Over the past few years I have developed and produced corporate films for MANN+HUMMEL with the company Smartfilmmedia & Partner. In May 2016, my team and I were awarded the contract to film a welcome event in Gostyn (Poland). We were one of four teams worldwide to capture the events held for Wix-Filtron employees in four countries (Poland, China, Mexico, USA) on film.

I travelled to Berlin by train before continuing my journey in the production van – a total distance of some 1000 km. As a film producer, I travel a lot and this job required me to be on the road for three days. Travelling is one of the reasons why I love my job so much – I like being on the road! My colleagues all joined me in Berlin. It is the same crew which produced the corporate film for MANN+HUMMEL’s 70th anniversary back in 2011.

Alfred Weber

Smartfilmmedia works with a core group of partners, independent directors and camera operators, alongside talented individuals in other areas, many of whom are graduates of Film Academy Baden-Württemberg in Ludwigsburg. When putting together a project team, we keep both skills and team spirit in mind.

We stayed at Hotel Crukopol in Gostyn, which was just a seven-minute drive from the company premises. As arranged in advance, there we met Blazej Bebel, one of Wix-Filtron’s marketing employees, who was to accompany us throughout the day of the shoot. I was very pleased to meet him, as he had been such a big help in the planning of our journey. So there we were, with the May sun beating down: four filmmakers with five heavy equipment cases. Thankfully for us, Blazej offered to take one of them – an offer I gladly accepted – and we were ready to go!

Authentic and in the thick of it

We went to the location where we encountered an enormous marquee. Everything was prepared: stage equipment, catering … only the audience was missing. Since there were fewer than 60 minutes until the first presentation, we started setting up: a quick discussion, connecting up speakers with transmission systems, setting up the cameras, before each of us got into position. After just ten minutes the first employees started to arrive. The crowd was huge – there’s no other word for it! A panning shot over the crowd captured over 1000 people; in their faces I could detect curiosity, excitement, happiness and also a little reticence.

The footage we captured at the event will be part of an overall film, with the working title ‘Unity’. When I look back, I have to mention the video interview with Keith Wilson and Alfred Weber. The video was produced at the end of 2015 and at the time I remember being impressed by the friendly encounter between Alfred Weber, CEO of MANN+HUMMEL and Keith Wilson, President of MANN+HUMMEL Filtration Technology. From behind the camera, as they gave their responses, they came across consistent, trustworthy and genuinely enthusiastic about the upcoming merger. In the final take, director Mark Baumann voiced his similar conclusions: “To me, it sounds more like a wedding than anything else.” Keith Wilson added: “Yeah, it´s like a dream come true for us.“

Scene change – back to Gostyn. We shot with fixed focal length lenses on a Sony F5 and a zoom lens on a C300, with both cameras equipped with ‘easy rigs’. This device relieves the camera operator of the weight of the camera which, with all lenses and other equipment considered, can weigh anything from 10 to 15 kg. The style: a breathing, hand-held camera! The storyline of our film follows the course of the event.

The management boards of both companies presented themselves and introduced MANN+HUMMEL four times throughout the day to the Wix-Filtron employees, and group discussions were held over a huge ‘welcome cake’ which was rolled out as part of a ‘Get Together’ event.

From experience, we knew that just 10 percent of the footage we shot would be used in the final edit. Unplanned, spontaneous moments can really add to the feel of the film – just like on this shoot when the management suddenly decided to leave the tent and take a tour of the production facilities. My team abandoned our break and followed, cameras at the ready.

Sigfrid Steiner

Without being able to hear what was said, I could read the body language of Sigfrid Steiner, Group Vice President & General Manager Wix-Filtron Europe, Mr Weber and the rest of the group. I would sum up the scene thus: genuine interest in the processes, machines, individual product parts and a wholehearted, friendly and considerate respect for the workforce. The tour took just under an hour.

Following a second presentation, we covered the rest of the ‘to do’s’ set out in our briefing – various shots from the production department, exterior shots of the location, one word statements and a series of scheduled employee interviews.

MANN+HUMMEL Filtration

In each and every interview and interaction that day I could detect the open, positive attitude towards the merge with MANN+HUMMEL and judging by the body language on show in the crowd, once the natural reluctance of those presenting had dissipated, a sense of openness, curiosity and benevolence spread throughout the event. Overall, the first two events that we were at were very well attended. The audience followed the presentations with focus, often breaking out into applause – and you could almost taste the cake by just looking at them.

We would like to take this opportunity to extend our thanks to Danielle Silvester, Sara Longardner and Blazej Bebel for the fantastic event.