Philip Hofmann and Jonas Lembeck are students at the University of Television and Film Munich, but have also been in the film business since 2018 with their start-up Le Hof Media – and very successfully too. Together with their fellow student Diego Oliva, they filmed the action-packed 'The Unbelivabowls' advertisement for München Tourismus. We spoke to the three of them about Munich's creative side, the making of 'The Unbelivabowls' which was not always easy, and their favourite places in the Bavarian state capital.
In the winter of 2016/17, München Tourismus collaborated with the University of Television and Film Munich (HFF) to launch an annual ideas competition for Munich as a travel destination. In 2019, Le Hof Media won the contract for 'The Unbelievabowls'. This makes it the third joint project between München Tourismus and the HFF.
The founders of Le Hof Media met when they were studying together. Having produced their first student films together, Philip Hofmann and Jonas Lembeck got the idea for the start-up at the Oktoberfest. They formed their company the next day "still in their Lederhosen" (traditional Bavarian leather shorts). There is now a full-time team of five people – and they bring in other young professionals to work on larger projects.
The founders see their company as an integrated media company: In the social-first age, they see the lines increasingly blurring between the production of content on the one hand, and the advertising market on the other. Le Hof Media thus produces everything under one roof, from the film content through to the associated campaign.
Is Munich a good city to launch a business in?
Philip: We think it's the best city ever. Munich is very diverse, both in terms of locations and the companies. It offers a good mix of talented young people and the most important companies in the sector.
Do you draw creativity from Munich?
Jonas: Yes. There are so many new places that you keep discovering. So our brainstorming sessions for the 'The Unbelievabowls' advertisement often took place in the Englischer Garten (park) or by the Isar river. They are a virtually constant source of inspiration.
Diego: I draw creativity from interaction with people. You get lots of ideas simply by talking to people and observing them. If you look more closely, you always discover something special.
Does this creative atmosphere in Munich encourage the establishment of start-ups like Le Hof Media
Jonas: Yes! As a young company, we were able to benefit from a city funding programme that allowed us to attend the SXSW creative fair in Texas. The HFF also prepares students for setting up a company during their studies, and teaches them the key basics of self-employment.
How is the film industry networked here?
Philip: The film industry is very small and well networked. One advantage of the HFF is the close collaboration with companies in this industry. For example, the cooperation with the camera manufacturer Arri goes back several years. We also often have well-known personalities and interesting guest lecturers at the university.
What motivated you to take part in the München Tourismus competition?
Philip: For me personally, Munich is very attractive as a location. Coming from Frankfurt, I have to admit that I now feel more at home in Munich than in Frankfurt. That was certainly a motivation to take part in the competition. In my view, Munich is also Germany's most beautiful city! Designing the advertisement was very easy for us because we are all so positive about the city. The city council was also very open and cooperative with regard to our proposals. So we wanted to seize this opportunity to create something exceptional for Munich!
Did the previous two films, 'The Hardest Job' and 'Club of Cool Cities', influence your choice of subject?
Philip: Absolutely. They are both fantastic advertisements. We wanted to do something new that hadn't been done in the other two films. So we decided on a 'mockumentary' with a fictional Bowling team.
The subject of sport was prescribed. But how did you come to the idea of sending a bowling team through Munich?
Diego: When I sat down with Philip at the HFF, the idea for the concept suddenly came to us. You usually go bowling with friends to have a good time. It's also extremely good fun. Bowling is therefore generally linked with associations such as relaxation, adrenaline, distraction and friends. So we thought it would be cool to depict an emotional 'rush' with the advertisement, to transfer these values to Munich.
Were there other forms of sport to choose from?
Jonas: Right from the outset, we wanted an unusual form of sport for the advertisement. We took some inspiration from the 'Cool Runnings' film, where four Jamaicans learn how to bobsleigh so they can compete in the Winter Olympics. We felt bowling gave us the best opportunities to include other forms of sport such as football, cycling and surfing by using trick shots.
What were the biggest challenges you faced during filming? The Eisbachwelle (river wave)? The throw from the Olympiaturm (Olympic Tower) or filming on the runway?
Jonas: From a production point of view, filming posed a lot of challenges. One of them was filming on the runway at Munich Airport with 30 people who all had to go through security checks, along with the five production vehicles. Filming isn't actually allowed here, and was possible only with a special permit, with very tight security precautions and in a very narrow time slot.
Diego: Every trick shot posed its own challenges. In the skateboarding park and on the bike trail by the Isar, it was important to us for the shot to work without cuts. So we needed a few takes to get everything to come together. At the Eisbachwelle, we weren't allowed to simply disrupt normal surfing operations. So it took a bit longer for us to finish. Plus, the wave was wild and cold on filming day. It was quite tiring for our surfer Alina. But she is brilliant, and was up for anything!
With the throw from the Olympiaturm, the challenge was in finding out how the ball would even fall from such a height. We worked with a physicist to calculate the precise flight curve in order to select the right takes. At the other locations, the challenges were more logistical, but the whole thing was great fun.
As was developing the outfits, because right from the beginning we did a lot of thinking about our team as 'Rock 'n' Roll Bowling Celebrities'. It was a real joy to have such a wonderful team that was capable of realising this vision. Our costume designer Irmi Jenewein deserves a special mention for bringing this 'stylish & fun look' to life.
How was the collaboration with the partners?
Philip: The advertisement would not have been possible without the Tourismusinitiative München (TIM) network of partners Thanks to the support from BMW, FC Bayern and The Charles Hotel we were able to film a jet at the airport, and in the Allianz Arena (football stadium) for example. The final trick shot down from the Olympiaturm with a bowling ball was also possible only with the great support of the Olympiapark (Olympic Park). Partners outside of the TIM for example a bowling alley, or the beer garden at the Chinesischer Turm (Chinese Tower) were also easy to persuade. Having the city as a client certainly helped to open doors.
Where do you personally like to spend time in Munich?
Jonas: I am a passionate runner so you'll often see me along the Isar. When we go out in the evening, you'll generally see Philip and myself in the Maxvorstadt district.
Diego: I also love walking in the Maxvorstadt – it often helps me to marshal my thoughts.
What do you show your friends and family when they visit you in Munich?
The Gasteig (cultural centre), the Hochschule für Musik und Theater (University of Music and Performing Arts), the Kammerspiele (theatre), the Königsplatz (square) and Schloss Nymphenburg (Nymphenburg Palace).