Conference Managing Change interNational
Tuesday, May 04, The Studio brought to you by AMCRS, 12:45

Creative Processes, Educational Challenges and the Power of Industry Networks – The AMCRS Talks

hosted by Stefanie Larson

Part 1 - Collaborating with the competition

Collaborating with the competition Baden-Württemberg is Germany‘s top location for animation and visual effects. No other federal state has such a high density of animation and VFX studios. The creative professionals in these studios have received numerous internationally renowned prizes – including Oscars, Emmy Awards, Annie Awards, VES Awards and the Deutscher Computerspielpreis Award. Behind this remarkable success is the work of the Animation Media Cluster of the Stuttgart Region (AMCRS). The network, initiated by the MFG Baden-Württemberg, consists of more than 30 VFX service providers, animation studios, games and interactive studios, as well as universities and academies, connecting many small businesses and regional freelancers in Baden-Württemberg. The AMCRS creates the necessary framework conditions to guarantee the security and quality desired by potential clients, even in large international projects. In this way, the MFG promotes the interdisciplinary and international work of these creative professionals.How did this all begin? What kind of challenges did the creation, formation and further development of the AMCRS bring with it? What are the advantages of joining together and exchanging ideas in industry networks? And where should AMCRS go in the future? The companies of Heiko Burkardsmeier (VFX Executive Producer/ Head of Business & Legal Affairs, Mackevision Medien Design GmbH), Torben Meier (Co-Founder of studio soi) and Beren Baumgartner (CEO and Creative Producer, Zeitland media & games) have been long-time members of the AMCRS. Together with Stefanie Larson (Animation Media Cluster Region Stuttgart), they will illustrate the advantages, synergies and success stories of the network. 

Part 2 - Creating artistic series

The animated film directors and animation artists Angela Steffen and Julia Ocker have both created award-winning and internationally very successful children's series for Studio Filmbilder. Angela Steffen's Patchwork Pals has already been sold to more than 150 broadcasters worldwide, including BBC, Canal+ and Amazon. Julia Ocker developed Animanimals, which has been sold in more than 180 international territories and was nominated for the Emmys. They will describe and – together with Stefanie Larson (Animation Media Cluster Region Stuttgart) – discuss the creative processes of developing their artistic series. How do you remain flexible and able to act when things don't always go as planned? How do you strike a balance between work and private life? They will provide valuable insights into their experiences in creating series projects - from initial planning to marketing strategies.


Part 3 - Educational challenges in a rapidly changing media world

The media and IT industries are subject to rapid technological developments. In order to be able to keep up with the ongoing changes, educational institutions from the corresponding areas have to constantly adapt their methods, curricula and technological equipment. Prof. Volker Helzle (Head of Research and Development, Animationsinstitut at Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg), Prof. Jan Adamczyk (VFX Supervisor, Professor VFX/CGI/Concept Art, Hochschule der Medien Stuttgart) and Prof. Sabiha Ghellal (Professor Experience and Game Design, Hochschule der Medien Stuttgart) will describe how they keep up-to-date with the latest technologies, developments and ideas at their universities and in their educational programs, and what challenges arise, especially in the current pandemic situation. 

Stefanie Larson, Cluster Manager, Animation Media Cluster Region Stuttgart

Stefanie Larson studied international economics and psychology.

She has been working in the field of corporate communication, brand communication and brand architecture for over 25 years and specializes in interdisciplinary projects. Stefanie Larsons main focus always lies on content-related and strategic priorities as well as a target group-oriented concept in her diverse areas of responsibility.

Stefanie Larson has been teaching at various universities in Germany since 2009.

She has managed the Baden-Württemberg animation and media cluster (AMCRS) since autumn 2016. In cooperation with the more than 30 members of the cluster, she is promoting the strengthening of BW as a top location in the animation and media sector. In particular the promotion of young talent, the development of content and IP as well as equal opportunities for women in the industry are very important to her.

Stefanie Larson is a member of the Friends of the Film Academy Baden-Württemberg. She has been on the Advisory Board of FMX since 2017, is a member of various juries and acts as a mentor for young talents.

Prof. Jan Adamczyk, Professor, Hochschule der Medien

Prof. Jan Adamczyk is a german VFX Supervisor with more than a decade of experience in the visual effects industry. Since 2006 he worked on numerous international feature film and tv productions.

His credits in visual effects include The Dark Knight, Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek - Into Darkness, Hugo Cabret, Atomic Blonde and Jim Button and Lukas the engine driver. Prof. Jan Adamczyk has worked at VFX Studios based in Stuttgart, Munich, London and Berlin and received multiple national and international award nominations and wins.

Prof. Jan Adamczyk is an active member of the Visual Effects Society, the Deutsche Filmakademie and the Deutsche Akademie für Fernsehen. From the winter semester 2018/19 Prof. Jan Adamczyk is part of the visual effects team at the Stuttgart Media University and will enrich the Courses with his know how, practical experience and artistic talent as well as the connections to the local and international VFX industry.


Beren Baumgartner, CEO and creative producer, Zeitland media & games

At Zeitland, he is responsible for corporate management, overall project planning and creative direction. 

Beren holds a diploma in interactive media conception, Film Academy Baden-Wuerttemberg and a bachelor (Hons 1st class) in Digital Animation form the SAE Institute + Middlesex University.

He has worked as a concept developer, designer, concept artist and compositor for web, film, and television, including on projects for Volkswagen and Pro 7.

He has also been active in the games sector for the past two decades. 2001 he funded his first game company and lead a project that was among the FPS finalists for the Make Something Unreal contest 2004 by Epic Games.

Beren has completed assignments for Psyonix (2D Art for the Xbox 360 title Battle-Cars, now known as Rocket League®) and Chimera Entertainment GmbH (Concept & Environment Artist).

As studio head and producer at Zeitland, he successful delivered game and app projects over the past decade, including the Teva cognitive game series, apps for ratiopharm and CAA, entertainment games for Dreamfab, Spil Games, Blue Ocean Entertainment and business games such as the Oil Business Simulator for Ludaciti.

He lectured project management and budgeting for games at the Animation Institute of the Film Academy Baden-Württemberg and was supervisor and second corrector for bachelor theses at the FH Weingarten-Ravensburg.

He has been a member of the Animation Media Cluster Region Stuttgart since 2010 and on the steering committee as representative for games since 2016.

In 2017 he completed a certification as professional SCRUM Master.

Since 2019 he is a member of the corporate advisory board of the study program for audiovisual media, Hochschule der Medien in Stuttgart.


Heiko Burkardsmaier, VFX Executive Producer | Head of Business & Legal Affairs, Mackevision Medien Design GmbH

Heiko Burkardsmaier has long-standing expertise with visual effects and legal affairs. After finishing his law degree, he worked for several companies in the Media Industry as a legal counsel.  In 2008 he joined Pixomondo where he managed the Stuttgart branch and was responsible for legal affairs worldwide. In April 2013 he joined Mackevision as VFX Executive Producer and Head of Business & Legal Affairs where he is responsible for running the VFX Department of Mackevision. Heiko contributed to various award winning Feature and TV-projects such as Academy Award winning “Hugo” and Emmy Award winning HBO Series “Game of Thrones”. In 2014 Heiko’s team at Mackevision won an Emmy for Outstanding Special Visual Effects for Season 4 of HBO’s Game of Thrones. In 2018 his team was nominated for an Emmy for their work on “Lost in Space”. In 2020 the Team was nominated for 2 Emmy’s for “Lost in Space, Season 2” and HBO’s “Watchmen”. 

Julia Ocker, animated film director, Studio FILM BILDER

Julia Ocker is an animated film director, designer and author from Stuttgart. She studied visual communication in Pforzheim and Cairo from 2003 to 2005 and animation at the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg from 2006. Her diploma film "Kellerkind" won the First Steps Award 2012, the Tricky Women Prize 2013 and was nominated for the Annie Awards in 2014.

Julia discovered her passion for children's film when she got the opportunity to produce five short films for the SWR series "Ich kenne ein Tier" with Studio FILM BILDER. From these 5 films she developed her own children's series "Animanimals", which is shown on Kika and has been sold in more than 180 international territories. As all episodes also work as short films, they screened at festivals worldwide and have won more than 70 awards so far. Animanimals won the Grimme Award in the category "Children's Film" in 2019 and was nominated for the International Emmys.

Julia Ocker has two small children and is currently processing her experiences as a mother in the short film "Baby Blues".

Angela Steffen, free lance director and animator, Studio FILM BILDER

Angela Steffen was born in 1979 in Dannenberg, Germany. She lived in Ras Tanura, Saudi Arabia until the Gulf War in 1990, when mother and children returned to Germany. From 2001 to 2002 she trained as an animation designer at the Animation-School-Hamburg, then studied animation at the Animation Institute of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg until she received her diploma in 2009. During this time Angela Steffen developed a personal and poetic handwriting, the culmination of which is reached in the diploma film "Lebensader".

Since the end of her studies, Angela Steffen has been working as a freelance director and animator. Her series "Meine Schmusedecke", realised with the FILM BILDER studio, has already been sold to more than 150 broadcasters worldwide, including RBB, BBC, Canal+ and Amazon. In 2014, she received the "Best Preschool Series" award at the Cartoons on the Bay Festival in Venice and the "Award for the best TV series" at the Expotoons in Buenos Aires. In 2017, the series was awarded the rating "especially valuable" by the German Film and Media Review.


Prof. Dr. Sabiha Ghellal, Professor Experience and Game Design, Hochschule der Medien

Sabiha Ghellal is Professor of Experience and Game Design at Stuttgart Media University and Conjoint Professor at the University of Newcastle in Australia with a Ph.D. in Experience Design and Game Studies from Aalborg University. Her research explores the development of new interactive designs to support future cultural and creative experiences, with a particular focus on games and mixed reality storytelling. As a former Manager of Research and Innovation at Sony Europe, she has worked on several large productions in mobile entertainment, pervasive games and interactive media. Since 2014, she has been curating the Game Zone at the International Festival of Animated Film (ITFS) in Stuttgart.

Prof. Volker Helzle, Head of Research and Development, Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg

Volker Helzle is in charge of Research and Development at Animationsinstitut of Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. After graduating from HDM Stuttgart Media University (Dipl. Ing. AV-Medien) in 2000 he moved to California and worked for three years at Eyematic Interfaces (later acquired by Google). Volker quickly advanced to team-lead in charge of the Los Angeles based Content Development Group where his team pioneered facial performance capture substantially contributing to the engineering and development of the Eyematic Facestation.

In 2003 he joined Filmakademie to setup a research and development department at Animationsinstitut. The primary focus of his first years at Filmakademie was the development of facial animation tools. This led to one of the first plausible technology tests, realizing a virtual actor in an exemplary VFX production in 2007. During the past 18 years he raised funding for a substantial amount of regional and European Union funded projects in the scope of Animation, VFX, Virtual Production and Immersive Media. The most recent european project SAUCE includes a consortium of 9 partners. SAUCE will focus on smart reuse and transformation of assets, machine learning for asset retrieval and lightfield technology. The results of this projects have a massive impact on establishing new production techniques across all departments of Filmakademie. The latest regional project is the KI-Lab Animation& VFX.  It is dedicated to accelerate media productions by the latest trends in Artifical Intelligence.

In 2013 Volker Helzle received the honorary professorship of Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. In addition to the technical research Volker is the designated senior lecturer for the postgraduate Technical Director (TD) course at Filmakademie. TDs tackle the technological challenges of Animation, VFX and Transmedia productions at Filmakademie. The close relation to the research group allows students to engage in multidisciplinary projects.

As a program consultant he contributes to the organization of the annual FMX conference.

Being a C-64 kid of the 80ties, Volker's life was strongly influenced by video games and early computer graphics. To this day he is a passionate gamer but also finds interest in completely analogical activities like mountain hiking, gardening or yoga. As of January 2019 an improved version of Volker is available that keeps him busy day and night.

Torben Meier, co founder studio soi, Studio Soi

Torben Meier is a co-founder of Studio Soi. Coming from a 2d and design background, Torben’s main focus is to merge artistic impact with the need to create a rate of return. As a production manager he worked on the Oscar-nominated BBC special „Room on the Broom“ in 2011-2012. From 2013-2018 Torben led a team of 30 animators to produce Cartoon Network’s TV-series „The Amazing World of Gumball“, wining 8 British Academy Children’s Awards, the Annie Award and the International Emmy Kids Award.Torben had several internships at animation studios before he studied animation and design at Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg. He received his diploma in 2003 and joined Studio Soi.