Hamburg's brave movers and shakers navigate pandemic successfully

Part 1: How film producer Jannis Riebschläger jumped on a counter-trend
15 June 2021
Jannis Riebschläger, Jannis Production

The energy-sapping months of the pandemic have pushed many entrepreneurs, start-ups and self-employed people to both their personal and economic and brinks. However, crises often bring forth ideas and boost creativity. Many brave movers and shakers have emerged with encouraging ideas. Errors are forgiven unlike standstill. During the lockdown, hardly any events and trade fairs went ahead causing the collapse of Jannis Riebschläger's business. The Hamburg-based advertising filmmaker hesitated briefly and then jumped on a counter-trend. 

Launch in first lockdown

Jannis Riebschläger, 25, set up his video production company, Jannis Production, in downtown Hamburg only last year. On offer is a full-service package for promotional films  i.e., concept, shooting and post-production for companies seeking to brush up their corporate social media image and attract more customers and employees through product videos.

Riebschläger’s launch coincided with the start of the first lockdown and his product quickly fell victim to many companies' cuts. And yet Jannis Production is heading for success. The young entrepreneur is now planning to rent even more space and grow his team. "I don't have anything like a recipe for success. But I’m nimble. That and my infectious enthusiasm for the projects and staying focused despite coronavirus worked for me."

Jannis Production - product video shoot
© Jannis Production
Product video shoot

Changing tack

However, the company lost business due to the pandemic. "The entire trade fair and event videos sector collapsed. I was negotiating with a large travel portal to shoot 500 hotel videos." Riebschläger had to change tack and began focusing entirely on product videos. "People could no longer gain experience and enjoy themselves outdoors amid the corona-induced restrictions. So, I thought 'they will branch out and get similar products for their homes." Two types of customers emerged - cautious people, who saved their money and others, who said: "Now's the time to invest."

Stronger online presence

“The usual marketing channels like face-to-face events, cinema spots or even posters disappeared and companies simply had to be online more." Demand grew for website videos and online shops, social media marketing and YouTube ads, as well as films needed as online tools for the onboarding process. The videos now have a shorter half-life period simply because they were clicked on so frequently, but which in turn drove up demand.

Recipe for success

Riebschläger is still keen on his work. "It's all about presenting the message in a nutshell …whether it's for Dr. Oetker pudding or a self-employed person at the very start of their business. The customers notice that. I can really feel the spark - and that's how great projects come about."

However, setbacks remained. "It is not easy to stay motivated when you are being bombarded with bad news. So I worked with my ‘blinders on’ for a while and overviewed the situation once a week to see where we stood and whether the latest development affected me. I had to figure out how to react and whether it held any new opportunities for me."

Jannis Riebschläger on world trip
© Jannis Production
Butterfly lands on Riebschläger's camera

World tour as a career basis

Sounding out new possibilities is in Riebschläger's blood. "I've always enjoyed inventing and exploring. My favourite toy was a robot Lego set and when I was outdoors, I crawled after every beetle to see what it was." In 2015, this thirst for discovery sent him on a four-year trip around the world and saw him film many an adventure and explore 50 countries. The escapade led to two e-books on Amazon’s bestseller list and a film. "Hyperborea - Hitchhiker's Guide to the North Cape" was shown in 40 cinemas in Germany. I produced and marketed it single-handedly, with no prior knowledge of the industry and no huge budget." 

Innovation and automation

Riebschläger is self-taught. "I spend six hours a week testing innovations and keeping up with the latest developments in technology. Then I try them out to see whether they suit me?" At the moment, he is experimenting with interactive videos. "Many clients wonder about the right video style and whether to opt for an image product or webinar. Should it be a 15-second spot or go in-depth? I've produced a clickable video for them. Clients answer various questions and we come up with a customised product." If the technology catches on, Riebschläger's work should become easier and briefings can be automated.

Hamburg as home base

After travelling the globe, Riebschläger simply wanted to settle down and the Leverkusen native opted for Hamburg. The city’s vibes and its entrepreneurs proved magnetic. "There is a lively cultural and culinary scene here and the contrast between elegant Hanseatic neighbourhoods and trendy districts, such as Kiez or Schanze, offers a great basis for creative thinking. Add Lake Alster and the Elbe River for relaxing to the mix and it's the perfect start-up environment." Riebschläger is now hoping to work even closer and more creatively with his clients. "The idea is to rent an entire villa near the Alster or the Elbe. One floor will be set aside for brainstorming with creative corners and a café. The studio will be set up on another floor and another storey will be reserved for editing and post-production."



Jannis Production - image film shoot
© Jannis Production
Image film shoot