Lights, camera, action: an interview with Henning Adam from Books at Berlinale
Hello Henning! Can you tell us a little about Books at Berlinale?
“Books at Berlinale” is a joint program of the Berlinale Co-Production Market with the Frankfurter Buchmesse. Our goal is to bring together publishers and literary agencies that trade film and series rights with producers looking for interesting material and books.
We organize a moderated pitching event at the Berlinale each year, where a large group of international producers are presented with 10-12 selected books. We produce an accompanying catalog.
In addition, we have curated matchmaking events with one-on-one meetings between producers and representatives of publishers and agencies. We also do this in October in Frankfurt. And we organize content-related events such as case studies on adaptations.
Why is it such an important endeavour?
We believe it’s an important initiative for both the book and film sides. It’s an important platform aimed at everyone who trades and looks for film rights. For the publishers and agencies, it allows them to meet many producers who are interested in their books. Producers get to know, in a focused and efficient manner, many books that are particularly suitable for adaptation. For this reason, the Berlinale’s collaboration with the Frankfurter Buchmesse is ideal.
How do people with film rights submit a book?
Every year at the end of October, after the Frankfurter Buchmesse, we send our “Call for Book Submissions” to publishers and agencies. The deadline is the beginning of December. Publishers and agencies can submit books with available film rights that fit the criteria.
What sorts of scripts are you looking for? Is there anything approaching a winning formula?!
If we think a book could interest many international producers because of its setting or emotional approach, that certainly doesn’t hurt.Henning Adam
We try to cover a range of different genres, topics and possible budgets. So there is no formula. If we think a book could interest many international producers because of its setting or emotional approach, that certainly doesn’t hurt. The selection is always very difficult for us. There are so many good submissions and we can only present a very limited number. So I would never talk about it being the best quality books that we select. They are always great and exciting books that we feel are suitable for adaptation to film or series.
How did the pandemic affect Books at Berlinale? How have the impacts on the film industry filtered through? How are other external events shaping the event, or the books that are submitted? Environmental concerns, war in Ukraine and elsewhere, uprisings like those in Iran, the economic crisis in many countries.
The Berlinale has always been concerned with giving a voice to underrepresented groups and individuals, this applies in many ways (and in different initiatives) also to Ukraine and Iran. Supporting people and especially filmmakers from regions where people experience war and oppression is particularly close to our hearts. Thus, ecological issues are also of high urgency for the festival and are reflected in various forms.Henning Adam
In the last two years we had to hold “Books at Berlinale” and the Berlinale Co-Production Market online. Even though the face-to-face encounter was of course missed, this worked very well. However, we are very excited to welcome our guests in person in Berlin for the next edition (the pitching will take place on February 20th 2023).
Since both books and films take a certain amount of time to develop, some of the very current events will only be processed with a certain delay. The Berlinale has always been concerned with giving a voice to underrepresented groups and individuals, this applies in many ways (and in different initiatives) also to Ukraine and Iran. Supporting people and especially filmmakers from regions where people experience war and oppression is particularly close to our hearts. Thus, ecological issues are also of high urgency for the festival and are reflected in various forms.
How is the selection made? Do you have a jury?
There is a selection committee – of which I am a part – made up of colleagues from the Berlinale and the Frankfurter Buchmesse.
Do sample translations from the books into English help?
Sample translations in English are certainly helpful if there is no complete translation. This way, an interested person can quickly get an impression and read into the book.
How many books do you select and what happens after selection?
We usually select 10 books – there have been as many as 12 – and the representatives of the publishers and agencies of the selected books are then part of the Berlinale and the Berlinale Co-Production Market. A catalog is created and sent to the producers in advance. There are preparatory meetings for pitching. After the moderated pitching (we have a great moderator in Syd Atlas, who is an author herself) there is a get-together.
What successes has the project had?
The program has been running since 2006, So there are a lot of finished films, films in production, in development, books in option etc.
We do not focus only on the big names, but we are happy about authors such as Maja Lunde, Isabel Allende, Bernhard Schlink, David Grossman, Djaïli Amadou Amal and Nino Haratischwili as part of our selection through the years.
Many thanks for taking the time to speak to us, Henning.
Good stories and the rights trade are at the very heart of Frankfurter Buchmesse. Together with the Berlinale Co-Production Market, we bring together international publishers, literary agents and film producers at ‘Books at Berlinale’ and at matchmaking events during Frankfurter Buchmesse in October. Since the beginning of our cooperation with the Berlinale Co-Production Market in 2006, these event and networking formats have allowed for book and film professionals to kick-start exciting adaption projects. The numerous submissions for ‘Books at Berlinale’, which we receive from all over the world every year, hold great potential for new series and films, and address major socio-political developments.Niki Théron, Senior Manager International Projects at Frankfurter Buchmesse, who is part of the Books at Berlinale selection committee
Three titles have been selected both by New Books in German and Books at Berlinale in recent years, you can see those here:
The list of all eleven books with a special potential for literary adaptations and serial formats chosen for Books at Berlinale 2023 is here.
Read other Kaffeepause interviews here.