On an Espresso with… Michael Wolff, Managing Director of the film production company fact+film in Bremen

Let’s rather say, this conversation had a cappuccino length. Michael Wolff is not only active in film production but also – as an alumnus of the University of Bremen – deputy chairman of the board at Alumni der Universität Bremen e.V. We were, therefore, very interested in his memories of the university, his time as a student, campus life, and the time after.

It all started with his time at the University of Bremen – what did he study, and why did he choose Bremen?

I started studying Social Sciences at the University of Bremen in 1975 and finished my degree in 1981 with a German ‘Diplom’. Before studying, I traveled a lot and looked at many different universities. I chose the reform university that Bremen was then because you could really feel the spirit of awakening there. The university had begun operating just a few years before, and a different, critical form of education and a different society were desirable then. That was very important to me because I grew up in the suffocating, reactionary postwar Germany.

Who or what has influenced his path the most?

His amused answer: I don’t really want to name specific professors. I think that it was generally the open discourse and the struggle to explain societal phenomena. I consider this openness a great freedom. It required everyone to take responsibility for their actions – differently from memorizing class materials. We were called upon much more on a personal level.

What advice would he like to give to students at the University of Bremen?

Well, I would say, don’t let yourself be sucked into the prescribed schedule too much but stay curious in many areas. We need people who continue to question even those things that we find self-evident, who think critically and take new paths. So, find your own way!

When thinking back, what memory is closely linked to the University of Bremen?

Please complete the following sentence:

“The University of Bremen is…”

…a place where you have the opportunity to deal with the entire world.

Michael Wolff’s connection to the university also shows in his activities and his personal commitment in his work with the alumni association.

Yet, we also wanted to know what he would have become had he not taken this particular career path.

I thought about what I wanted to do for a very long time, until I became a radio journalist with a focus on historical and political topics. Later, I became a director and producer for international scientific documentaries. I don’t know what else I could have become but I would have definitely chosen a career in which I could have used my curiosity for societal and scientific relations. I never regretted my decision. I live for what I want to do with passion.

What are his role models?

There are many people I admire for their performances in many different fields – but I’ve always tried to go my own way because I believe that copying doesn’t really help us. Our world is much too complicated for that, the conditions too varied, and the people too individual.

Whereto would he travel for a private trip in a time machine?

In a time in which the versatility of cultures, people, and even houses and buildings becomes increasingly similar due to globalization, I would use the opportunity to travel to different societies and civilizations of the past all over the world (smiles) – but would take the knowledge and then come back.

Which dream does he still want to realize/live to see?

There are important thinkers who voiced their justifiable criticism of society and their objectives as a dream: Luther King (a world without racial discrimination); Gandhi (a world without war); Marx (a world without exploitation). All of these dreams are yet to become reality. I don’t think that dreaming is the right way to go. I believe one has to start with the criticism of reality and change it, instead of thinking up a vision. We know that visions are dismissed as unrealistic. Nobody can deny the existing shortcomings. I therefore stand in for a positive and, at the same time, active realism. Live more in the moment, in the here and now.

And that is exactly where the committed film producer makes a difference. Many of our alumni surely still remember the exciting documentaries and discussions that we were able to experience at the Schauburg cinema. If you want to find out more about Michael Wolff’s work, you can go to http://www.fact-film.de/en/

Thank you very much for the conversation, Michael Wolff.