MMC Studios Managing Director Jens Wolf in interview

In the interview series "Retrospect 2020 - Outlook 2021" on the portal, Jens Wolf, Managing Director of MMC Studios Köln GmbH, and other representatives of Cologne's media and cultural industries look back on a difficult year and venture a look ahead - to a hopefully better 2021.

Interview with Jens Wolf, Managing Director of MMC Studios Köln GmbH: 

In what mood do you start the new year?

We are starting the new year in a very positive mood. Of course, 2020 was a succession of new challenges, but we managed the year well despite all the adversity. The important thing was that we proactively created organizational and technical solutions to enable us to do our job in times of pandemic and serve our customers optimally despite all the restrictions.

The crisis shows how agile a company is positioned. We have not only succeeded in closing 2020 successfully. We have also laid the foundation for a successful 2021 with many innovations.

One downer is the still difficult situation in the area of major events on an international level - actually, we would now produce many large eSports events - and in the area of trade shows. However, we have already managed to acquire and successfully implement alternative projects in 2020. I am therefore very confident that this trend will continue.

To what extent have you changed your business model, your way of working and/or your corporate structures as a result of the pandemic?

The studio area, and here especially the area of entertainment shows, is still our most important business area. This is currently also due to the fact that production companies are looking for a secure, controllable production environment.

You will find this with us, because we have already worked out concepts very quickly last March, how to implement such productions despite the pandemic with us. From March to the beginning of July 2020, we had the highest simultaneous production volume in the company's history, and in the second half of the year we were also able to implement a very large number of productions. So we have the know-how and plenty of experience in production under these special conditions.

Due to the restrictions, alternative production concepts were also promoted. The topic of "remote production" is particularly relevant for our TV production area. This allows outside productions to be controlled from a central control room in the studio. Only a small basic team is needed at the outside production location. This type of production will certainly gain in importance for us.

In the area of film and series production, we are seeing huge interest in the topic of "Virtual Production". This production method, which caused a worldwide sensation with the Disney series "The Mandalorian," involves shooting in the studio in front of high-resolution LED screens. Virtual production is particularly interesting in times when many filming locations are not accessible, as it allows filming locations from all over the world to be brought into the safe and controllable environment of the studio.

Our Outside Broadcasting unit was initially hit hard in 2020. Fortunately, we managed to drive alternative solutions and sales approaches.

Instead of the multitude of small and large events that existed at our studios before the pandemic, in 2020 we hosted a whole series of virtual or hybrid events from companies and associations. These included annual general meetings, product presentations, and conventions that were streamed from MMC Studios around the world.

As with many companies, the topic of "home office" has become increasingly important for us. We have issued the necessary technology to all employees whose tasks allow them to work from home.

In addition, we have introduced team splits in the departments where it was possible, i.e. half the team works in the home office for half the week. So if someone from the part of the team that is currently on site falls ill, we can replace the entire part of the team so that smooth customer service is guaranteed.

What changes will be permanent?

The topic of home office has been well received by our workforce, primarily because of the relatively free allocation of time and the improved work-life balance. For this reason, we will certainly continue to pursue the topic of home office.

In the studio sector, we have a strong workload in the first half of the year, mainly from entertainment shows, but also from films, series and the corporate sector. Remote production will continue to become increasingly important.

In the field of film and series, the trend toward virtual production will continue. On the one hand, because it is no longer necessary to send large teams to remote locations, and on the other hand, because virtual production has various advantages over green-screen productions. This year, we will see the first film projects at MMC Studios using this innovative production method.

Our corporate event customers have been able to gain a lot of experience with their previous virtual events or hybrid events in the MMC Studios and have learned that this type of event works and also pays off. We therefore think that even after the end of the pandemic, only a part of the corporate events will be face-to-face events and the rest will be implemented as virtual events.

In 2020, strong cohesion was evident across the TV and film industry. Communication and solidarity between broadcasters, producers, service providers and industry associations was excellent. This has shaped the industry and will also be noticeable in 2021.

What do you expect for 2021?

For us, 2021 is primarily a year of innovations and new technical developments. Since January, we have our own UHD HDR OB van, so that we can implement productions of all types and sizes with our own resources in this new TV standard, both in our studios and on location.

We will also greatly expand our involvement in the area of virtual events and hybrid events. We have reserved one of our studios specifically for such events and equipped it with the appropriate technology. The expected high utilization of our studios gives us a very positive outlook for 2021.

Read the complete interview series here:

Photo: Jens Wolf, Managing Director of MMC Studios Köln GmbH. © MMC Studios