What drew you to the television and production industry in the first place and what have you been up to since you graduated from the Berlin School?
I was one of the lucky kids that was allowed to watch TV, hardly without any restrictions (at least that is how I remember it). I fell in love with the medium already in pre-school and knew then that I wanted to end up somewhere in that industry. When I realized that the prize for ‘Best Film’ at the Oscars, that I watched regularly, was given to the producers of the movie, I knew what my dream job would be: I wanted to become a producer – and still to this day, I cannot think of a better job.
One year after my graduation from the Berlin School I received a job offer from the Mediengruppe RTL Deutschland to become the Managing Director of an affiliate and in-house production company: Norddeich. I am still with them after almost 6 years now and very happy about that step in my career.
What does a typical day look like for a leader at Norddeich TV?
As an RTL Mediengruppe affiliate and production house, we work closely together with the broadcasting channels and platforms. This happens in two different ways: either we develop formats and content and pitch it to our partners or we buy a license for an existing format on the market and adapt it for our commissioning channel.
With a staff of around 130 people and 10 direct reports, I invest a lot of my time in communicating with my team and supporting them with upcoming opportunities and challenges. Another extensive part of my responsibilities is to identify new formats and develop new business. This entails observing the market, acquiring new projects/formats, pitching new ideas to my clients and accomplishing the fundamental negotiations.
Can you pin-point a particular project that was truly transformed by the impact of new technology in your industry?
Five years ago we produced an exceptional music talent show for RTL that was based on live audience voting via an app: Rising Star. Viewers were invited to download an app, register with their profile picture and vote during the live show for the singing contestants, in order to send them on to the next level. During the contestants’ performance the profile pictures of the viewers, those who took part in the voting, were displayed on a huge video wall in the studio. The technology that was introduced worked without any problems, and for the first time in TV history, the viewers / voters were seen in a live show, interacting through the use of their mobile device.
Broadcasting is no-longer a one-way communication. How has the rise of social media shocked this dynamic and what new responsibilities and opportunities have come with this change?
We use Facebook and Instagram mostly for communication and marketing: to find new contestants and promote our shows. When we search for new talent, we place Facebook ads targeted directly to the group of people in which we expect our contestants to be. This is efficient, works for many topics very well, communication is easy and a great support for the casting department.
The other benefit of social media is certainly direct feedback. Even though I must say that the feedback we receive from social media users is rarely positive, sometimes neutral, in the most cases negative or even brutal. People tend to be harsh or become aggressive easily, perhaps due to the supposed anonymity or remoteness the internet provides.
What ethical questions does the evolution of new technology present to creative leaders in the world of broadcasting specifically?
My opinion has not fundamentally changed. The way we work including always trying to behave in an ethical manner, does not change just because new technology is at our disposal. It is of the utmost importance to me to always keep in the back of my mind that content must be well researched before being made public, so that no untruths or falsehoods are spread. If this can’t be achieved than simply don’t communicate it. The internet never forgets anything. Once made public, that information is immediately accessible throughout the world. We have to conscientiously do our homework in order to avoid putting ourselves and above all others into difficult situations.
What are the core commitments that drive your leadership style, and how do they integrate both your teams and viewers?
I try to treat all people with respect. It is extremely important to me to deal respectfully with protagonists who oftentimes naively end up completely helpless in the arms of a TV crew. I want to be able to look myself in the mirror without having a bad conscience because in the course of a TV production I threw some unsuspecting person under the bus. Of course this goes for those people I work with as well. I hope this respectful behavior towards the team and the protagonists also comes across to the viewer.
To what extend do you feel that technology is liberating story-telling as a creative artform??
In light of the numerous story-telling opportunities that recent technological developments, in particular Augmented and Virtual Reality, have to offer, we can look forward to exciting developments in the coming years. This technology is still, for all intents and purposes, in its infancy and many brilliant minds are working to perfect the technology and to make it accessible for mass consumption. I am absolutely convinced that there is still much to do and the story-telling potential will be revolutionary.