In the heart of the Berlinale – at Potsdamer Platz with Kathrin Schafroth

Kathrin Schafroth is not only the new Head of Sponsorship at the Berlin International Film Festival, but after 15 years as an employee in this department she also remains a huge fan of the event. We spoke with her about the festival, Potsdamer Platz, and her encounter with Pierce Brosnan.

Kathrin Schafroth, Head of Sponsorship of the Berlinale

Hello Ms. Schafroth, we’re happy and excited you took the time to talk with us today about your work at Potsdamer Platz and the Berlinale. What can you tell us about your work at the Berlinale, and about the various job tasks and challenges you are presented with from day to day?
As the head of the sponsorship department, I work with a team of ten people to recruit sponsors for the festival. We come up with a variety of exciting ideas for partnerships, and we work to ensure that the implementations go smoothly. For us it is the sponsors who are the stars of the festival. They need to feel comfortable with us, and of course their brands should have the opportunity to truly shine. In order to implement the activation of the various sponsor partnerships, we work very closely with the other departments at the Berlinale. We function as a go-between. The magic word is communication! There is pretty much always something to do, because here at the Berlinale the end of one year’s festival is just the beginning of the next year’s festival!

It sounds like there is a lot of variety in your job. But you discovered your love of cinema at an earlier point in life, is that correct?
That’s right! I remember this one special moment when I was a child watching “The Wizard of Oz”, and the picture suddenly went from black and white to color. It was a bombastic display of color and fantasy. At that moment I thought, “Wow!” Later on, after having moved from Switzerland to Berlin, I was simply blown away by the cinema landscape here. I wasn’t used to something like that from home. To me, the Berlinale is the melting pot for everything that makes movies special.

And what role do the sponsors play in this exactly?
For us it is especially important that the sponsors not only provide financial support, but that they also add value in terms of content. As one of the biggest public film festivals in the world, we of course also pay special attention to our fans. The L’Oreal Paris Makeup Studio is open to all visitors, as is the Audi Berlinale Lounge with its “Berlinale Open House” program of events, where discussion panels on particular topics (including VR, documentaries, and serials) as well as concerts with film celebrities are held.
We wish not only to provide more value for the attendees and accredited guests, but also to present our partners and their brands in the best possible light. To this end, Potsdamer Platz in particular has a great deal to offer. Our mission is to continuously expand the service offerings for accredited guests and attendees. For this to happen, we either approach the companies with our own ideas, such as with the Akkumat cell phone charging stations, or the company comes to us with a specific suggestion, as with Audi and its lounge located right at the red carpet. Especially in February, the Audi Berlinale Lounge provides a great deal of value when it is cold and dark outside.

That’s true, it is cold and dark. Why isn’t the Berlinale simply held in spring or summer when it is warm and sunny outside?
It is done that way for historical reasons, and mainly it is due to the film industry’s calendar. The Berlinale is the first large festival in the yearly calendar, and the European Film Market is the second largest film market in the world after Cannes. For us it is a big advantage that we come slightly before all the others.

Interesting! Let’s go back to your work. What did you focus on when selecting sponsors this year?
Most of our partners have been supporting us for many years. In the activation process we look at things such as ecological themes. For instance, the Audi fleet used for the VIP shuttles consists exclusively of Q7 e-tron vehicles with an electric drive system. Other than that, we work together with our partners to reduce the amount of waste generated during the event, which is why we have introduced a beverage cup deposit system for accredited guests this year in cooperation with Cup Concept.

Since we’re on the subject, what is it about your work that you particularly enjoy?
That would definitely be all the different people I get to work with. I mean not only the partner company employees whom we work with very closely under tight deadlines, but also our team. My work is as varied as the Berlinale itself. During the festival we greet the partners and their guests at the Berlinale Palace, and we make sure they’re enjoying themselves at the premieres. In the competition section there are big stars as well as new up-and-coming talent, and there are big productions in addition to smaller and unknown films. It is this wonderful medley that makes the festival special. Those moments when the stars walk across the red carpet and the whole world is watching. When all the media is there and the cameras flash all over – it gives me goosebumps. It’s a fantastic feeling when the big moment finally arrives, and we see that everything is working out and is well received!

How is it working at the Berlinale Palace? It sounds fascinating! What is the significance of Potsdamer Platz with respect to the Berlinale, and also for you personally?
Potsdamer Platz is the center of the festival. This is the heart of the Berlinale. The most dedicated fans will spend the whole night here in the shopping arcades before the ticket sales start in order to get the best tickets. The infrastructure is very well-developed, and these days we are fully aware of the many things the area has to offer. We and our partners like to make use of all the available outdoor areas and other locations, such as the Marlene-Dietrich Platz, or the café at the Panoramapunkt. It is of course also a huge plus that there is excellent public transportation access, even at night. And even though Potsdamer Platz has not always been loved by all, it has nevertheless evolved and it has its positives. I think that is the reason why it has now become so well accepted. Of course, the cinema and cultural scenes located here also do their fair share. The Berlinale is not the only highlight at Potsdamer Platz. Throughout the entire year, there is a variety of events and cultural offerings for a multitude of different tastes.
I work at Potsdamer Platz, and since I love my work I am of course happy to be here. When I’m on break at work I really appreciate how everything at Potsdamer Platz is so close by. Even during off-work hours I like to spend time here and enjoy the many things the area has to offer, which above all for me are the movie theaters and shopping arcades.

It’s nice that you feel so comfortable here. It truly sounds as if you have found your dream job.
(Smiles) Yes, definitely!

I can well imagine that you collect all kinds of fascinating experiences and exciting stories every year. Do you perhaps have any anecdotes that you wouldn’t mind sharing with our readers?
Of course! It’s the many little moments and surprises each year that make the festival so amazing. When you suddenly run into the entire international jury in the elevator, it’s definitely something you remember. Or when Pierce Brosnan suddenly sits down at my desk during the festival and says “Hi, I’m Pierce”, and I’m just thinking “I know!” That’s the type of moment that makes the Berlinale so special.

For sure, that sounds amazing! Thank you very much for the great conversation and the interesting behind the scenes glimpses. We wish you much success, and above all a lot of fun, at the 2017 Berlinale!

With Kathrin Schafroth at the Panorama Café at Potsdamer Platz