Even more than 40 years after Martin Moszkowicz decided to abandon his plan for a career as a journalist writing about politics for a less-certain one in the mercurial film industry, his eyes start to sparkle when recalling an epiphany that changed his life. The affable executive board chairman of Constantin Film, who got his start in the industry as a driver, recalled the moment when he figured out what he wanted to do with his life.
“My plan was to become a journalist, but I was working one summer as a driver while still in university,” says Moszkowicz, who will turn over the reins of the German producer-driven independent powerhouse next month that he has led with aplomb for the last decade. “The experience that changed everything and told me ‘I really wanna be in this business’ happened in Cannes at the premiere of ‘E.T.,’” Moszkowicz says of the festival’s screening of Steven Spielberg’s film on May 26, 1982 — a month after he turned 24. “I was sleeping in my car at Cannes because I didn’t have money for a hotel and, somehow, I got a ticket for the premiere. After the movie finished, there were these incredible scenes. People were so moved they fell to their knees. I really thought then ‘I want to be in this business.’ If a movie can have such an impact on the emotions of an audience of 1,200 people, I thought to myself I’d like to be in that too.”
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Moszkowicz has had a significant impact on Constantin, successfully steering one of Europe’s biggest and most ambitious production-distribution companies with bigand smallscreen content through a decade of upheaval. He has overseen such box office successes as the Oscar-nominated “Downfall,” “The Baader Meinhof Complex,” “How About Adolf?,” “The Collini Case” and the enormously popular “Fack Ju Göhte” trilogy as well as the “Resident Evil” franchise and “Monster Hunter.”
But he has also had an impact beyond Germany’s borders as a globe-trotting film executive who stayed grounded throughout a storied career at the venerable German mini-major. Moszkowicz has shown a special talent for cultivating ties and respect in Hollywood. He was recruited to work at Constantin, now celebrating its 75th anniversary, by the legendary Bernd Eichinger, and has been part of Constantin’s management since 1990. Moszkowicz has led Constantin as its chairman since 2014. In recognition of his achievements, Moszkowicz will be honored with the Carl Laemmle Producer Award May 16 from the Alliance of German Producers — Film & Television and the city of Laupheim, Germany.
His hand-picked deputy, Oliver Berben, will take over in March.
“I think that Constantin is in as good shape as you can be in our industry right now,” says Moszkowicz, who, during his reign, managed to consolidate a robust domestic production-distribution business while developing major plays for the international market and building up TV revenues. “Obviously, there were successful movies before I was running the company, but the amount of success that we’ve had in the last 10 years has been incredible.”
Paul W.S. Anderson, director of Constantin’s “Resident Evil” franchise and “Monster Hunter,” says, “I would say that Martin is one of my favorite people anywhere. I’ve been working with Constantin for 25 years. The reason I signed with Constantin was Bernd Eichinger and the reason I stayed with Constantin was Martin Moszkowicz. He’s a unique man, a wonderful combination of being a very skilled executive but also mixed with someone who is a boots-on-the-ground producer.”
And because Moszkowicz doesn’t want to stop working, he will return to his earlier career as a producer, genuinely excited by the chance to try to make some memorable movies. He is brimming with confidence that his experience might even help lead to some of the best work as a producer — a feat that Eichinger pulled off later in his career after jettisoning his managerial duties.
“Producing movies is the reason I’m in this business,” he says. “I started at Constantin as a producer. I’m looking forward to whatever is coming ahead for me.”
Moszkowicz — who has been involved in more than 300 productions as a producer, executive producer or co-producer — is proud that his closely knit company has grown, and thrived, despite some rough patches, securing a position as an important player in Germany and Hollywood with a track record of punching above its weight. It’s an improbable story because there were more than a few naysayers who predicted its imminent demise following the unexpected death in 2011 of Eichinger — the revered director, producer and driving force at Constantin for more than two decades.
“Right after Bernd’s death, people were saying this company was going nowhere without him,” says Moszkowicz. “Bernd was larger than life and the company was tailored to him. After he passed, a lot of people said this company couldn’t possibly survive. Yet the last 10 years were the best 10 in the company’s history.”
Rather remarkably, Constantin had a staff of just 35 when Moszkowicz was recruited by Eichinger to join as head of production in Munich in 1990 — because he wanted to move to Los Angeles. But Eichinger soon changed his mind and wanted to move back to Munich, so they essentially switched roles. Moszkowicz ended up spending much of the 1990s in Los Angeles, helping to build up the U.S. operations with Robert Kulzer. Moszkowicz, an insatiable traveler, still flies to Los Angeles for a week every month.
Constantin had grown to 350 staffers when Moszkowicz took over as chairman in 2014, after the company’s initial public offering in 1999 that helped transform it from a small company into a corporate group, and it now has a staff of more than 1,000. It is part of Swiss media giant Highlight Communications, which holds 100%. Despite its exponential growth, Constantin’s DNA stayed the same with its focus on movies for both the German market and global audiences.
“There was no guarantee that this would all work out,” says Moszkowicz. “The biggest crisis the company faced was Bernd’s death.”
So what’s Constantin’s secret? “We have a really exceptional team. People who work here identify closely with the company, and in Germany we call ourselves ‘Constantiner.’ We’ve got a really low fluctuation rate; most people stay with us for their whole careers. Most of the people who work here I hired myself or was part of the hiring process.”
People who know Moszkowicz in Germany and Hollywood see the hirsute CEO as a crucial ingredient for that success.
“At the end of the day, this is a business. But with Constantin it’s really more than just that. It’s a good mixture. I’ve always had the feeling that Constantin appreciates success. They don’t forget it. They know who you are. They’re always supportive. It might sound a bit cheesy, this family thing. But it definitely has that feeling. You know the people for such a long time and have so many shared memories. Martin and Oliver are also always open to talking about projects. We’ve got an open line with each other and I have the feeling with them that my opinion is appreciated and they take it seriously,” says Elyas M’Barek, a leading German actor who has made more than a dozen films with Constantin.
They talk in glowing terms about his amenable, approachable, always-optimistic, can-do style of getting things done, or his fierce loyalty to those who work with or for him or the way he has managed to combine some of the best parts of the often-quite-different American and German practices and cultures.
“I consider myself to be really lucky to be in this profession,” Moszkowicz says. “It’s a huge luxury, doing something I really like. I love every day of this.”
One of the more disarming aspects of his management style is how candidly he talks about dealing with mistakes and a never-ending quest to improve. He also eschews complacency and talks about an insatiable desire for more creativity, flexibility and innovation at Constantin.
“We have a culture of allowing mistakes to happen,” he says. “Making mistakes is important to get better. There are going to be failures. That’s part of what we do. It’s a big part of how you get better. You have to analyze what went wrong and learn from it.”
Viola Jäger, German producer with credits such as “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door,” “Vincent Wants to Sea” and “Manta, Manta 2,” says, “It’s always been a pleasure for me to work with Martin. He is the rock in the surf that every project needs. Thanks to his vast experience and calm manner, he always keeps an overview. He always has a good ear for everyone and always — and when the shit hits the fan — he is the one taking responsibility. He never ducks away. One of the things I like about him is his approach to learning from mistakes. He once said: ‘We have to embrace our failures and celebrate them.’ I liked that.”
Moszkowicz notes that now is the right time for the transition to Berben because “the most important thing is that the company is on a stable footing going forward. We needed to find the right time, with the right people, to take over with an orderly transition. Every company needs change.”
Berben joined Constantin in 1999 after a company he founded in 1996, Moovie, became a Constantin subsidiary.
Despite his incurable optimism, Moszkowicz talks about some of the dangers lurking for Constantin and filmmakers around the world, some of which seemed unfathomable just a year or two ago.
“There’s a ‘perfect storm’ of problems facing us all going forward. We’re just coming out of the COVID pandemic, facing an economic crisis and high inflation and interest rates. We’re seeing big changes in the way people are going to movies and we’re nowhere close to pre-pandemic audience levels. Wars are lingering in and close to Europe. So there are quite substantial problems. Everyone in the industry is facing this. Yet I’m confident that Constantin is in solid shape and well-prepared to weather these storms. At least we’ve done everything humanly possible to be in good shape.”
Patrick Wachsberger, producer and founder of Picture Perfect Federation and former co-chairman of Lionsgate Motion Picture Group, says: “He knows the limitations of how far he should go in terms of buying movies. He’s never falling so much in love and gone crazy and paid too much for a movie because competition was paying more.”
The former history student at the University of Munich, reflects: “One of the most important things that I’ve learned over the last 35 years in this business is that after the bad times there are always good times,” Moszkowicz says. “I’m an optimist by profession. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be a movie producer.”
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