Susanne Lummer, Executive Producer
Terra Mater Factual Studios – founded January 1st, 2011, TMFS is the new home of the internationally acclaimed former production team of UNIVERSUM, ORF’s Natural History Unit, and is based in Vienna. The company is a subsidiary company of Red Bull and specialises in factual production and distribution for cinema, TV and multimedia platforms.
A lovable animal needs soft fur, four paws and two big eyes? Not so for Susanne: She’s the Executive Producer with a soft spot for creepy-crawly creatures – may they have at least six to eight legs and the same number of eyes! Susanne’s passion for wildlife of any size combined with her experience and expertise in natural history productions characterise her work. Now based at Terra Mater Factual Studios, she’s strengthening the TV Producer team – and her cycling skills within and around the urban jungle of Vienna.
Susanne graduated her studies of biology in Berlin with a diploma thesis about electron-microscopical research of unicellular organisms. Returning to the world of multicellular animals she added a university degree in science journalism. Based in Munich she wrote for renowned German newspapers and science magazines. Germany’s public broadcaster NDR attracted her to Hamburg where she met Jörn Röver at Doclights / NDR Naturfilm. For almost nine years Susanne worked in his team as producer and executive producer for ARD primetime wildlife productions, including award-winning series like “Wild Scandinavia“, “Congo“ and “Wild Australia“. Sabine Holtzer, Head of TV TMFS
After studying biology I thought I’d never get a foot on the ground in the TV business – the big media hype really scared me off. But wildlife filmmakers are different, not only because they wear alpine hiking shoes in the edit suite… So I started my career as Natural History Unit Junior Producer in Jörn Röver’s team at NDR Naturfilm / Doclights. After almost nine years in Hamburg, coming to Terra Mater in 2016 was a huge step – and the right decision: TMFS is a very international and innovative company. Walter Köhler is one of the few in the business who still have the heart to realise exceptional projects aside from mainstream. For a producer, it means schedules can be messed up from time to time… or from day to day… And who says that “Picture Lock” means you can’t change pictures anymore…? But after all, the reward are extraordinary films like “The Lions Rule”.
We ask our Rising Star a few key questions.
What was your childhood ambition?
As long as I can remember I wanted to understand the natural wonders of our garden – from the spider webs glittering in the sun to the cherries getting red and sweet in summer. This was the reason to study biology.
What was your first break in the business?
Getting a job as Junior Producer in the fantastic team of Jörn Röver at NDR Naturfilm / Doclights in Hamburg.
What’s a good bit of advice you’d like to share?
Respect the work of every member of the production team: If everyone can bring in her/his expertise you’ll get an amazing and innovative result.
What’s your craziest /funniest work related experience/anecdote?
One of the key sequences in the CONGO series I worked on for NDR Naturfilm was the birth of praying mantis. To film the eclosion of the tiny insects the camera team had collected several cocoons filled with dozens of mantis’ eggs. After finally filming the sequence, Heike Grebe, producer for that project, suddenly had to handle dozens of insect predators. I adopted one of them – a beautiful female I called Mafalda. She lived in a luxury aquarium on my desk in the Hamburg office. After several months, fed by countless house crickets, spoiled by all my colleagues, Mafalda died a calm natural death – her grave still is the flower bed in front of the Studio Hamburg cafeteria. As protagonist in the CONGO series Mafalda became famous after death: The film received an award in Jackson two years ago.
What do you love about your job and this business?
Isn’t it an honor to produce films that makes others happy? By showing the beauty and uniqueness of our planet we’re reaching a huge audience worldwide. Being able to raise the interest for planet Earth is the biggest gift for me.
How do you like to watch content? – TV? Web ? SVOD? …Tell us Why?
I’m still watching mostly classic TV – maybe because I like the feeling of an “evening event” on my sofa.
What kinds of natural history films would you like to see commissioned/see more of? And why?
I personally think TV stations and channels could take more risks than they do – in terms of content. Most often, projects with only the best imagery, the most beautiful landscape sequences, highspeed animal shots and 4K are commissioned, even though there surely are so many stories which stray from these criteria – and which would still be worth being told! We should unleash our producers’, our editors’ potential for creativity when it comes to format and narrative styles – and surprise our audiences over and over again.
What’s your dream job?
Every job is a dream job if you’re working on it with a dream team.
Do you have a film nominated at Jackson?
Not this time …
Tell us something that would surprise us.
Sitting on a bicycle, breathing in the cool air of the Vienna woods at 5.30 am makes me a better producer.