Eva Habermann: “What we did, we did not know, but we did it with love!”

eva habermann fantomfilm "What we did, we did not know, but we did it full of love!"
Eva Habermann | © Photo: Ingo Pertramer

Eva Habermann is an integral part of the German entertainment industry: In over seventy productions, the blonde Hamburg native has appeared in front of the camera as an actress for cinema and TV. But she can also be seen on theatre stages, works as a presenter and dubbing artist. And, as she tells Filmpulse Magazine in an interview, she has also been actively involved in the film business as a producer for some time now.

When your own name becomes a brand name, it doesn’t take long before the public and the press put a label on you. This is no different with Eva Habermann. It is and has always been good for a headline, has been reduced to its outward appearance or current relationship status and served the more conservative part of the domestic entertainment industry for years as a grateful projection screen for clichés. But whoever talks to her soon realizes: this woman can no longer be tied down to her echo from earlier years: Eva Habermann is more to be expected than ever.

Eva Habermann about film making

At the beginning of the conversation, Eva Habermann first slams her age on the table. This is done with the understanding that she should receive an award for this alone. She is not the first and will not be the last actress, who, when the first digit has become a 4 at age, tries her hand as a producer with her own material. This is the first thought that comes to mind when you ask if you would like to do an interview with Eva Habermann. It was described as the all-purpose weapon of German television, although it remains unclear whether this can be taken as a compliment. The fact is: Eva Habermann has been standing in front of the camera since she was seventeen years old. Now, at the age of 44, she earns her spurs as a producer with her own production company. Because the writer himself had been in the film business for over twenty-five years, the formal salutation after the greeting in this interview gave way to the usual “you” of the industry.

Filmpulse:

Please don’t take my question amiss, but what I don’t understand: You produced “Under ConTroll” with your production company Fantomfilm GmbH. This is, one cannot say it differently, a wonderfully crazy genre movie. Conversely, “The Real Beauty”, the second film you produced with your company, again with yourself in the leading role, is extremely serious. How does that work together?

Eva Habermann:

Both were roles that I really wanted to play. So just something completely different, for which I am often not occupied, because people often only see me as pretty, blond and cute. I had a lot of fun with these roles! I can also be both: very childish and very silly, but also very profound, serious and very thoughtful. It’s just both of them. Maybe it’s because I’m a bit extreme as a person.

Filmpulse:

Does this combination, this extreme in your profession help you?

Eva Habermann:

I came to production like a virgin to a child! Because I would never have dared to do that. . It’s a big decision. Actually, I’m an actress and that’s why I’ve only ever seen how a production works from the outside, but never really from the other side. The production side was an incredible learning process for me as a producer. It is very important that you do not think one-dimensionally and that you also know the other sides.

Filmpulse:

Would you like to be more specific?

Eva Habermann:

There were two boys who had the great desire to make a film. By that, I mean Eric Hordes and Alexander Konig. They had a great script that was totally crazy and wacky. A monster from long forgotten times takes possession of a sexy blonde and plunges her life into absolute chaos. They put the film together mainly through crowdfunding and sponsoring and also brought on board very well-known actors such as Katy Karrenbauer, Désirée Nick and Helmut Krauss. The two actually had a role for every of us, which was the opposite of what we were usually asked for. For actors it’s always especially nice because you can simply try out new things and because you get something completely different to shoot. The same was true of my role. I mean, when do you ever play a woman who is possessed by a troll and behaves accordingly? After the film was shot, they unfortunately ran out of money, especially with the first movie it’s easy for a filmmaker to miscalculate. You say to yourself: “The shoot is super important! And the post-production, editing, sound, special effects? Yeah, whatever, we’ll sort that out later on…” But that became a problem. And then the company no longer existed. That forced me to finish this film, otherwise it wouldn’t have existed. This movie is called “Trolls World” in Germany and it was released in the USA under the title “Under ConTroll” as well as in Canada and many other countries. That’s why I founded Fantomfilm. I jumped into the cold water completely and had incredible fun doing it, even though it was harder and more exhausting than acting.

I’m a bit of a live wire. I can only be enjoyed in a certain dose.
Eva Habermann

Filmpulse:

How does it feel for producer Eva Habermann to see Eva Habermann as the leading actress in her own film?

Eva Habermann:

On some days I find it cool and on other days less. Depending on how I’m feeling right now. Especially with “Under ConTroll”, on which we worked for 5 years, where I know every sentence by heart and know exactly what comes when. I can tell you exactly what happens in the 20th minute because I am just so familiar with this film. It’s very extreme, it polarizes! You find him super and totally funny and you get involved with him because he is just very individual and completely different from other movies. That’s why people think he’s great. Or they think everything is bad, so they literally hate him because he does not conform to any real norm and does not want to be classified.

Filmpulse:

Was the shooting of Under ConTroll as fun as it seems in the making-of? Or do you simply play the PR piano very professionally?

Eva Habermann:

The actors, the team, everyone involved wanted to be there and believed in it. Therefore, this incredible joy is also transported to the film and makes up for what went unprofessionally in the making of the movie. We were all enthusiastic and one hundred percent convinced! What we did, we did not know, but we did it with love! And as you know, that’s a lot of money for a movie!

During small talk before the interview, Eva asked for information about what was expected of her in the interview. Do you prefer short sentences? Rather statements, or whether they may also be longer statements? Clever of her, you think, because as an interviewer you immediately take responsibility for the content. And you give, of course, the only possible answer: Just be yourself! For a moment she seems irritated, asks again. Her first answers sound as if she was giving information on TV about a third person instead of herself. But with each passing minute, the enthusiasm for filmmaking and storytelling creates more space in her answers. It is unmistakable: Eva Habermann not only has a special talent for inspiring people for her ideas. But also a vision and a mission. Only someone who is enthusiastic about the opportunity to learn something new every day will tell you that. Eva Habermann loves films and she loves to make films possible.

Filmpulse:

Do I understand this correctly? Your involvement in “Under ConTroll” was more of a coincidence, because you jumped on as producer after the shoot? Consequently, only your second production – not only because it has an autobiographical component – shows what you can expect from Fantomfilm in the future?

Eva Habermann:

“The Real Beauty” was a topic close to my heart. I’m pretty critical, just about everything. But I am actually very happy with the film. “True Beauty” is not a B-movie, it’s closer to arthouse.

The Real Beauty | © Filmposter: Fantomfilm GmbH

I was involved in the whole project from the beginning and I also chose the director Krishna Ashu Bhati, with whom I absolutely wanted to work together. He is a young filmmaker and can tell psychological stories very well. After that popcorn popcorn cinema from “Under ConTroll” I wanted something with a lot more depth next! “Real Beauty” goes to the heart of the matter because we make the subject of depression seem very real. The way in which the viewer is confronted with this makes him or her pensive. I play a lawyer who can only make ends meet with pills and alcohol. We wanted people to realize how bad something like this can be and what it means for the person and their environment. We also wanted to show how isolated people who have depression are because they are ashamed of the fact that, in their view, they do not “function”.

Filmpulse:

When you are sent to an island and you are only allowed to take one film with you. Which one is that?

Eva Habermann:

My favourite film is “Requiem for A Dream” by Darren Aronofsky. I’d like to produce something like that one day. I like movies with depth. I want to make films that connect something, that present a serious topic in a form, but also appeal to the masses. I find films that play on different levels exciting! And of course we want to touch people with our films. I want the audience to suffer, to fall in love with the characters, to suffer together and laugh together. I want to tell stories with living characters who are really real people and with whom you can identify.

Filmpulse:

Hand on heart: Unlike a B-movie, you can also apply for funding for such topics.

Eva Habermann:

In Germany it is usually the case that you have to have made films before in order to receive funding. So I financed “The Real Beauty” from my own savings. This was a project of my heart and I also co-wrote the book. We developed it together.

This film really grew on my crap and that’s why it was worth it for me to use my savings. That is of course also a huge risk, I am not so rich now that I don’t need to worry about it. That’s why you want it to be as good as possible. But it’s not like I put my pension in there.

There is nothing worse than when you look back at the end of your life and say: If only I had done this or if I had done that!
Eva Habermann

Filmpulse:

Behind closed doors, every producer colleague tells me: If you can’t finance a film by majority outside funding, let it die! Never fill funding gaps with your own resources.

Eva Habermann:

Actually, you’re absolutely right. But in the beginning, if you’ve never produced a film before, no one will just hand you money. But in the future we will of course try to generate more budget. Even by applying for funding.

Filmpulse:

Do you have a plan B, if your plans with Fantomfilm fail?

Eva Habermann:

Failure is out of the question for me! Because I am of the opinion that if I want something, I can do it! Besides, I’m an incredibly hard-working person. Of course, I wouldn’t undertake anything that was totally utopian. But I think independent films are great and I can see that there is a great demand for them among the audience. When I start something, I firmly believe in it.

What is striking is that Eva Habermann does not complain. This makes her a speciality these days in the producer scene. It may be because she shot her latest work, “The Real Beauty”, which is soon to be released in cinemas, before the Covid 19 crisis and she was able to use the standstill of the film industry to finish the film in peace and without compromise. Or the fact that she prefers to get down to work rather than lament about the migration of viewers to streaming channels like Netflix. Last year Fantomfilm already shot another horror SciFi movie in the USA with the meaningful title “Cyst” (directed by Tyler Russell), in which Habermann plays a nurse. She is not interested in the production of series for the time being, she says. Although her fantom film is growing, the company is still too small in her eyes to handle such complex projects. It is this mix of frankness and a sense of reality, combined with tenacity and the conviction that she can leave her mark even in one of the most difficult industries, that makes Eva Habermann unique.

Filmpulse:

As a producer I often had to work like an animal in my early years. How about you?

Eva Habermann:

I currently put in at least 14 hours of work every day, because I also know that if you don’t give it your all, you don’t stand a chance. Because the business is simply much too difficult and much too crowded for that. Because everybody wants to make movies. You’ll have to go all the way. I am a very big doer and I also believe that something worse than a “no” will not happen when I ask someone if they would like to participate in a project. All in all, I’m quite a bundle of energy. I can only be enjoyed in certain doses. That’s what I am! And that’s probably also a kind of secret of success, that I’m just someone who has a lot of drive and a lot of willpower!

Filmpulse:

It seems to me that you draw strength from making the impossible possible?

Eva Habermann:

My next film is called “Broken Crown”. I want Damian Harper to write the script for this. Damian does a lot of art house. And I want it to be a very fascinating film. The film is about the shattering of the self-image of a woman who is raped under knockout drops. This is also one of those topics where people ask me: Can you even tell that? I like the challenge, because Broken Crown is also about narcissists and the mechanics of how such people operate on another level. And I know enough people and… (muted).

Filmpulse:

Do you sometimes doubt what you are doing?

Eva Habermann:

Not on the films. Doubts are more likely to arise in other corners, when you have been disappointed or cheated out of money, which unfortunately is quite common, especially in the independent scene. Sometimes you wonder what’s going on there! I hear that from many others. It’s even wilder in this segment than in the purely commercial market, because there are simply a lot of people on the road who haven’t worked so much and therefore don’t have a reputation to lose.

Think more, think more, don’t get carried away: That’s part of it for me now.
Eva Habermann

Filmpulse:

What would you advise someone who is new to the film business?

Eva Habermann:

The most important tip, the most important tip of all, the most important tip of all, of all, of all: Have a contract with everyone, which clearly states what they get, what they have to achieve. Second point, which is even more important: the budget! That you become aware of its importance and as a producer you also get advice on it! Often everything becomes more and more expensive. It must not happen that you suddenly stand there and have no more money and are desperately looking for an investor. “The Real Beauty” was still a low-budget production compared to other movies. Nevertheless, I hired a production manager who had a permanent overview of the calculation. And you have to remember that with low budget people don’t do things for money. You have to make sure that passion drives them.

Filmpulse:

How do you do that?

Eva Habermann:

I try to motivate by, for example, organizing a really great catering for the team, by giving the actors their own trailer or by providing professional make-up artists. Simply because I don’t want to let certain basic situations arise, for example an actor sitting in the rain in the forest waiting for his performance. Or that the team is totally frustrated because it’s the tenth McDonald’s. Another example: We also shot “Die wahre Schönheit” with Emma Schweiger, Lilly Liefers and Mascha Paul, Germany’s Next Generation, so to speak. I always put a coach on the set. So not only a caregiver, but also someone who worked with these young people and coached them. That was really very, very, very valuable for everyone.

Working in a wooden sky, that’s a pretty good way to describe the reality of the film business. The wooden sky is the better scenario. Film work, especially when it comes to feature films, is hellishly difficult. If you want to make a living as a producer, you not only have to meet the public’s taste, but also bring artistic and economic aspects into harmony. Experience teaches: feature film projects that are not sooner or later shaken by existential crises are the exception that proves the rule. The same applies to legal disputes. Many successful producers are wolves in sheep’s clothing by nature. Conversely, it is rare to find sheep in wolf’s clothing that can survive more than a hard winter in the industry. Whether sheep or wolf: both are roles that do not seem to correspond to the nature of Eva Habermann. Eva is Eva.

Filmpulse:

How do you choose your actors, key people and the film crew?

Eva Habermann:

First of all I really put people through their paces by asking around. You have to take other opinions into account, even in something like this. Fixing a mistake afterwards, if someone on the set is an unpleasant person or if you have to shoot a lot longer because something doesn’t work, can quickly become expensive. During the shooting you go into a kind of very personal relationship with everyone involved. It’s important that you get along with everybody. In low-budget film, if working together isn’t fun, then people start to get very uncomfortable. Which I can understand. Someone tells you: Come on, we do it for passion and fun. And after that you have endless days of shooting. That’s just terrible.

Filmpulse:

You mean, you can also save at the wrong end?

Eva Habermann:

We once hired a recording studio who told us that we do a great job and also for a reasonable price. And then in the end they simply put their interns in there because they needed the good people for better paid jobs. As a result, we were not satisfied with the quality and at some point, although we had already paid half of the price, we had to change the recording studio. That is then just saved at the wrong end.

I had to learn to talk to people very seriously and clearly. And also to march. Otherwise you’ll be taken advantage of.
Eva Habermann

Filmpulse:

How do such events go together with your drive?

Eva Habermann:

That’s my big problem, that I’m so passionate and so enthusiastic that I simply often don’t see certain things because I always think that people are just like me. And when they say something, they mean it and they keep it. But that brings us back to the contracts. Contracts! And never rush things completely.

Filmpulse:

Do you also experience that people don’t take you seriously?

Eva Habermann:

No, my team takes me seriously because I always choose the people who think something of me. But the dual role of actress and producer sometimes leads to special situations. In “The Real Beauty” I play the role of Mona, who is an alcoholic with depression who can only make ends meet with painkillers. I got on the film set and told everyone: Guys, I’m the part today! Today I’m different! I can’t really be there for you guys today as producers. Then I just sat around the set as Mona and cried, rummaged around a lot inside me, thought about bad experiences and got in the mood for this role. And then the production manager comes and asks me: Are you okay?

Why is anyone successful in the film industry? Usually because he knows his strengths and weaknesses, recognises potential in stories, has the ability for self-analysis and has learned that the big life lies that each of us tries to tell in difficult times for fear of change cannot pay salaries or rent beyond a project, if at all. And more importantly, because film work is always teamwork. Eva Habermann has internalized this. She bubbles over with energy and ideas, but, as she explains, she also surrounds herself with a group of people who direct her power in a targeted manner.

Filmpulse:

I was just wondering who I could compare you to? The only person that spontaneously comes to my mind was a young actress who had to be buried naked in the woods by me for an unspeakable film. Later she ended up in a women’s prison at RTL and again a bit later, younger than you are, she was spat out by the industry.

Eva Habermann:

It is always very difficult to compare! You know, I have the advantage that when I call someone, they listen to me first because people know my name. You’ll get a whole different kind of attention. And it is also the case that they think that Eva Habermann does not want to spoil her name! I’m very networked. Therefore, comparing is very difficult. Can you rephrase the question?

Do your own thing and do something distinctive!
Eva Habermann

Filmpulse:

Is it wrong if I claim that you owe your success as a producer to your years of experience as an actress?

Eva Habermann:

Even if you have been in the business for half your life or more than half a life and know a lot of people and have shot an endless amount of films, as an actress you don’t always realize what is happening. The production office, they are always the scapegoats. For everything! As a producer you are responsible for everything! You sometimes have stress with things you never expected. As a producer you always fight, especially when everything is at your own risk. One is differently tense, one has much more responsibility. It may be that you never earn anything, that you have simply squandered the money. Unfortunately, it is also the case that you can totally ruin a great story if you tell it wrong.

Filmpulse:

And despite all these risks it seems that you have found your second vocation besides acting!

Eva Habermann:

My philosophy is: Life is a single learning process. You develop further and what you might have had in beauty in the past, you now have as experience and in spiritual beauty. Whoever knows life, deals with life more confidently.

The interview was conducted in October 2020. Eva Habermann and Kristian Widmer did not know each other before, but in the course of their careers they worked together with the same people to some extent. Filmpulse Magazine would like to thank Eva Habermann for releasing this interview. | Reproduction, even partial, only with the written permission of the owner of the rights of use.

Kristian Widmer
About Kristian Widmer 15 Articles
Kristian Widmer is a member of the Swiss Film Academy. He holds a doctorate in law and an MBA from the University of St. Gallen HSG, and was for many years CEO of Condor Films AG, which was founded in 1947 and has been awarded an Academy Award™

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