DFFB Survey (1984)

From time to time, Deutsche Film- und Fernsehakademie Berlin (DFFB), where Skip Norman studied film between 1966 and 1969, conducted surveys among their alumni. This one, entitled DFFB “volljährig” (DFFB “adult”) was published in 1984 at the occasion of the institution’s 18th birthday. It mainly consists of filmographical data and answers to specific questions that the alumni handed in. The questions were sent in German, we translated them for this republication.


Arbeitest Du als Kameramann/frau, Cutter/in, Toningenieur/in, Regisseur/in, Autor/in, Produzent/in oder in welcher anderen filmberuflichen Funktion bist Du tätig?
Are you working as a cameraman/woman, editor, sound engineer, director, author, producer or in which other professional function are you working?

I am an independent filmmaker. As an independent I function as writer, director, cinematographer and editor.

Independent production makes it possible to function in all the important creative categories of filmmaking. One of the motivating factors for being an independent is control over content. Obvious disadvantages of independent production are the difficulties in gaining financial support and the limited opportunities for exhibition and distribution. Independent production is tied to a nonprofit ethos. As a result independents must rely on those agencies that provide financial support to nonprofit organizations. Such agencies are the brokers of the cultural and academic superstructure on the local, State and federal governments.

If the work of an independent is acceptable to the cultural gatekeepers (those who decide who gets money and how much), money is available. If the work of an independent is not acceptable (and this is not always a question of skill or competence), money is, obviously, not available. Although there is no direct cultural censorship, independents, nevertheless, walk a cultural tightrope because of the ethnocentricity of the majority culture. And most decisions in these agencies, that broker the little money available, are made by members of the majority culture. They are the ones with the decision-making jobs.

Although independent production is painful, frustrating, time consuming and exploitative, it provides the only avenue for the expression and advocacy that can be free of the onus of making money. But this also points to the fruitlessness of independent productions, because many films end up on the shelfs and in the closets of their makers for lack of exhibition and distribution possibilities. The biggest challenge for the independent is the making of a film that, because of its dynamic strength as a communications vehicle, demands to be seen.

Welche anderen Berufe oder bezahlten Tätigkeiten übst Du zusätzlich aus?
What other professions or paid activities do you additionally practice?

I teach filmmaking and study culture as an ethnographer.

Bist Du berufsständisch oder gewerkschaftlich organisiert?
Are you organized in a professional association or a union?


Welche Erfahrungen hast Du mit Video gemacht?
What experiences do you have with video?

I have some experience in using video as a tool for teaching industrial skills and social values.

Hast Du schon für die „Neuen Medien” gearbeitet? Erhoffst Du Dir zusätzliche Auftrage von ihnen?
Have you already worked for the “New Media”? Are you hoping for additional jobs from them?

No, I have not worked for Television since leaving Berlin.

Still from Situationen (Johannes Beringer, 1967) showing some of the DFFB students of the “Class of 66″—Holger Meins, Günter Peter Straschek, Gerd Conradt, his wife Lena and their child Alfa, and Skip Norman.

Würdest Du nach Deinen Erfahrungen heute die umfassende Ausbildung an der Akademie noch gutheißen? Oder würdest Du mehr für eine Spezialisierung plädieren? (Beispiele)
After your experiences, would you still approve of the comprehensive training at the academy? Or would you advocate  for more specialization? (examples)

The most important aspects of my education at DFFB were the availability of practicing professional as instructors, equipment and money. I, personally, found the rather eclectic study program of my class beneficial, because it helped to define the kind of independent production in which I am presently involved. But I think that students should be offered the opportunity to satisfy their specialized interests, e.g., feature filmmaking, documentary filmmaking, ethnographic filmmaking (a program that should be developed and expanded in the near future), animation, experimental filmmaking, didactical filmmaking, film education, film theory and film criticism. There are many ways in which film and video can find ways into the socio-cultural structure of society and a film school should not be restricted to a few popular and available choices. Apart from a solid foundation in the essential skills of filmmaking, which should be demanded of each Student, DFFB should broaden its potential for providing avenues for its students to use those skills. This can only be done when film is seen as more than entertainment or advocacy, but also an instrument for studying culture and society.

Gibt es in Deiner Berufspraxis Zusammenarbeit mit Absolventen bzw. Akademie-Studenten?
Do you collaborate with graduates or academy students in your professional practice?

I hope to continue my working relationship with Jonatan Briel.

Verbindest Du mit dem Filmemachen noch eine Utopie oder fallen Vorstellungen und Wirklichkeit für Dich zusammen? (Wenn möglich ausführlich beschreiben)
Does filmmaking still have a utopian potential for you or do ideas and reality coincide for you? (Describe in detail if possible)

I believe that ideas are a product of reality. If Utopia is understood as a synonym for wishful thinking then Utopias exist. Filmmaking is a concrete, complex process and its successful execution, in spite of the magic inherent in the making, demands the confrontation with real ideas, real people and real technology. Although completing a film project may seem utopian to the uninitiated it is nevertheless a product of cold, hard, facts. Now there may be some wishful thinking in the creative process, and if so, it has got to be clothed in planning, skill, creative initiative, political awareness and hard work. There are no Utopias that are not rooted in reality.

Was machst Du, wenn Du keine Filme machst?
What do you do when you are not making movies?

When I am not making films in actual practice I am making films in my mind. Otherwise I read and live to learn.

Source: DFFB “volljährig”. Absolventen-Info 1984, Redaktion: Malte Ludin, Berlin: dffb 1984, pp. 67–68. Image: Deutsche Kinemathek. dffb-Archiv, courtesy of Johannes Beringer.

[Suggested citation: Skip Norman, “DFFB Survey,” Rosa Mercedes 03/A (January 2021), www.harun-farocki-institut.org/en/2021/01/28/dffb-survey-1984/]

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January 28th, 2021 — Rosa Mercedes / 03 / A

The Reconstruction of Ukraine. Ruination / Representation / Solidarity, online symposium, September 9-11, 2022. “The Reconstruction of Ukraine: Ruination / Representation / Solidarity” devotes particular attention to cities, architecture, art, culture and psychological trauma – but the scope of the conversations it aims to start is broader. In due course, the discussions held during the symposium may coalesce into myriad projects, initiatives and experiments undertaken by government institutions, municipalities, educational and cultural bodies and other more interstitial actors. The ambition of this symposium is to establish a platform for dialogue, facilitating communication, collaboration and constructive argument between diverse actors and initiatives.

George Edwards (Zetkin Collective) on war, nationalism and the “anti-climate lobby” (via Arts of the Working Class): “The latest prognosis of this particular war was spelt out in a flurry of reports from the IPCC; the most recent, described as ‘an atlas of human suffering’ by the chief of the UN, demanded ‘rapid, deep and immediate’ emissions cuts in all sectors to ensure an inhabitable planet for all. In step with the science, many wish this conflict to mark the beginning of an intensified programme of decarbonization, ridding economies of not only Russian, but all fossil fuels, wherever their geological source. But whilst political leaders scramble abroad to secure new sources of fossil fuels – sweet-talking sheiks and summoning LNG terminals from the ground – a resourceful and committed cohort, let’s call them the anti-climate lobby, refuse to accept this diagnosis. The partakers in the fossil industry have seized upon this crisis, sensing it as an opportunity to enlarge and entrench economic interests rooted in fossil fuels. As the course of action prescribed by the IPCC imperils this line of business, the attempts to secure fresh investments in fossil fuel infrastructures, to lock-in production and secure profits for the coming decades may feel all the more pressing. The solutions they pose also fit within the national frame and it is with nationalist political forces that they find their most ardent allies.”

July 31st, 2022

The fundamental difference that we face in Europe at the moment between the Western approach characterized by the pursuit of peace and the Eastern one focused on liberation and independence poses a dramatic challenge – in order to survive and progress, democracy as a political regime has to be capable of defending itself also in a military way.” Armed Democracy revolves around the concepts of imperialism, liberation, fascism, autocracy, revolution, and militarization in pursuit of the world to come on Europe’s burnt out land. Conceived by the Kyiv Biennial and Biennale Warszawa from the East Europe Biennial Alliance, this special public program, curated by Vasyl Cherepanyn within the 2nd edition of Biennale Warszawa, the program is a first part of the series organized by the East Europe Biennial Alliance discussing Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine and taking place in Warsaw, Prague, Kassel, and Riga over the summer and fall of 2022.

Olena Lyubchenko on Whiteness, Expropriation, War, and Social Reproduction in Ukraine (via LeftEast): “[…] when we hear on the news that ‘Ukraine is fighting a European war’ and ‘Ukraine is defending Europe’, amid images of fleeing ‘poor white’ women with children prioritized over racialized ‘Others’, ‘Ukraine’ is being made ‘white’ in the global imaginary. That is, “the injunction to ‘return to Europe’ by way of Europeanization is enabled and conditioned on the mythologies of Western civilization, and that Europeanization at once marks (promulgates) and unmarks (naturalizes) racial whiteness” [Nadezhda Husakouskaya and Randi Gressgård]. The paradox is that Europe’s existence as such has only been possible precisely because of the exploitation of global working peoples through expropriation of resources and today neoliberal economic reforms and reproduced by feminized labour.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn about the “inertness, hiding behind the European Wall” (via L’Internationale): “Many Western institutions that have been claiming ‘radical political engagement’ for years, have simply resorted to a white cube radicalism and self-satisfying humanitarianism, too afraid of acting politically beyond their comfort zone and unsettling their publics and authorities by attempting to affect the decision-making process regarding the Ukrainian cause.”

May 28th, 2022

Tatsiana Shchurko on the War in Ukraine, Entangled Imperialisms, and Transnational Feminist Solidarity, via LeftEast (May 2, 2022): “[An] uneven knowledge production and the many implications of the war against Ukraine reveal the dire need to develop a feminist anti-capitalist critique of multiple imperialisms. This language should grow from within the occupied and suppressed communities of Eastern Europe and Eurasia. An anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist feminist positionality grasps that the local is part of a global in an effort to build transnational connections of mutual aid and support against state and corporate violence. For example, statements of solidarity with Ukraine expressed by the International Committee of Indigenous Peoples of Russia and Native American communities along with the anti-war feminist march in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan) on March 8, 2022, pointing out that the war in Ukraine should be of concern for a broad transnational community, may serve as instrumental examples of alternative anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist solidarities that stretch beyond state regulations and macro-politics and foreground decolonial perspectives, necessary in addressing entanglements of multiple imperialisms. Such solidarities also bring to light hidden interconnections of the past that allowed for distant communities to survive and support each other against the violence of imperialist intervention and its attendant capitalist exploitation. Thus, the march in Bishkek reminds of the socialist roots of the International Women’s Day to call for internationalist, intersectional, class solidarity against imperialism and militarism.”

Vasyl Cherepanyn on that “It’ll take more than tanks to ease Germany’s guilt” (via Politico): “Since the Soviet Union’s collapse, Germany has been imposing neocolonial optics on its Eastern European ‘peripheries,’ and on the post-Soviet space in particular, where Ukraine was long considered a gray buffer zone about which the EU was ‘deeply concerned.’ Germany didn’t bother itself much with differentiating between former Soviet countries’ pasts. Even until recently, any Ukrainian agenda in Germany was often ‘balanced’ with a Russian perspective, so as to not exclude the latter by any means.”

An unnamed anarchist and art scholar, who joined the Territorial Defense Forces, quoted by Olexii Kuchanskyi in an essay on “Digital Leviathan and His Nuclear Tail” (via Your Art and e-flux notes): “At dawn, Dima and I talked about cinema. Dima believes that cinema is inferior to literature as a means of expression because you spend much more time with a book than a film. It’s a really interesting point, something to dig into. I studied at the department of art theory & history and I never thought of it. Dima served in the military after school and worked at the factory all his life. He listens to rap, smokes pot, and tries to have fun. He is thirty-eight, his child was born last year. He likes Wong Kar-wai and is a fan of Asian cinema in general. Dima communicates by quoting Omar Khayyam, Confucius, and other awesome guys.”

April 20th, 2022
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