Since 2021, Dutch-born Matthijs Wouter Knol is the CEO and Director of the European Film Academy. He is responsible for the executive management, the vision and all related programming of current and future activities of the Academy, including brand new audience development, film education projects, and the annual European Film Awards.
Before reading and graduating with an MA in Contemporary History at Leiden University (the Netherlands) and the Royal Netherlands Institute in Rome (Italy), he worked as a magazine editor and journalist. From 2001 onwards, he worked in Amsterdam as creative and associate producer on 30 award-winning documentary films, with renowned directors such as Heddy Honigmann, Maria Ramos, and Mani Kaul. For ARTE, he co-produced a digital edition of 40 re-mastered works of Dutch documentarian Johan van der Keuken, which was awarded the Prix Cahiers du Cinéma (2006). After a short stint at IDFA (2007-2008), he formed for 12 years part of the senior Berlinale team, first as Head of Programming of Berlinale Talents (2008-2014), then as Director of the European Film Market (2014-2020).
Apart from launching several new training and industry platforms over the course of his career, Matthijs is an advocate for more Diversity and Inclusion. He initiated D&I schemes at both EFM and the European Film Academy, and is one of the founders of the Anti-Racist Taskforce for European Film (ARTEF). He teaches and coaches at various film schools and is a regular moderator and speaker at international film industry events. Matthijs has been part of the main jury at the festivals of Buenos Aires, Jerusalem and Istanbul. He speaks Dutch, English and German fluently, can converse in French and Italian and is improving his Spanish and Portuguese language skills.
Viviane Gajewski is a foreign-language administrative assistant by profession, specialized in French and English, and joined the team of the European Film Academy in 2001. She’s running the Academy offices and co-ordinates the director’s appointment schedule. Additionally, she is the main contact for all inquiries by European Film Academy members. During the months prior to the European Film Awards, she is actively involved in the preparations and members attending the ceremony will be greeted by Viviane at the welcome desk.
After a busy day, Viviane likes going for a walk, playing the violin – and watching films! Viviane speaks German, French and English fluently.
While studying Film and Media Studies and Aesthetics at the University of Lüneburg, Bettina Schwarz worked at the university’s cinema department, for the repertory film theatre Metropolis and for film production companies in Hamburg. After completing her studies with an MA, she moved to Berlin. Bettina worked for the Berlinale before joining the European Film Academy in 2002.
Being in charge of the Short Film category of the European Film Awards, as well as training projects like EFA Master Classes at the beginning she took over as Head of Awarding Procedures at the European Film Academy in 2016.
Bettina is the mother of two teen-aged sons, and lives with her family in Berlin. She speaks German and English fluently.
Sandra Leege originally stems from Hamburg and studied in Frankfurt/Oder, Karlskrona, Mainz and Salamanca, graduating with a MA degree in 2007. She started working for the European Film Academy in 2009, predominantly for the press department, after having worked as a German language assistant at the University of Stockholm as well as a producer and/or press co-ordinator for various renowned international theatre, music and contemporary dance festivals. Since 2016, she is co-ordinating the awarding procedures for the Animation, Documentary and Short Film categories of the European Film Awards. She is Head of Knowledge Sharing at the European Film Academy, which include Sunday in the Country editions, and the supervision of master class and seminar programming within the framework of the Academy.
Sandra is a gifted with a talent for drawing, is the mother of two children. She is fluent in German, English and Swedish, but you’ll find her speaking Spanish and French quite well, too.
Julia joined the European Film Academy in September 2022 and is responsible for coordinating the awarding procedures in the Animation and Documentary categories. She also is an integral part of the Protocol Team for the European Film Awards.
With a background in Sociology and Political Sciences, Julia has focused her work on film, art, media, and social contexts in various roles. She has gained experience in the art department and production of film projects, creative agencies, exhibitions, and social organizations across Germany, Italy, Greece, and Turkey.
Having grown up with a South African mother and a German father, Julia is fluent in both English and German. She also possesses conversational skills in Spanish and Italian, and has a basic knowledge of Turkish.
Jana Ptackova is from Prague where she completed her studies at Czech-Italian Private Linguistic High School, Anglo-American Colleague and Faculty of Philosophy & Arts at Charles University.
Jana has been part of the European Film Award team since 2012. From 2022 she heads not only the Guest Coordination team but also the Protocol department.
She also works for Karlovy Vary IFF as a Guest Services Coordinator since 1996. In the past, she was a Production Manager at Doc Alliance Films, a platform for the online distribution of documentary and experimental films. From 2000 to 2005 she worked as Production Manager of one the founding members of Doc Alliance – Jihlava IDFF. In 2005 and 2006 she worked as Guest Relations Manager at Dubai IFF, in 2008 she was an international consultant at Middle East IFF in Abu Dhabi and in 2010 at Doha Tribeca IFF in Qatar.
Born and Raised in Hong Kong.
After her graduation in German and French from the University of Hong Kong, she worked in an independent film organisation in Hong Kong. She then moved to Berlin for her MA in cultural studies at the University of Humboldt.
Before working at the European Film Academy in 2022, she curated film programmes related to Hong Kong in Berlin and pruduced films and theatres.
Born and raised in Lugo, Spain, she graduated in Journalism from the Complutense University of Madrid and started her professional career at Hola! and Agencia EFE.
In 2020 she decided to change and moved to Magdeburg, Germany, where she worked as camera assistant and editor until she joined the communication team of the Academy as Community Building and Press Co-ordinator.
Ana speaks Spanish, Galician, English, and is studying German.
Haizea has a degree in Audiovisual Communication and a Master’s degree in Cultural Management. She has worked in film festivals, marketing and communication agencies, and at the international film promotion agency Catalan Films. She also works at the Catalan Film Academy. She speaks Spanish, Catalan, English, Basque and French.
Pascal Edelmann was born in Wolfsburg (Germany) and grew up in different international meditation and yoga communities in Switzerland, Austria, France and Germany. After graduating from school he went on a tour through the USA, Denmark, Germany, former Czechoslovakia and the Netherlands with an international education programme, before moving to Berlin.
In the following years he did his civil service in a workshop for people with a disability, worked in special effects for theatre, and as a PR representative and tour co-ordinator. During his studies of English and Communications, Pascal worked as a tour guide, translator and production manager for theatre, and eventually settled as a free-lance journalist and translator.
He did the press work for the first Berlinale Talent Campus in 2003. With a passion for Europe, Pascal came on board the European Film Academy in the same year where he was responsible for all communications around the Academy until 2022 when he moved on to European Film Heritage. He also is instrumental in the European Film Academy’s A Sunday in the Country programme for film journalists and critics.
Magda joined the European Film Academy as Head of Digital in 2022. Her main goal is to establish and expand the Academy’s online presence with a more agile approach.
Magda has completed a degree in Marketing and Communications and later on completed a degree in Project Management. She has been working with clients from the US and Europe for over 5 years now and her specialization is in project and product management.
She works closely with the engineering and management team with the aim to develop a product roadmap and deliver technical solutions. Data-driven decision-making is one of the main tools in her day-to-day job.
Magda speaks English, Polish and Greek fluently and is also learning French. In her free time, she goes on long walks with her adopted dog, Pedro.
Rainer Pyls has been with European Film Academy since 2006, from 2008 acting as Head of Finances and Administration. Since 2021, he has also joined as managing director of European Film Academy’s subsidiary, European Film Academy Productions, where he had already been working as Business Manager since 2008. In these two capacities, Rainer is the only colleague who works for both the Academy and its production company at the same time. When it comes to administration, budgeting, public funding and contract management, Rainer plays a significant role in the financial health of the European Film Academy.
Previously, Rainer worked for several years as Accountant Manager at Road Movies, the former production company of Wim Wenders.
He has three grown-up children and loves trips and tours by motorcycle as well as by bicycle.
Yvonne Apt has started working for the European Film Academy in 2014 and is in charge of Accounting and Membership Administration. She is the main contact for all inquiries regarding invoices and membership fees. During the months prior to the European Film Awards, she is actively involved in the preparations and members attending the ceremony will be greeted by Yvonne at the welcome desk.
Before working with us, Yvonne was part of the management of various film production companies in Austria, Germany, South Africa and Spain. Today, she lives in Brandenburg and grows her own vegetables and flowers in her garden, which she brings to the office to surprise her colleagues.
Daniela is a convinced European and has already worked with many renowned organizations and cultural institutions in the fields of development and partnerships, especially with the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, the Staatsoper Stuttgart and the Musikhochschule Leipzig.
Previously, Daniela worked primarily in cultural management in France, including at the Théatre des Amandiers, the Nantes University and the Comédie de Reims.
Fatih Abay was born and raised in Berlin to Turkish parents and after graduating from school he finished his studies in BA European Studies at University Maastricht and his MA in Political Science at the Central European University. He then returned to Berlin and started his PhD in Cultural Anthropology at European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder) with a focus on migration, diversity, racism, gender, critical theory and post-colonial studies. Fatih taught on these topics various courses at several universities in and around Berlin, Germany. Since 2021, Fatih is also working as a researcher and advocacy officer for a civil society organisation based in Berlin, fighting against racism and Islamophobia.
Fatih joined the European Film Academy in 2022 as Diversity and Inclusion Officer and he is happy to combine his private passion for European film with his professional passion for diversity and inclusion. He lives in Berlin and speaks German, Turkish, French, and English fluently and knows his way in Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Hungarian, Farsi and Arabic.
Victor is an architect specialised in building sustainability, adopting a conscious architecture and design thinking approach in his work. His goal is to promote better collaboration between humans and nature and to empower people and societies to be more active in shaping their living environment.
He has worked in a wider range of societal and organizational contexts, for instance setting up a business model and a sustainability plan for a start-up in Berlin and managing architectural, sustainability and research projects in Nigeria, Tanzania, Pakistan, Brazil, and Grenada.
Victor has a deep knowledge of the management of sustainable innovations and integration of renewable energies. He understands the potential that the film industry has to set standards and the example for the behavioural change we currently need for our society.
Born in Salvador, Brazil, Victor lives in Berlin and speaks Portuguese and English fluently, and is improving his Spanish and German language skills.
Jürgen Biesinger is the managing director of European Film Academy Productions since 2006, the Academy in-house production company responsible for the European Film Awards. Apart from producing the annual awards ceremony, he is closely involved and the brain behind the development of concepts and the ongoing buildout of projects within the European Film Academy, such as the Young Audience Award, the European Film Club and the Month of European Film.
Before joining the Academy, Jürgen gained extensive experience in the theatre world and worked as executive producer for a Berlin based independent film production company. Jürgen has three children and is an avid runner who always has his running shoes with him wherever he travels.
Viktoria Arenz is project manager at European Film Academy Productions since March 2023. In the past years, she studied Film, North American studies and History at the Freie Universität Berlin. After earning her vocational degree in Audiovisual Media Sales in 2018, she joined the European Film Academy as a production assistant for the European Film Awards. In 2021 she studied a Film & TV Studies semester at UCLA in Los Angeles, USA. Apart from the European Film Awards, Viktoria has plenty of experience within the work of the Academy: she managed the production of the Young Audience Award Summit in Spring 2021, which inspired and informed the early beginnings of the European Film Club.
Having ”grown up” within the European Film Academy professionally, Viktoria feels strongly connected to the European ideals and dreams that our work is defined by. Her native language is German, but she’s fluent in English and knows the basics of the French language. In her free time, she is passionate about intersectional feminism, live music and travelling.
Heidi Frankl is project manager at European Film Academy Productions since she started working at the Academy in 2012. She has been one of the driving forces behind the successful Young Audience Award and the development of the new European Film Club, which will be launched by the European Film Academy in the near future. Also, she is instrumental in the production of the European Film Awards and a central part of the team behind this – keeping an overview of everything ranging from finding the right presenters to a smooth operation of all logistics. Heidi is behind the finishing touch.
Before working with us, Heidi worked closely for years with Wim Wenders at his renowned Neue Road Movies film production company and prior to this on several German film productions. She is the mother of two children and commands, besides the German, also the English and Polish languages perfectly.
Before joining the European Film Academy team in 2017, Karolina Randerath organised limousine shuttles for public events and convoys for state visits. Starting as an assistant at the European Film Academy Productions, she is currently our Team and Event Co-ordinator and as such involved in planning and producing everything that happens within the Academy, from events such as several of the Sunday in the Country programmes to many projects within the annual Month of European Film and the European Film Awards.
Among all of us, Karolina is most familiar with digital solutions for our daily work. She is passionate about Yoga and a healthy lifestyle. Apart from German, she is fluent in English and Polish.
Nuno Pimentel is from Portugal where he graduated in Film from art school before heading to Antwerp to work at the development department of a production company. In the UK he studied Screenwriting at the Royal Holloway, University of London. In 2016 he joined the Portuguese distribution company Alambique, to co-ordinate Cinema BOLD, an in-house release label, focused on alternative distribution strategies for unconventional films. In 2019 he was part of the Locarno Industry Academy, and was invited again in 2021, this time as part of the U30 programme dedicated to a new generation of film professionals.
He currently lives in Berlin where he moved in 2020 to enroll at the DFFB’s NEXT WAVE programme, focused on the cinephilia of the future and the development of international film markets. At the programme, under the mentorship of MUBI’s VP of production Bobby Allen, he developed FÉLICETTE FILMS, an alternative pan-European distribution label with the aim of releasing a carefully curated selection of films that “fall through the cracks” – artistically rich, courageous and genre-defying works which deserve a spotlight.
In 2021 he successfully pitched the project at the Berlinale and the Cannes Film Festival.
Past and present projects also include collaborations with Wolf Kino in Berlin, and Rapid Eye Movies in Cologne. He also dabbles in scribbling and experimental filmmaking.
You can talk with him in Portuguese, English, Spanish and very basic French. Soon (he hopes) you’ll also be able to reach him in German.
Mark Higham is a cultural educator and film literacy expert who has led a range of film, education and culture organisations.
Mark has been working with the Academy for two years developing the European Film Club as well as producing the European Young Audience Summit. A key initiative for the Academy, the European Film Club, is being co-created with young people and film education partners in 35 countries.
Mark was founding Chief Executive of FILMCLUB (now called Into Film) where he oversaw the growth of the programme from 25 to 7,000 schools across the UK and a weekly audience of 250,000 young people. Mark established the National Youth Film Festival with over 1,400 screenings across the UK.
He has worked with media literacy organisations and national film centres to run film club pilots in Spain, Cyprus, Latvia, Georgia, Romania and Lithuania, and developed research into cultural and educational impacts of film education initiatives with Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. He carried out a feasibility study for the Creative Europe MEDIA Unit into a European film collection for schools that is now the European Film Factory project.
Mark has produced over 50 broadcast events on BBC1, BBC2, BBC4, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5, Sky, MTV, BBC Radio 1, Radio 1Xtra, Radio 2, Radio 3, Kiss FM and Virgin Radio to audiences of more than 45 million people. Mark was joint Managing Director of Creative Partnerships which he helped grow to become a EUR 45m a year cultural education programme in the 36 most deprived areas of England.
Mark has also set up two new live music venues: co-founding The Waterfront in Norwich and Ocean in Hackney and helped to develop a third venue; The Africa Centre in south London. Mark is a co-Director of the Africa Town project aiming to develop a district of London to support African and diaspora arts, retail, restaurants and business.
Dorina Oarga has been working in the film industry for over 13 years, with extensive experience in project management, both in Romania and internationally. Bucharest-based, but a traveller at heart, she’s a longtime collaborator for the Transilvania International Film Festival (Cluj-Napoca, Romania), where she ran the industry department for several years. In 2019, together with the festival, they’ve launched TIFF Unlimited, a year-round VoD platform, dedicated to bring art-house films to the local audiences.
Attracted by the streaming industry, Dorina was also responsible for the launch of CINEPUB (in 2015), an online video streaming service launched in partnership with Google, featured on Youtube and dedicated to Romanian films. It came only natural for her to join the European Film Club team in 2022 and partake in the development of an ambitious initiative.
Her love for travel and desire to always improve as a professional, brought her alongside several great projects, all with their challenges and rewards: the European Film Awards and SOFA – School of Film Advancement (both located in Berlin, Germany), Eventival (Czech Republic), Aristoteles Workshop (Romania), Doha Tribeca Film Festival (Qatar), Vilnius IFF “Kino Pavasaris” (Lithuania) and Arras Film Festival (France), among others.
Beata Marciniak was born in the Polish-German twin city Zgorzelec/Görlitz. She has been working with the European Film Academy team since 2013 in the context of the Young Audience Award as a co-ordinator from Poland. Starting as a film educator in the New Horizons Cinema in Wroclaw, she managed to bring on board five further cities and was the main Polish contact for all six of them until 2021. Beata graduated with an MA from the Jagiellonian University in Krakow and at the same time she began an adventure as a film programmer of the traveller’s festival and a co-operation with the New Horizons Association.
For the last few years Beata worked with DOP Sławomir Idziak at the Film Spring Open Workshop and a Green Film panel for filmmakers to share awareness of sustainable film production. She also found a lot of fun working as a social media manager at Stereotyp Studio, a professional sound post-production studio.
Beata lives in Warsaw, but she’s a nomad by heart. She is an ambassador of healthy living and sustainability, passionate about film, photography and long walks. She speaks Polish and English fluently and is improving her Spanish and German language skills.