Mr. Palzo, Pantaflix has not only survived the pandemic but has recently increased its staffing numbers. Where does the company want to go with an eventful history?
We consider ourselves a good title for talent, whether for advertising, podcasts, movies or series. In this range – from 10 seconds to a multi-part series – we were the first to establish the agency Creative Cosmos 15, among other things. Take Keda Khader Ramadan, who just launched a campaign for delivery service Yababa with CC15 and filmed the series “Asbest” for Pantaleon Films for ARD Media Library on behalf of Degeto. One of those powerful chiefs in the Banta family. With Matthias Schweighöfer we produce for cinema, live broadcasts and advertising campaigns like those of XXXLutz. So we can do whatever comes to mind for all the talents who want to work with us – whether it’s running their own ad campaigns or their podcast. It’s not about exclusivity and commitments, it’s about empowerment.
Gone are the times as a tech company when the focus was on the Pantaflix streaming platform?
Four years ago the company was different. It is no secret that Pantaflix has changed and will continue to change. We used to focus a lot on the digital business and ambitions out there. It was written so often that it didn’t work the way it was supposed to. We picked up a lot of grudges in 2018. We could have gone, back then or in 2020 during the pandemic, but we’re still here and with more enthusiasm than ever. That’s why you can now mark the class.
But, according to some reports from the past few weeks, is the dev platform still a part of your business?
Tech remains a part of Pantaflix like Pantaflix Technologies, because we have a technically well-functioning platform that is an attractive white label solution for clients like “Süddeutsche Cinemathek”, “FAZ” or film festivals. We are also ready when digital creators want to become more independent of social networks and prefer to use their own structures because monetization can be more profitable. We are a content house for talent across all media, including our own technical expertise.
You just mentioned the problems of the epidemic yourself.
In reorganizing the group of companies, the pandemic stole from us at least a year, and of course another year to get everything back. We’ve now also noticed in early events with personal encounters within the Panta Family that this strategy makes sense for everyone. Above all, the intention is to provide quality commercial entertainment. We have a lot of great ambitions and ambitions, but we also humbly carry some memories of even more difficult years – for perhaps the Pantaflix mark in 2022 for you.
So will Pantaflix primarily be a content house in the future?
definitely! This is done through all distribution channels. On the other hand, we want to make a commercially successful cinema, and this is not only our heritage, but also the future. Of course, the art house of cinema is justified, but I do not see it in the field of stories in which I sometimes end up in a complete depression. I want to get out of the cinema in a better mood. The same goes for the mood on the sofa when our subsidiary Pantaflix Studios, for example, produces series like Joyn’s “Das Internat.” Then there are commissions like “Army of Thieves”, which are created directly for streaming services.
“If we had to break up again, I honestly don’t know if we’d survive as a company today”
The film is written and produced by Matthias Schweigofer for Netflix. Has the Pantaflix project succeeded in overcoming the epidemic?
It was a very important project. 2020 was the most difficult year for us in the history of the company. The pandemic and the first shutdown in March of the year was to hurt us more in terms of timing because we only had one project in the works, and one of them was a week before filming started and was due to launch in a month. Everything was stopped at first. There is no virtual chest in sight, and no prospect of returning to the group with concepts of cleanliness. For the first time, the world stood still, as, of course, it did for many others. But I know a few other colleagues who were lucky enough to either have just finished shooting or didn’t want to start shooting until the fall. That was a big challenge for us. In the summer of 2020, we then produced at our own risk a proper hygiene concept even without virtual financing and we were lucky. If we had to break up again, I honestly don’t know if we’d survive as a company today.
These are extraordinarily sincere words.
Those were months when a lot was at stake. ‘Army of Thieves’ took place on Netflix as part of the 2020 Berlinale – as it happened in Berlin, of course at Borchardt. Matthias was Matthias, he was at his best and he inspired Netflix for it. That was before everything stopped. The project initially seemed on hold, but Netflix pushed the pace and filming took place in Prague from October to December 22 – without any major interruption due to Corona. And when filming wrapped up just before Christmas, that was the moment in 2020 that probably brought tears to my eyes because confidence returned. Then the next time tears came when the movie came out and it did well.
How do you measure success? Netflix rarely releases the numbers…
Number: ‘Army of Thieves’ was #1 on Netflix’s movie charts in 98 countries shortly after its release. We’ve also had insights confirming Netflix and us: It was also a huge success for Matthias Schweiger personally, who became known overnight in the US, for example.
Is this good for Schweigofer personally or also for Pantaflix?
I think it’s actually a win-win situation. A very pure guesswork: if there was a sequel to the prequel, Matthias would direct it again and Pantaleon Films would take over production again. But besides broadcasting, we’re very proud of our cinematic heritage with names like Matthias Schweigofer, Florian David Fitz, and Frederick Lau. However, in the industry, the question will often be asked: Will you risk yourself and bring a piece of material to the cinema, or will it be an original film for the streaming service? It will be an interesting discussion.
How do you feel about it?
One thing is clear: cinema has a huge interest in the big names and many films win their audiences through their cast, especially in German productions. This puts us in a very good position with the Pantaleon family, as we do now with Human History – A Slightly Abridged, a feature film we made with Warner Bros. and Gerda Film and Brainpool. It’s like “Sketch History – the movie” – also with Erik Haffner as director and Chris Geletneky as show designer – only shown in a much grander and grander than ZDF. It turns out pretty funny, it’s been so prominently represented and now comes at a good time, because comedic relief is definitely going to benefit you right now.
“The film industry is definitely going to get more demanding.”
Does it really help or hurt German cinema that private German television has largely abandoned film production?
Good question. So they didn’t quit completely. We continue to work on films with Seven.Pictures for example. And Seven.One Entertainment has had a good role in the joint stage productions that they have been involved in for the past few years. But this is much less than what was previously commissioned directly to TV. We are monitoring the fictional strategy of the two private broadcasting groups closely. If a certain frequency is missing, I can no longer create a genre like TV movies and I shouldn’t be surprised that there are no storms of enthusiasm with the individual attempts. Fortunately, we started producing series for streaming services even before the pandemic, “You Wanted” for Prime Video and “The Last Word” for Netflix, which took home the German TV award. By the way, we were very proud of it, but perhaps this series was also an unusual project for Anke Engelke because it was said more horizontally than a lot of the comics that many people liked about Engelke. Anyway: broadcasting and cinema – we will continue to pursue these two areas intensively, as cinema as a business will certainly become more demanding: why do people go to the cinema? What movies do you also enjoy watching at home via streaming services?
Then there is the issue of directions related to the required content. whats your answer?
The allure of reality can also be felt in some great series projects, when I think of “WeCrashed” or “The Dropout”. It is admirable that such mixers have always been successful in Silicon Valley. So factual stories, especially about fraud, run in fiction but also in documentary, which is currently a very exciting area anyway. This is also one of the reasons why we at Pantaflix are building a podcast unit with Panta Sounds and we also want to devote ourselves to documentaries about film. We’re not the only ones, but we want to harness the power of the big Panta family – efficiently producing content across all forms of media. That’s why we’ve strengthened our team with Tristan Lehmann at Panta Sounds and Yoko Higuchi-Zitzmann at Pantaleon Films – and now with a distinguished expert.
Who is the person you are talking about?
It is about veteran narrator, producer, and director Andreas Wenk. He is already the third notable newcomer with deep entertainment experience to join us this year. His last position was as a consultant, prior to which he spent 14 years with the History Channel. And it builds a new documentaries section at Pantaflix.
While this is still under construction, what projects will be implemented in the near future?
Now the theatrical version of “The History of Mankind – a little shortened.” At the end of the year, “Oscar Dress” with Florian David Fitz will come to cinemas, and “Asbest” will also be shown at the ARD Media Library in collaboration with Warner Bros. Then the collaboration with Paramount in the cinema is new to us. First of all, the film is about the movie “Groom Witnesses” with Eden Hasanovich and Alila Bagrichek. Last but not least: Our flagship project is “unsolicited” for Sky, including with Jessica Schwarz. Both will be shown in 2023.
Mr. Palzo, thank you very much for the interview.