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VOL. 124 | NO. 150 | Monday, August 3, 2009

Commission To Foster Ties Between Memphis, Berlin

By Andy Meek

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MOVIE EXCHANGE: For about three months this year, Berlin native and film production intern Julia Donner, left, worked for the Memphis and Shelby County Film Commission. Donner is shown with Memphis film commissioner Linn Sitler. -- PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIA DONNER

The Shelby County Commission is likely to give its support today to a resolution encouraging a budding film industry alliance between Memphis and Berlin spurred by Memphis Film Commissioner Linn Sitler.

The resolution is scheduled to be voted on at the commission’s meeting, which starts at 1:30 p.m. in the Shelby County Administration Building, 160 N. Main St.

Linking the two cities’ film industries and cultures has garnered the support of MemphisED, an economic development project of the Memphis Regional Chamber, as well as a host of local political figures. The County Commission’s recognition and encouragement of the partnership also would come on the heels of a three-month stay in Memphis by Berlin native Julia Donner, a movie buff and film student who interned in Sitler’s office.

Learning experience

Donner returned to Germany earlier this month. While in Memphis, she stayed at the home of Karl and Gail Schledwitz and dabbled in several projects, including scouting locations for the local film commission.

“I think that the alliance between the two cities is a wonderful idea to learn about different cultures and about the long history of filmmaking in both cities,” Donner told The Daily News. “I hope we are able to encourage filmmakers to share projects and maybe shoot in Memphis and Berlin.

“Being able to spend three months in Memphis was one of the best experiences I ever had. I learned how the Film Commission works, had the chance to work with Craig Brewer and learned a lot about the American film industry. I met the most incredible people who became friends quickly, and I don’t want to miss anything I learned for my future working life.”

Films without borders

Today’s resolution points to support for the effort from the office of former Memphis Mayor Willie Herenton. Shelby County Mayor A C Wharton Jr., U.S. Reps. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., and Steve Cohen, D-Memphis, also have encouraged an alliance between the cities.

Also, “the office of the mayor of Berlin has encouraged not only exchange with the film industry of Memphis and Shelby County, but has also encouraged exchange between our music industries; our institutions of higher learning for film and music; our museums; our black communities; and our Jewish communities,” the resolution reads.

Reid Dulberger, vice president of MemphisED administration for the Memphis Regional Chamber, said local officials are excited about the alliance and see it as one fruit of many successful efforts in recent years in the Memphis film community.

“Berlin, as it turns out, is really a film capital of Europe,” Dulberger said. “With a very longstanding, well-financed, well-established, well-thought-of film industry. “Coincidentally, Linn had some contacts there. And she started cultivating those contacts to see if there was a synergy between Memphis and Berlin. And it turns out there may well be.

“We’re excited about this, because obviously film is one of our targeted industries. And we also know that film and competition for film and TV work has become much greater now.”

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