Sramana: What year does that bring us up to?
Tobias Bauckhage: That brings us up to 2004.
Sramana: What happened next?
Tobias Bauckhage: The moment I decided to drop my mechanical engineering studies and go to Berlin, I had a partner in crime who I had met on my very first day of engineering studies. We spent a lot of time together during that year while we studied mechanical engineering and we became soul mates. He was also very number-driven but also had a tremendous passion for films. He wanted to combine those two worlds, and I was interested in journalism and writing.
We went to Berlin together and were roommates, and we really liked it there. He is the co-founder of Moviepilot. During the time that I had spent in consulting, he had gone to work in the movie industry and had spent a lot of time with a producer. In 2004 I asked him to become my best man at my wedding and he agreed to do so only on one condition. He wanted us to both quit our jobs and pursue our true passion by starting our own company.
I knew he was right so I told my fiance what our plans were and she was OK with it, but she wanted to know what we were going to do. We really were not sure at that point. One thing that was clear for me was that I wanted to be in the middle of disruption of the industry by digitalization. He wanted to do something with films. He had learned a bit about film distribution and how little innovation had been done around film distribution.
We did not know a lot about distribution of films and we thought that we should know about it before disrupting it. I ended up quitting my job in June of 2004, got married in September of 2004, and we attended various film festivals that year. By the end of the year, we had picked up the rights to bring two movies to the Cinema. That is what a distributor does. They buy the rights and come up with a marketing and distribution campaign. We decided to do that for a few years to learn how the process worked. We wanted to identify areas where we could revolutionize this area of the movie industry.
The first movie we picked up was an independent movie that was a bit gritty. It was shown at the Berlin film festival. There was a great producer and team behind it. We did not make a lot of money but it was a lot of fun and we learned a lot. The second one was a comedy about the beginning of the Green Party in Germany. It was very funny and we had good timing because the Green Party took control of the parliament at that time. The key to that film was to get the audience behind the film. We used email lists to advertise. We looked up all the organizations that had ties to the Green Party and we got a lot of them behind the film. It created this movement, which was humorous and nostalgic. This movie became really successful and we made a lot of money on that film.
It’s a strange part of the industry. You work for three to six months preparing and promoting, and then opening day is suddenly there. If what you have done good marketing, then you have a good showing on opening night and more and more people will come. By the time the second weekend comes, the marketing is done and it carries itself.