Industry Profile: Verena von Stackelberg, Founder of WOLF Cinema

Photo credit: Jack Benjamin Toyle

A new kind of cinema is being opened in Neukölln, but it needs our help! Yesterday, WOLF cinema launched its crowd funding campaign on KissKissBankBank. Conceived by the founder and co-manager, Verena von Stackelberg, WOLF aspires to be not only a cinema, but also a social space where filmmakers and non-filmmakers can exchange ideas and show their work. The Berlin Film Journal met with Verena a couple of days before the launch to learn about the seeds behind WOLF and what it means to create such a space.

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 Could you talk about your background and how you came to the idea of opening a cinema like WOLF?

I fell in love with film and film making as a teenager, and studied photography and film in London. It was while working as an usherette at the Curzon Cinema in Soho that I really fell in love with the power that cinema has as a medium. I was also reading Jonas Mekas’ film journal, and I was so excited because I realized that the cinema has this power that I didn’t know it had. It can also be creative, it can be just like making films. And I think right now we need Jonas Mekas-minded people in the cinemas as much as we need creative filmmakers. I realized the importance and the impact it has when you create a good cinema.

 Q: I feel like the whole movie going culture has totally changed. We now have impersonal Cineplexes and people sitting alone in their room watching films on their computer. To what extent do you see movie going as a communal experience?

For me it’s the most important thing. I still think it’s still alive and kicking. I think the way we make a cinema as a space has to change. In order to really attract people who are willing to have an experience of a film that is not necessarily marketed on every street corner, you have to create a social space where they can feel at home, offer an experience that you can never have at home alone. I’m not really against watching films online; I think it’s also good. But it’s interesting because I did a lot of interviews with filmmakers in preparing for this campaign, and I asked them what does a cinema mean to them, as opposed to watching something at home, and one thing they said is that watching a film in the cinema is physical, you are submitted to a film, in the sense that you cannot stop the movie to check emails or leave the room, in the cinema you are focused, it’s a physical experience. The sound and images, and the presence of others in the auditorium change the way that you see a film completely. And I think people are really aware of that and value that, but they also, especially when you do different kinds of programming, need reasons to share it with others, for it to become a second home.
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You were saying earlier how imagine the WOLF to be a cinema and a place for workshops, and space for filmmakers to edit and exchange ideas with each other. You could go into that a bit more?

The idea is not only to have two screens, with a bar and café, where people can come by from morning to night, but also to have a third flexible screening space, which for me is the biggest question mark in terms of how its going to work, but also the most exciting one. There are many divisions and borders now between what is a museum and what is a gallery. On the other side there are so many filmmakers who really think of producing work in a much more open and free way, so they don’t necessarily think of an exhibition screening room as a place where you have the projector in the back and the screen in the front, and the people in middle all facing the same direction. There are also people working on moving image work where you can project left, right, center, top and bottom, and work with and sound and image in a much more innovative way. So I really would like to play with this idea of how else we can work with the moving image, without making a division between gallery and cinema. These spaces can be used and adapted to how ever the work needs to be seen and shown. On top of that its also important to think how to conceive of these ideas and how to work on the post-production process in close connection with the cinema itself, so having these facilities will hopefully make filmmakers think differently about how their film ends up on the screen, and also make the audience think differently about how the film came to that screen. I’m often surprised by how little filmmakers know about all the work and all the processes that go into creating a cinema, making a program and marketing a film, and distributing it. In the best case, I think we will manage to create a space where this understanding for each other’s jobs is bigger and more holistic.

I think even on a practical level, providing a space where you can edit and where you can meet others to exchange ideas about your work is something that’s really unique about this place.

Yes, for example, a producer/filmmaker was telling me last week that she’s often feeling very lonely and stuck in her editing room and you come to a point where you think “I need to exchange.” Knowing that there is something in your neighborhood or in the city where you can go where other filmmakers are hanging our, or even people who are just curious and engaging is going to benefit everybody. I’m really not inventing something that is completely new. This is something that a good cinema or institution would do, but the difference here is that it’s more grass roots and less elitist. Because what you often find with kinematheks or institutions is that it has this air of inaccessibility to it, you have to be part of the club, or you have to know a lot of about film or art to be a part of it. This is not going to happen here. Because I also want to show more mainstream films, along with the most strange, or quirky, or unknown films.

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I was going to ask what films do you envision being played here?

On the one side I also work for film festivals, so I see a lot of films that I absolutely fall in love with, but know that no distributor will take it and give a proper release. So I want to have one strand where we provide a home for films that normally don’t get shown on a regular basis in a cinema, a place to discover films that won’t be shown anywhere else, and in the best case maybe other cinemas will take notice and also show them. But I also want to show films that have a general release, but with subtitles and maybe different subtitles on different dates. Of course, I want to collaborate a lot. I don’t want to just sit there and think of the program myself .The truest statement that anyone can make about film is that they don’t know anything, because there are so many films and I absolutely don’t believe in the idea of canon. I’m actually against the idea of a film canon, so I’d like to break up this concept that there is a hierarchy created by very educated people who decide what you should see.

Sunday 8. February is a big day. Can you explain what’s going to happen?

On Sunday we launch the crowd funding campaign for the cinema, specifically for investments that we need to make this place happen. It’s a crowd funding campaign on KissKissBankBank, We have made several films for this campaign, one of which was shot with a real wolf which we hired from filmwolf.de. We launch the three minute film on Sunday. We have an interview film where I interviewed several filmmakers from the area where they talk about what this place would mean to them. We will organize more events with the neighborhood in the next months, because the campaign runs until 8 April. But on Sunday the whole things goes live, and we’ve invited friends from the festival, and international guests. We will have stations in place where people can donate already if they want to. Basically the idea behind launching it at the time of the Berlinale is that I’ve talked to so many people over the years who want to somehow support it, so I thought now was the time to do it, do give your love. Also I think its good for people to see what we are trying to do in person.

How much do you need?

We need to raise at least about 50,000 [euros] through the campaign, but it would be better if we had 100,000 of course. They [KissKissBankBank] approached me, and said that we think you can make this happen here, because it’s a part of a neighborhood and community, and its more than just trying to get money for one film, which will only get shown at a few festivals. We also need to find a few more investors. And through the campaign it will be easier to collaborate with Wolf, because we can make it very clear what we are trying to achieve.

DONATE TO THE PROJECT HERE.

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ABOUT THE PROJECT

w o l f: Cinema, Cafe-Bar, Workshops, Exhibitions, Production: A new film terrain wants to come to life in Neukölln, for a local and an international film gang. Support the project and make it happen by joining the WolfGang! 

Join the Wolfgang!

In the heart of Berlin’s Neukölln, a new film space is spreading its wings and wants to be shared with you. Located in what was once a brothel, it is a place of wild ideas and primal courage. w o l f engages with cinema and aims to be a home and a learning ground for film in all its forms. It’s a social meeting point in a space of 360 square metres.

Visit the WOLF website

Address: Weserstrasse 59/ Wildenbruchstrasse 6, 1205 Berlin-Neukölln

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