By Ron Holloway | August 18, 2008
As a filmmaking team, Berlin-based Dieter Köster and Hannelore Conradsen have conceived, written, directed, and edited over 150 films, documentaries, shorts, animation, video clips, music spots, and assorted other media productions. This KINO interview just skims the surface of their creative oeuvre.
How many films – features, documentaries, shorts, TV reportage , animation, experimental – have you both made?
At last count, 15 feature films – 3 for the cinema, 12 for television (also as authors) – plus 32 video clips and music films (only Dieter Köster, also as author), 32 TV portraits of prominent personalities (only Dieter Köster, also as author), 22 long documentary films (20 together, also produced), 45 features and reports), 20 specials (experimental, entertainment shows, etc.), 2 animation films – one virtual animation (also as authors and producers). Altogether, 156 projects!
Are your films available for current screenings?
A small portion can be obtain directly from us (in DVD or VHS-Format). The major portion can be ordered from the Mitschnittdienste des Fernsehen (SWR, NDR, RBB, HR, ZDF). Excerpts can be viewed by interested parties on our website: Die Andere Seite – http://www.conradsen-koester-film.de (on Site “Filmografie”).
Do you maintain an archive of your work?
Our films are scattered over several TV stations, where they are archived due to the quick realization of the projects. Often we favored commissioned productions – today idea, tomorrow shooting. Also among those funded coproductions copies can be found in the corresponding archives, while some are privately archived in 16mm film format, Beta- Digi and Beta- Sp, Mini-DV.
When and how did you begin your mutual careers as filmmakers?
We met for the first time at a test screening of the film Briefwechsel (Correspondence) (1968) and had in the discussion straight-away the same objecting adversaries. For the next four years, we worked together “with pleasure” on the further development of this film – until ZDF (Second German Television) purchased it. That was the beginning. We always valued our private life and never lost sight of this priority.
Could you always maintain a measure of control over your work?
In the case of commissioned productions by TV stations, we sought to keep our independence. Sometimes this required slight-of-hand tricks – let’s say: subversion and conformity. Also, compromises – in regard to themes. However, should our own signature be missing on a theme – albeit arbitrary – then we would fight for our principles whenever someone wanted to manipulate or sought to distort.
How would you characterize your work in film, television, video, and the internet?
We trust the fictional possibilities of reality and the realistic base of the fictional, independent of genre and location. So basically we are fiction-documentary filmmakers – narrating, participating, reporting – who format and dispense our own fascinating experiences for (mostly) the average viewer. For us, the only limitation is when it affects the dignity of man.
Which were some of your favorite film and television productions? Some of your favorite but still unrealized projects?
As for those films which we generally like, Hannelore Conradsen as moviegoer prefers Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof (USA, 2007), among our own productions for television, Wer angibt, hat mehr vom Leben (Who Boasts, Has More From Life) (Germany, 1999). Dieter Köster as moviegoer favors Wieland Liebske and Victor Vicas’s Zwei unter Millionen (Two Among Million) (Germany, 1961), among our own films Träume auf Rädern – Orient Express (Dreams on Wheels – Orient Express) (Germany, 2000) because it comes across as so neatly “subversive.” As for our son Svenne Köster’s Der reinste Terror (Pure Terror) (Germany, 2007), we both like it – not only as parents, but because he comes from a generation that doesn’t give a damn about what is opportune or valuable. Here are depicted the daily resentments harbored in ourselves. We’ve been able to accomplish all that’s conceivable in different genres, for which we are thankful.
How do you view the future of your work in any of the above mentioned media?
Some years back, those in charge of programming at the top of the public television system initiated the mistake to allow the permanent employees (department managers and commissioning editors) to shape the program according to their own fancy and not trust outside influences. These lower-ranked persons responsible for programming commissioned directors to deliver to the public what they consider ripe to raise the viewing quota. This has led to across-the-board provincialization, mostly without the charm of the specific banal.
So how did you survive as independent filmmakers?
We were inscribed in the Fernseh Redaktion as “dinos” because we were still allowed to produce for particular broadcasting slots that only halfway pleased us. Many colleagues have already capitulated to dance to the tune of the less talented in order to survive. We always were satisfied to serve the Rummelplatzmedium (fairground medium). When we wanted to disclose this in a press brochure of a cultural department, we were “recommended” that it would be better to wipe out the word “Rummelplatzmedium”.
What happened then?
Then we knew that it’s high time to quit in this format. Since 2008, we have stopped making our own productions for television and approach those only on an indirect basis. This was also possible through the revolution in the technological aspects of shooting and postproduction editing. The future belong entirely to the freelance producers, for whom completely new distribution avenues (via Internet) are available. Films that delightfully deal with the chances and possibilities of modern life, in whichever form and whatever content, without blinders that narrow the perspective on the desirable.
We don’t want to make any predictions. “Career” is no longer on the table. Better that we direct our age similarly as we announce in some of our films. To grasp life as an adventure just around the corner, with horror and fantasy elements – or completely “lazy”.
Thank you for the interview, and continued success in the future. – Editors
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