From the Funny Farm (NRW) to the Himalayas (Nepal)
He met the great white shark in person – in 2005, off the coast of South Africa, that tranquil region at the end of the world where the Atlantic meets the Indian Ocean. It was a short interview; the shark was busy hunting seals. At any rate, they did make friendly contact.
Since then, the film “The Big White in South Africa” (bilderwelt, in collaboration with filmmaker Sophie Kill) has been shown on television many times. Great white sharks are an easy sell.
Some encounters are so bloodcurdling that one has little desire to repeat them. An interview in Los Angeles, for example, (ARD Weltspiegel 1993) in a residential area known as “Housing”.
White reporters are known to avoid the neighbourhood. To us, it was a challenge. So there we stood, surrounded by burly young men who call themselves “Crips”, short for cripples, and whom you wouldn’t want to run into on a dark night.
Questions about the war situation in times of street battles. The situation was chaotic. “Those guys”, we were told, always have their finger on the trigger. Deadlier than the great white shark, presumably.
Everything had been so tranquil, in the beginning.
The author of these seminal lines was a trainee civil servant in the field of law, having passed his second state examinations as a lawyer. A young criminal defence lawyer in what was then West Berlin. A journalist on the side. After spending some years in radio, he made his first television films with the Berlin network Sender Freies Berlin (SFB). Making films was, and still is, one of the best jobs imaginable. No real work; and spending most of one’s time out in the fresh air, enjoying wonderful vistas.
He loved making a dramatic entrance.
In a television movie for the crime series Tatort (ARD), directed by his enterprising colleague Wolfgang Tumler, he played the (speaking) part of a young public prosecutor. Later he confined himself to non-speaking parts, as a means of lowering production costs. In St. Peterburg as the Russian poet Alexander Pushkin – a national hero. Then in Venice as the explorer Marco Polo – in a programme about the wonderful lagoon city.
There was also a brief excursion into the realm of crime thrillers. Together with Peter Sandmeyer, he wrote the film script for an episode of Tatort, Germany’s most popular television series. The thriller had a mixed reception in 1996 – and is now kept locked away by the network in charge, the public-sector ARD. Local politicians wondered whether it was really necessary for the victim, a shady Berlin businessman, to be Jewish into the bargain. Who is to say? It remained the only Tatort to be written for television by this particular team. The result of which was that these writers were not lost to journalism. A stroke of luck. Six years as a reporter for “Stern” magazine. After that: supplier of television programming, particularly for the regional public-sector networks Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR) and Süddeutscher Rundfunk (Stuttgart). The programmes routinely took a closer look at foreign cultures.
America and China as work environments and life experiences – to this day. New York as a second home – to this day. That led to international reports, reaching from the funny farm (NRW, 1985) to the Himalayas (Nepal, 1988). From Silicon Valley (1987) and Hollywood Boulevard to the Gobi desert (2012). From the drug-pedalling streets of New York to the boardrooms of Düsseldorf and Ditzingen.
Journeys to halls of fame and to the darkest depths of business and culture. Reports, documentaries, portraits. About unconventional thinkers and successful achievers. Sometimes with extraordinary audience ratings, such as for the “Big White in South Africa” or “The Mail-Order King”, about Werner Otto, founder of the German mail-order company Otto (NDR, SWR, 1999). 2012: A television portrait about Werner’s son, Michael Otto, another successful entrepreneur and businessman (Hamburg by the Elbe). In addition, a film about the IT guru Andreas von Bechtolsheim (Dreamland Silicon Valley). Once again, unusual characters from Germany’s recent history. Billionaires who have kept their feet planted firmly on the ground. Both of them laureates of the “Business Hall of Fame”, which is awarded by Hamburg’s manager magazin. Meanwhile, the magazine “Beautiful Day” is going from strength to strength. Here, Asians and Americans make an appearance once again (Go Global), in peaceful coexistence. So the range of reporting has remained unchanged: between the funny farm and the Himalayas.