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 and Protocol 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. She started working for the European Film Academy in 2009, predominantly for the press department. 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, and currently resides between Berlin and Switzerland. She is fluent in German and English, but you’ll find her speaking Swedish quite well too.
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. He is responsible for all communications around the Academy. He also is instrumental in the European Film Academy’s A Sunday in the Country programme for film journalists and critics.
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.
A technology-savvy marketer with entrepreneurial spirit, Yves Wilken is a self-employed project manager working freelance for the European Film Academy. He helps companies to become more successful through innovation, technology, and marketing. As an independent project lead he plans and executes digital projects for startups and corporate clients to successfully innovate their business models. He specializes in data-driven marketing, analytics and e-commerce to drive maximum business impact.
Combining marketing and technology expertise with successful leadership and a proven track record of client acquisition and retention, Yves’s long-standing experience in customer relationship and project management as well as his hands-on skills in various digital marketing disciplines will play a key role in the projects the European Film Academy is currently working on.
Barbara Hexges has worked as a PR and Marketing Manager for several brands and companies before joining the European Film Academy in 2019. As Head of Sponsoring and Partnerships, she is responsible for the acquisition and management of all sponsors of the European Film Awards, as well as the development of new partnership opportunities for the European Film Academy.
Apart from this, Barbara has worked as a freelancer for various companies in the music and film industry as well as for some NGOs. She has a keen eye for marketing and communication and is often accompanied to the office by her dog Tilda.
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.
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.