The Zurich-born film director and screenwriter Florian Froschmayer has made a name for himself as one of the most prolific TV directors in the DACH region. He speaks to Discover Germany, Austria & Switzerland about how modern on-demand services are influencing the German TV landscape, his latest projects, and much more.
TEXT: NANE STEINHOFF | PHOTO © FLORIAN FROSCHMAYER
Main photo © Patrick-D. Kaethner
As a son of a Swiss mother and an Austrian father, Florian was born and grew up in Switzerland. While he had already acted in theatre productions as a child, his path was clear from the very start. The director recalls: “My theatre teacher told my mum when I was around seven years old that I will probably become a director, rather than an actor, because I was already telling everyone at the theatre where to stand and how to act back then.” The actual, conscious decision to become a film director, however, came to Florian when watching Back to the Future in 1985. He smiles: “I knew then that I wanted to do something like this, too, and I started to actively work towards this goal. In the end, however, nothing worked out the way I planned it to. The film school I chose didn’t take me on, for example, but I achieved my goal anyway. The path towards it was simply a different one. But that’s how life is sometimes – you need to find your own way over and over again, while staying flexible and open.”
Timmendorfer Strand, 2003.
The life of a film director
Today, Florian has become one of the best directors and screenplay writers in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. “My profession has many beautiful sides to it. I love telling stories, touching people, making them think and laugh and meeting different people. I’m also able to get different perspectives on life and do things that I probably wouldn’t, otherwise. I was able to drive a submarine from the German navy and sat on a cable railway roof with a camera in Italy, for example. All in all, I’m able to experience something new with each project,” explains Florian on the many advantages of his job, and adds: “I always try to find new things that I haven’t done before and I prefer projects that cause sleepless nights to projects that I have done before. I am lucky enough to be able to create films and series in all genres, and different genres bring different stories, as well as the possibility to try different things, visually.”
His directorial debut Exklusiv (1999), for example, became a box-office smash-hit straight away. The crazy thing about this production? The film was produced without any public funds and Florian managed to combine his creativity, sponsoring and crowd funding to realise the project. “What started off as a small idea became a big cinema production. This is now 20 years ago, but I still love to think back to this time,” he explains. It therefore became clear at an early stage that Florian is a visionary and doer.
Tatort Kiel, 2010.
Other projects were numerous TV series and films, such as several Tatort productions, the ARD film Sweet September with Caroline Peters and Mišel Matičević, In my Sister’s Wedding Dress, Ihr Werdet Gerichtet, Die Route, Mit Geradem Rücken and For His Own Good. Florian recalls: “Another great experience was Lovin’ Amsterdam – a film title that couldn’t explain my feelings towards this city better. But also my newest films for the Der Zürich Krimi series are special to me. The project was filmed in Prague – a city which I didn’t really know before, and the time I spent on it was simply incredible. Working with the great team and actors – especially Christian Kohlund – was just amazing.”
As modern on-demand services are becoming more and more omnipresent today, Germany’s TV landscape is significantly changing, too. Florian explains: “It’s a really interesting time, with lots of changes, and we’re on the way to finding our own identity again. For decades, we have worked with a fixed programming structure, but the growing possibilities with on-demand have made viewers more selective, in my opinion. That’s why films and series have to become more demanding, as viewers now choose carefully and watch more programmes aimed towards them. Us directors therefore have to become braver – in choosing the storylines, the topics and the ways in which we tell the stories. This is already happening, too, as can be seen in formats like Dark or We Are the Wave – productions that wouldn’t have been possible in the linear TV landscape of the past 20 years. Of course, this is a really incredible development for me as a director.”
Making of Der Zürich Krimi, Prag, 2019.
In his own writing
The two new Zürich Krimis are currently being filmed, for which Florian isn’t only the director, but also the co-writer and set photographer. Florian says: “It’s really awesome for me to be that deeply involved in the creative process and to be able to give these films my own writing.” Viewers will be able to expect great entertainment and two totally different films, which nevertheless integrate themselves into the existing series that surrounds the main character Thomas Borchert. “I really love that the main actor Christian Kohlund was able to create this amazing character. He also wanted me to direct some episodes, which I was really happy about. CChristian is simply a natural force that can really unfold in the Borchert character. It was really great to write situations for Borchert which I see as unique in the German TV landscape, with its clear views and deep chasms,” he says.
The two films will showcase Florian’s writing as a director. He explains: “The storyline determines the visualisation for me. When I was younger, I always tried to convey a certain look in the films, but I now believe that the story determines the form. When the story is calm and intimate, I would destroy it with quick cuts and wild camera movements. Both Zürich Krimis films, therefore, have very different visualisations, as one of them is more calm and intimate, while the other is a bit wilder and more opulent.”
About exhibitions and new projects
Today, Florian lives in Berlin with his German wife. “Berlin has been my home for the past 20 years and I also have a German passport. I love Berlin’s honest and very own beauty, and its inhabitants’ quite direct ways. Now, I’m also based in Los Angeles and spend a lot of time there as well.”
And what is planned for the future after having achieved so much already in his career? “I really hope that I can continue working as a director for the next 25 to 30 years. I have 20 years of experience but am still as curious and passionate as when I started out. I hope that I can continue to make projects that I haven’t done before; maybe in different countries and different languages, too.”
For 2020, many other plans are on the horizon. Florian is currently developing a series with a screenwriter from Los Angeles, for example, and is looking for a suitable production partner for it. The same goes for a feature film that has been developed with a German writer. Furthermore, Florian is curating a special exhibition within the scope of photoBERLIN. He explains: “Alongside other director colleagues like Baran Bo Odar, Dennis Gansel, Christian Schwochow, Thomas Jahn and Lars Montag, I will exhibit set photos which we have taken while working as directors. It’ll be a special and different insight into the work of filmmakers.” The exhibition’s opening is set for 27 February 2020 – we look forward to it, already!