Interview with Johannes Koeck

The work sounds glamorous, and from time to time it is: One day, Johannes Koeck travels to a film premiere, and the next day he travels to a film festival in Berlin, Cannes or Venice. The Cine Tirol Film Commission is the one-stop resource for film, TV, documentary, commercial, music video and still photography production across Tirol. Cine Tirol is twenty years old this year.

You have been holding the position as Executive Director at the Cine Tirol Film Commission for 20 years now –what was your most memorable or most wonderful experience during these two decades?
When I think of the past 20 years, many wonderful and memorable experiences come to my mind. It’s hard to pick one particular fondest moment. There were certainly countless exciting experiences, such as the first film that was made in the founding year of Cine Tirol, which was 1998, in Steinberg am Rofan: HELDEN IN TIROL by Niki List; my first trip to Mumbai, with the mission of attracting Indian film producers to the stunning Alpine locations of Tirol; that two extremely successful TV series like SOKO KITZBÜHEL and DER BERGDOKTOR call Tirol home; the personal encounters with filmmakers and actresses and actors like Tobias Moretti, Julia Gschnitzer, Harald Krassnitzer, Léa Seydoux, Karl Markovics, Felicity Jones, Ed Westwick, Dakota Fanning, Hugh Jackman, Kit Harrington, Katrina Kaif, Salman Khan and many more, who have all been incredibly friendly and complaisant; the accolade for Tirol as a film location through the shooting of JAMES BOND 007 – SPECTRE in Sölden and Obertilliach, starring Daniel Craig; the debut films DER ARCHITEKT, VALS, HOME IS HERE and MAYBE, BABY! who were realized with a lot of dedication and passion by women directors Ina Weisse, Anita Lackenberger, Tereza Kotyk and Julia Becker; my VIP invitation to join the EURASIA FILM FESTIVAL in Astana/Kazakhstan ; the fact that Cine Tirol is still the only Film Commission in the world where all team members have earned Certified Film Commissioner (CFC) status by completing the AFCI University Certified Film Commissioner Program; and Ed Sheeran’s new music video for ‘Perfect,’ which was filmed in the snow in Hintertux/Zillertal Valley — with more than 870 million YouTube views, this clip has been the most successful film production “made in Tirol” so far …

How and why was Cine Tirol founded?
Cine Tirol is an exceptional story of success that has been written predominantly by two people: Tirol producer and director Erich Hörtnagl and Managing Director of the Tirol Tourist Board Josef Margreiter. After noticing Tirol’s potential for the film industry, Erich Hörtnagl had the idea of establishing a film commission to market Tirol as a shooting location for future projects. Intrigued, Josef Margreiter pursued the idea with passion and lined up support from local politicians, such as the then Provincial Governor Wendelin Weingartner and members of the provincial parliament Helmut Krieghofer and Ernst Schöpf. Driven by the enduring enthusiasm of Erich Hörtnagl and based upon his feasibility study, Cine Tirol was founded a few years later on assignment of Josef Margreiter, the then new Managing Director of the Tirol Tourist Board, on April 1st, 1998 as the first regional film commission in Austria. Dieter Kosslick, the then executive director at the NRW Film Foundation and later director of the Berlinale Film Festival, also acted as an important supporter of the idea and helped with the implementation of the new film office in the decisive phase of its creation. I first got into the business in the early 1990s, when the German ndF production company went to Wildermieming to shoot the DER BERGDOKTOR (“THE MOUNTAIN DOCTOR”) TV series – thus I had already been acquainted with the film business when Josef Margreiter asked me to be the head of Cine Tirol back in 1997. I’ve been in this role for 20 years – and the rest is history! Together with the Cine Tirol Team – which consisted of Sabine Aigner-Frühauf in its beginnings and now is comprised of Thomas Fuchs, Angelika Pagitz and Anna Grießer – we have promoted for and contributed to the development of an internationally competitive Tirol visual media industry. With great pride we can say that that we succeeded in attracting more than 1,000 film and television productions to choose Tirol as their go-to location during the last two decades.

What’s the main role of Cine Tirol and how do you promote Tirol as a filming location?
We act as a catalyst for the Tirol visual media industry on multiple different levels: We attract and build the film industry in Tirol through manifold marketing and promotion activities, for example at the world’s top film festivals and events in Berlin, Cannes, Venice, Locarno, London, Los Angeles, Mumbai, Goa, Shanghai and Busan. In addition, we work towards positioning Tirol as a location for international audio-visual productions through offering creative resources and sufficient information on filming in the country by means of newsletters, promo cards and social media. As a next step, we assist filmmakers with all the requirements that filming on location brings. We provide comprehensive production services to local and international productions, such as our professional Cine Tirol Location Service including Location Scouting. The Cine Tirol Location Archives contain over 700 filming sites and, if required, we connect filmmakers and production companies to Tirol-based crews and industry-specific businesses. These comprehensive services are offered to all productions, no matter if it’s an international blockbuster or the first film project of an upcoming talent, a TV series or a short film, a commercial, music video or still photography—we assist all production companies who choose our country as their go-to location. Moreover, we enhance the success of selected film projects through production financing. For funds, filmmakers must apply by submitting an application, which is then considered by the Cine Tirol Team. In the end, attracting, supporting, promoting and realizing a production is always teamwork – it is extremely important to work collaboratively when making a film, and you need a lot of dedicated and inspired people as it was shown during the shooting of JAMES BOND 007 – SPECTRE in Sölden, which was initiated by Jakob Falkner from the Sölden Mountain Railway Company. And, of course, a little luck every now and then doesn’t hurt either!

You work towards positioning Tirol as a location for international productions – what are Tirol’s competitive advantages?
There are many good reasons that make Tirol an attractive modern destination for filmmaking: the stunning diversity of mountain sceneries; the close proximity to even remote Alpine locations; the country’s five glacier ski resorts and the amazingly scenic mountain drives; world class infrastructure in immediate vicinity to locations, including lodging and dining options, transportation services, medical care and more; outstanding examples of historic and contemporary architecture; highly professional Tirol-based production services and location scouts; local authorities and communities who are very film friendly and embracing of productions; the highly professional collaboration between Cine Tirol and local communities, tourist boards, mountain railway companies and other businesses; the rich heritage of Tirol and the fascinating stories the country has to tell in addition to its convenient location at the heart of Europe. All these factors have greatly contributed towards attracting top film and television productions to choose our country as their go-to location, and still do!

Cine Tirol acts as a catalyst for the Tirol visual media industry – are there any numbers that summarize the economic benefit to Tirol as a result of the filming?
Yes, there are facts and figures that prove our commitment and our success: More than 1,000 film and television productions have been shot in the country since the foundation of Cine Tirol 20 years ago. We have attracted and built the film industry in Tirol through development, strategic partnering, marketing and promotion. We have assisted local and international production companies with all their needs when they chose to film here. Tirol film productions reach millions of people across the nation and around the world every year – in the year 2017 alone, they were watched by over 1.7 billion people on the big screen, on television and in YouTube videos! What’s more, production spending in Tirol has grown significantly and economic impact has been generated in all of its communities, including lodging, food, transportation, goods and services, rents, wages, local taxes and more – over € 120 million has come into local communities from film production since the Cine Tirol Film Commission was created in 1998. Operating in cooperation with the Tirol Tourist Board, Cine Tirol works to increase economic development through the film industry, and also to support locals through employment related to the film industry, behind and in front of the camera. Moreover, film shootings awaken a new wave of tourism as fans seek out locations. In Tirol, many visitors travel to Wilder Kaiser Region on inspiration from the popular “DER BERGDOKTOR” (“THE MOUNTAIN DOCTOR”) TV series. And for a real life dose of a superspy adventure, travellers can soon follow in the footsteps of “James Bond 007 – SPECTRE” at the outstanding 007 ELEMENTS Installation high above Sölden atop Gaislachkogl Peak.

Which popular productions have been filmed in Tirol so far?
The most popular Tirol film production of the last few years is without a doubt JAMES BOND 007 – SPECTRE, which was shot on location in Sölden and Obertilliach; however, recent Cine Tirol productions have proven to be very successful at landing prime screening slots, and awards, at some of the world’s top film festivals, including THE EDUKATORS, MÄRZ, WIE IM HIMMEL, STREIF – ONE HELL OF A RIDE, SCHWABENKINDER, DER SCHANDFLECK, LAPISLAZULI, DER BERGKRISTALL, SOKO KITZBÜHEL, DER BERGDOKTOR, GLOCKNER – DER SCHWARZE BERG, IM TAL DES SCHWEIGENS, DA WO DIE BERGE SIND, CHALET GIRL, xXx – TRIPLE X, IN 3 TAGEN BIST DU TOT 2, SNOWPIERCER, BRIMSTONE, TATORT – PASSION, BAUM DER ERLÖSUNG, LOHN DER ARBEIT, FREMDER FEIND, 1809 – DIE FREIHEIT DES ADLERS, EDDIE THE EAGLE, YUVVRAAJ, TIGER ZINDA HAI, PERFECT, …

Is there a director you would like to shoot in Tirol?
Yes, Wes Anderson – I love his movies because they are weird and quirky, lovably odd, incredibly offbeat, astonishingly moving and witty! I would also like to have a film directed in Tirol by Woody Allen. Plus, there are a number of highly talented and passionate local and foreign directors who have all it takes to make outstanding movies – they are all invited to produce their thrilling, touching, gripping and entertaining films in Tirol. If I could opt for actors, too, I would pick Juliette Binoche (for a very personal reason!) and Robert Redford, who has been shooting DOWNHILL RACER in Kitzbühel many years ago.

At which time of year are the most films shot?
The huge amount of production activity occurs between April and October, as the climate does not exactly support winter shootings for its short days, cold temperatures and the limited accessibility of remote mountain locations; sometimes productions are besieged by unpredictable and expensive weather obstacles. Nevertheless, we have managed quite a lot of winter productions in Tirol, such as James Bond 007 – SPECTRE, THE CHALET GIRL, DER ARCHITEKT, FREMDER FEIND, IN 3 TAGEN BIST DU TOT and EXTREME OPS, along with winter specials for TV series like DER BERGDOKTOR and DIE BERGRETTER and many commercials and music videos, as Tirol looks especially gorgeous all blanketed in white. The four distinct seasons in Tirol are a fantastic asset – and the country’s five glacier ski resorts enable shooting in ice and snow even if it is not winter. It’s kind of a “5th season”. Such an enabling environment undeniably helps attracting foreign productions to the country.

Looking back on two decades, what has changed the most since the inception of Cine Tirol in 1998?
Competition has grown tremendously over the years, especially in Alpine countries and areas. Several Austrian provinces as well as neighbouring and faraway countries have followed the lead of Cine Tirol and established film commissions to attract productions to their countries. Another challenge we have to tackle today is that it’s not only about locations and spectacular settings; it’s not only the production values that film producers go to find. The lure is, in a single word, money and some of our fellow competitors offer more competitive incentives than we do. However, although tax credits or discounts are a good business and economic tool for drawing in productions, we continue working tirelessly to increase film related activities in Tirol and we continue to go chasing after everything, from low-budget films to big-ticket films. Given our personal network of international ties in place after all these years in the business along with the tremendous amount of cooperation and collaboration that we receive through strategic partnering with Tirol authorities and communities, tourist boards, mountain railway companies and other businesses, plus the exceptional local community support and the incredibly positive word-of-mouth promotion of filmmakers who have shot in Tirol, we are very confident that our journey, which we have started 20 years ago, will continue to be a very successful one in the years to come. Moreover, our country has a lot of fascinating stories to tell! And that’s why I will continue to find and create Tirol-related content, the sort of content that great films are made of. As always, it is life itself that writes the most gripping, moving and touching stories!

What is your favourite film “made in Tirol” in the past 20 years?
I thought about that question for a long, long time and I asked myself: is it a big-ticket movie or is it a debut film, is it a long running TV series or is it an award-winning film, an action movie or a thriller, a Bollywood production, a romantic love story, a documentary, a high quality caliber commercial for some of the world’s leading brands in the automobile, fashion and sports industries or a crowd-pleasing video clip? Truth be told, like a mother loves all her children equally, all productions filmed in Tirol are very dear to me. And just like siblings from the same family can be so different, all these productions are varied, diverse and colourful. And together, the 1,000 film productions that were “made in Tirol” during the last 20 years represent everything that is Tirol – and this has earned my sincere gratitude. In addition, it makes me feel proud as all these films will be known forever by the tracks they leave behind. And neither wind, nor cold, nor snow and ice, nor time can erase them.