring 2012 by Fox International Productions as its Head of Development and Production in Germany, with Neele Leana Vollmar’s THE Pasta Detectives and Marco Petry’s Playing Doctors among the projects realised under his watch over the next 2 ½ years as well as Hit Man: Agent 47 by Alexander Bach.
On its relaunch in 2014 after leaving Fox, Mehlitz now concentrated on producing for the German market, beginning with Fatih Akin’s award-winning 2016 adaptation of Wolfgang Herrndorf’s novel Why We Took The Car (known as TSCHICK in German) and following with the eight-part haunted house series HAUSEN, directed by Thomas Stuber for SKY Germany and aired on its platform from the end of October.
As he points out, Lago Film is now following a current trend in the German production landscape of moving between projects for the cinema and those for the small screen: his current development slate, for example, includes two new serial productions as well as an adaptation of THE FALL GUY by James Lasdun, to be directed by the young German director Esther Löwe at US locations in English language for the big screen.