Open house mit Bühne und Gesprächskreis

Flashes of inspiration over the capital

Berlinale 2019: The route from idea to masterpiece

How do you get from a vague idea to the finished product? In the Berlinale Open House, part of the 69th Berlinale, experts from the Audi Think Tank discuss the creative process behind idea-generation with film director Erik Schmitt. Audi blog author Hannes Schumann was there to be inspired.

Moderator Rainer-Maria Jilg speaking to Erik Schmitt, Matthias Brendel, and Malte Schönfeld (from right to left).

I would have liked to begin with: “Erik Schmitt was sitting in a Berlin park one day when suddenly an idea came to him. Two years later, the film was in the box.” Most of the time, though, finding an idea isn’t so easy, let alone an idea with a concrete outcome.

The panel ” Zukunftsvisionen – Von der Idee zum Produkt,” which translates into “Visions of the Future—from an idea to a product,” of the Berlinale Open House demonstrated how experts from the film and automobile industries approach this challenge. The creative minds behind the answers: director and screenwriter Erik Schmitt, Matthias Brendel, Head of the Audi Think Tank, and Malte Schönfeld, Venture Developer from the Audi Think Tank.

The search for the big idea

Before a product or film can be realized, it needs an idea—a good idea. But how do you find one? Is there a strategy for this? And what if one has no idea at all? I remember times in university when I would sit for hours staring at a blank Word document—tidying up and washing the dishes suddenly sounded very exciting. I certainly didn’t have a structured approach.

Erik Schmitt uses various methods to generate ideas. The first one is as banal as it is comfortable: He brainstorms while lying on the sofa and listening to music. “This way I let the images of the ideas come by themselves,” he says. Exchanges with others, for instance the actors during filming, are also sources of inspiration.

Mann im Publikum

The audience follows the explanations of screenwriter Erik Schmitt and the Audi Think Tank.

For his film “Cleo,” the opening film in the Generation section, many ideas were generated directly on set. The protagonist of the film, Cleo, is on a quest to find a magic clock, which is supposed to reverse a misfortune from her childhood. It took four-and-a-half years until this idea was in the can. Schmitt says that the “joy of doing and sharing with others” is a good method of sustaining motivation for such a long time.

Eight ideas in eight minutes

The group also uses teamwork to find ideas. According to Brendel, the best ideas emerge during an exchange between people. Beyond that, the think tank also occasionally uses the so-called Crazy-8-Method, in which each individual writes down eight ideas in eight minutes on a piece of paper. “The ideas are then discussed in the team, so we quickly reach the right ‘cruising altitude’,” says Brendel.

All the ideas collected have to stand up to three questions: Is there a problem that the idea could solve? Is the idea feasible? Does this idea have a long-term, positive business case? If all questions can be answered with “yes,” then the idea has the potential to be successful. Among other things, the Audi Think Tank developed a mobile charging station in just six months using this approach.

The first sketches of the Audi e-tron in 2013 already

The successful route from idea to finished product is impressively demonstrated by Malte Schönfeld’s first sketches of the Audi e-tron. In 2013, while still working in design at Audi, he and his team drew the visual idea of an all-electric Audi on a sheet of paper. On the time-honored overhead projector, the audience is viewing the first e-tron sketches, while outside the Berlinale Open House the new, finished product turns into Alte Potsdamer Straße. “It is a huge challenge to advance ideas from the brainstorming stage right up to the product launch,” says Schönfeld. “We also had to consider different markets and target groups.”

skizze e-tron
Malte Schönfeld from the Audi Denkwerkstatt introduces the sketches of the Audi e-tron, created in 2013.

What if an idea fails?

Despite “Crazy-8,” successful person-to-person exchanges, and couch brainstorming, ideas can also fail or lead to problems. Film director Schmitt says that even after the script is completed, one is “very much confronted with concrete problem solving” during the actual filming. Then it is often about which actor is sick on the day of shooting or which location is suddenly no longer suitable. But for Brendel, failure can also be something very valuable: “It’s important to communicate openly when an idea fails. Then one can learn from it and derive logical conclusions for the next ideas.”


e-tron und mobile Ladesäule

The mobile charging station - an idea out of the Audi Think Tank.

Finally, there is one more question to answer: what role does the place, in our case Berlin, play in the implementation of an idea? For Brendel and Schönfeld, Berlin is the perfect city for observing a variety of mobility options. This provides “concrete feedback if one wants to test alternative variations,” says Brendel. And for Schmitt and Cleo? How could it be otherwise: “Berlin plays our lead role.”

Die Audi Denkwerkstatt

The Audi Think Tank has been around since 2016. The eight permanent employees are supported on site by up to fifteen colleagues from different business areas. These temporary staff members stay for half a year. To support arrival, networking, and the establishment of the ecosystem, the participants live in shared flats during the project. The aim of the think tank is to work out new urban business models. "We think about more than just concepts: on the contrary, we implement ideas tangibly," says Matthias Brendel, Head of the Audi Think Tank. Within half a year, the staff of the think tank advances from idea to concrete implementation. Afterward, the temporary employees return to their regular positions in the Audi Group.

Audi at the 69. Berlinale
Audi MediaCenter

Berlinale 2019

Audi will drive the stars to the red carpet at the 69th Berlin International Film Festival in the Audi e-tron (electricity consumption combined in kWh/100 km: 26.2-22.6* (WLTP), 24.6-23.7 (NEDC); CO2 emissions combined in g/km: 0*). In its sixth season as principal sponsor, Audi and the Berlinale will together welcome visitors to the Audi Berlinale Lounge, to dive into the festival experience directly next to the red carpet. From February 7 to 16, the Berlinale Open House Program will present varied event formats and exciting discussions with visionaries from the fields of film, culture and business on socially relevant tr...

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Consumption and emission figures of vehicles on this page:

Electric power consumption Audi e-tron: Combined electric power consumption in kWh/100 km (62.1 mi)*: 26.2 –22.6 (WLTP); 24.6 – 23.7 (NEFZ); combined CO2 emissions in g/km (g/mi): 0. Figures depending on the chosen equipment level. //