The distinction between TV and cinema films – a world of possibilities
The aesthetic and technical distinctions that once existed between cinema films and (multipart) TV movies are now a thing of the past. In a study by media enthusiast and Catholic theologian Peter Kottlorz in 1993, Fernsehmoral. Ethische Strukturen fiktionaler Fernsehunterhaltun (TV Morality. Ethical Structures of Fictional TV Entertainment), the chapter Film- und Fernsehästhetik (Film and TV Aesthetics) was first to establish the fact that, “…unlike cinema movies, the most important thing in TV is the sound and not the pictures”. Kottlorz’s timeless conclusion: Image quantity dominates image quality.
Digital vs. 35 mm
As a result, cinemagoers tend to be more interested in the images in front of them. Yet many camera operators and directors lament the fact that the much acclaimed digital cameras, despite their ever improving light-sensitive microelectronics, are still not able to reproduce the vast amount of image data they capture as effectively as standard analog film. The established 35-mm format thus remains the non-plus ultra for the big screen. And vice-versa wrote Kottlorz in 1993: “Due to the small screen and the varying lighting conditions, cinema films played on television lose their color quality and brightness. All of the methods used to create cinematic styling, such as camera work, rigging or audio techniques, are drastically hindered by the size and quality of the TV screen.”
Nevertheless, there has been a convergence in TV and cinema in recent years with regard to technological consolidation as well as financing. In Germany, since the introduction of the so-called Film / TV Convention of 1974, between ARD, ZDF and the FFA (Filmförderungsanstalt), broadcasters and, most importantly, film distributors and cinemas, have been paying into a quasi-publicly administered industry fund to support the development of film and promote cinema diversity. Since the end of the 1980s, private TV channels have been involved as well. In 2008, their contributions to the FFA were roughly 12 million euro while the public broadcasting services brought in 15.6 million euro.
A slap in the face of film history
Admittedly, this interplay developed in the shadow of an uncompetitive domestic film industry, at least when compared to the colossus that is Hollywood. Filmmakers also complain that German films are often given unfavorable time slots by TV scheduling staff, who justify their decisions with the claim that the only reason these more artistic film productions even exist is due to the financial support of the broadcasting organizations. In July 2007, the grumbling in the industry reached boiling point and became a public issue.
Filmmaker Volker Schlöndorff (Die Blechtrommel – The Tin Drum) pleaded in the Süddeutsche that, in order to create more balanced funding for film, production in cinema and TV needed to be separated: “In general, it is a slap in the face of film history to claim that there is no difference between the cinema film experience and the multipart TV movie. Every cinema film has enough material in its editing studio to stretch it into a two- or three-part series. But all this argument poses is changing all funding and financing efforts to suit those types of projects and, in particular, TV projects.”
Schlöndorff’s critical stance not only provided fodder for a lively debate, but also resulted in the termination of his contract with Constantin Film, where he was in the process of filming the adaptation of the novel Pope Joan. His successor, Sönke Wortmann, apparently had no real problem with the hybrid effort, saying, “Even Pope Joan is first and foremost a purely cinema film and will only be broadcast after the standard two-year retention period. There is enough time there for cinema.”
Films exist in multiple aggregate stages
A reply came just a few days later from Schlöndorff’s colleague Günter Rohrbach, whose resumé as a broadcasting manager and producer includes spectacular, internationally acclaimed projects like Das Boot, Stalingrad, and Hotel Lux. “If German film is to survive, then it needs to accept the reality that the big era of cinema is obviously over. Films exist today in many locations and in multiple aggregate stages. We will have to accept that even public broadcasters are in the fight for audience attention,” says Rohrbach. Either way, with more “agile” productions like Das Boot and Downfall, the directors and producers would have been able to take successful “responsibility” for the content and achieve resoundingly positive reviews in theaters, TV and in the DVD market.
Tom Spieß (The Miracle of Bern), a producer from Cologne, has a much more radical view of this artistic liberalism, saying, “There cannot and should not be an aesthetic rule for cinema because it is changing all the time at increasing rates. The exceptions are becoming the rule; all categories and genres have seen successes in recent years. Whether it’s Alles auf Zucker (a purely TV movie), a DVD sports documentary like Deutschland. Ein Sommermärchen, or the costly filming of bestselling novel Perfume in English: it is a world full of possibilities.”
works in Munich as a freelance journalist, author and enthusiastic social media user.
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
Translation: Kevin White
Copyright: Goethe-Institut e. V., Internet-Redaktion
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