It felt like point zero
Production company “Filmgarnitur” realises creative and very personal projects
Sven Michael Otto and Christoph Rohrscheidt founded the production company “Filmgarnitur” just before the pandemic. Looking back, it was a great chance for creative and very personal projects.
Sometimes life just happens. Producer Sven Michael Otto and cinematographer Christoph Rohrscheidt have been working side by side for over 15 years. They were commissioned to produce an image spot for the 500th anniversary of the European Reformation and founded “Filmgarnitur”.
The company headquarters in Adlershof can look back on a history closely connected to the beginnings of East German television. As “Lewald TV”, the two produced the young adult programme “Elf 99” in what is today their editing and recording studio. Otto continued the company and thus had extensive camera, lighting and sound equipment at his disposal. This was a huge advantage, allowing them to quickly realise projects.
The documentary “Dazwischen Elsa” found Rohrscheidt purely by coincidence. The cameraman and his wife, the director Katharina Pethke, needed someone to mind their three-year-old twins in Hamburg and put out an ad: “Young parents and filmmakers looking for a roommate. 30 hours of babysitting for free accommodation”. Twenty-year-old Elsa applied and got the job. A year after graduating from high school, Elsa still did not know what to do with her life: follow her parents' wishes and study, or go abroad with her boyfriend? Rohrscheidt and Pethke documented Elsa’s journey. The film was shown was part of the “Ab 18!” series on ZDF and 3Sat and was nominated for a Grimme Award.
The art house film “Being human” premiered at the 58th Venice Biennale in September 2019. Then, the pandemic hit. “The world was completely slowed down. It felt like point zero,” says Rohrscheidt, looking back. Then, says Otto, “we had a quick shake and said: Now is a good time to develop something new.” When they put out a call for new writers and directors, Otto und Rohrscheidt received overwhelming feedback. During hundreds of online meetings, new project ideas were created, and research trips planned.
When daycare centres closed in 2020, Rohrscheidt turned his twins, now seven-years-old, into the protagonists of a self-produced, dystopian film essay “Neowise”. "The children stroll past empty car wash salons into a tropical jungle, searching for the comet Neowise. It’s not clear whether this is the beginning or the end of the world.” The backdrop to all this was the pandemic. This was clear.
What all these changes were doing to us psychologically was not talked about as much, says Otto. A riding friend of his 15-year-old daughter took her own life, which touched him deeply. He contacted the German Association for Psychiatry, Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics and asked them: How are the people now? The 45-minute documentary series “Distanz” will soon be produced as a result and show the harrowing truth behind the facades: "The centrifugal forces of our rotating economy, a rampant virus in our respiratory tract, a fragmentation of our private space into zeros and ones, all this has pushed people into a marginal position. The humanity of a society is shown by the way it treats its weakest members, as Helmut Kohl once said. We want to denounce this.” The three-episode series tells the story of people who are running away from themselves and experiencing a mental health crisis, explains Sven Michael Otto.
Rohrscheidt and Otto know: The pandemic is a double-edged sword. However, for them, it was the start of something great. They started a company together that they devoted themselves to with all their passion.
By Susanne Gietl for Adlershof Journal