“Exceptional films are our passion, films bearing a distinct signature and a unique identity,“ says Nicole Gerhards about her Berlin-based production outfit NiKo Film which celebrates its 15th anniversary in the international film business next year.
The company was launched just a year after Gerhards had graduated in Film Production from the German Film & Television Academy in Berlin (DFFB). Her graduation film was Ulrike von Ribbeck’s 30-minute film CHARLOTTE which was screened at several festivals in 2004, including the Berlinale’s Perspektive Deutsches Kino sidebar and the Directors’ Fortnight in Cannes.
While NiKo Film’s first two feature film projects – Matthias Keilich’s comedy LUMBER KINGS and Emily Atef’s graduation film THE STRANGER IN ME – were 100% German, Gerhards has since concentrated on either serving as a minority co-producer on international projects or bringing foreign partners onboard her German features.
Over the past 15 years, NiKo Film has consequently been involved in projects from all over the globe that have gone on to pick up awards from many international film festivals – ranging from Chilean director Matias Bize’s THE MEMORY OF WATER and Kosovo-born Visar Morina’s debut BABAI through Hungarian director Ibolya Fekete’s MOM AND OTHER LOONIES IN THE FAMILY and Argentinian-born Paula Markovitch’s Silver Bear winner THE PRIZE to Algerian Katim Moussaoui’s UNTIL THE BIRDS RETURN and Iranian filmmaker Massoud Bakhshi’s YALDA which had its world premiere at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize.
Meanwhile, Gerhards attracted French and Swiss co-producers for her production of Emily Atef’s second feature KILL ME in 2011; a Belgian partner for Ziska Riemann’s ELECTRIC GIRL which had its international premiere at the Busan International Film Festival last year; and Dutch and Polish co-producers for Swedish-born Carolina Hellsgård’s SUNBURNED which celebrated its world premiere in the Alice nella Città sidebar at the Rome Film Fest last October.
“I have been able to build up an extensive international network of contacts over the years thanks to my participation in various training programs and industry events promoting international co-production,“ she explains. She is an alumna of the EAVE and ACE producers’ workshops and has taken part in the Torino Producers Lab as well as the prestigious Inside Pictures program. And in 2012, she was selected by German Films to represent Germany in the European Film Promotion’s Producers on the Move showcase of up-and-coming independent European producers.
“I have now reached a point where many producers are approaching me with projects because I have been recommended to them by other partners,“ Gerhards observes. “There are many projects coming to me from France, but I also get to see ones from other countries.“
Indeed, the diversity of NiKo Film’s output is reflected in the projects currently in the development or financing stage: they range from Gerhards’ third collaboration with Emily Atef on her first French-language production MISTER with Eaux Vives Production as delegate producer, through Indonesian film critic-turned-filmmaker Makbul Mubarak’s feature debut AUTOBIOGRAPHY, and Moroccan director Faouzi Bensaidi’s DESERTS to German writer-director Kai Gero Lenke’s feature debut with the sci-fi drama ECHOES.
While many of her German producer colleagues are increasingly touting for business from the streaming services, Gerhards remains committed to films destined for the cinema’s big screen.
“I think that the kind of films I produce are more important than ever in the current climate which we have in the world and the international film industry,“ she suggests. “Many of these films focus on such subjects as the concept of where one’s home is, the status of minorities, existential crises or social ills. They take a particular stance, but they never force the issue.“