Less than four months after the death of Helkon Media's Werner Koenig, the German film industry has been dealt another blow with news of the untimely death of Studio Babelsberg CEO and Head of Production Rainer Schaper at the age of 50 from a heart attack last weekend.

Schaper, who had studied Architecture, History of Art and Set Design in Hamburg, Berlin and Paris, had worked since 1978 as a production designer and art director on a total 42 feature films, including Uli Edel's Christiane F. - Wir Kinder vom Bahnhof Zoo, Ruy Guerra's La Candida Erendira - for which he received the Mexican Film Prize in 1984 - and Jean-Jacques Annaud's 1985 film The Name of the Rose which won him a German Film Prize in 1986.

In 1994, Schaper had taken over the running of the Art Department at the Babelsberg Studios and was appointed one of the CEOs of Studio Babelsberg GmbH 1997. A year ago, he had also been made Head of Production and had become a pivotal figure in the studio's efforts to attract international projects to the production centre outside Berlin.

His longstanding friendship with director Jean-Jacques Annaud had been a key factor for the studio and the Berlin-Brandenburg region being able to attract the French director's latest feature Enemy At The Gates which was shot at the studios and on location in Brandenburg a year ago and was premiered at the Berlin Film Festival as opening film last month. Most recently, Schaper had served as executive producer on Istvan Szabo's Taking Sides, starring Harvey Keitel, Stellan Skarsgard and Moritz Bleibtreu, and Roman Polanski's The Pianist which has been shooting at the studios since February 19. During the Berlin Film Festival Schaper had announced that Studio Babelsberg would be expanding its inhouse production division with a raft of appointments in order to attract more big-budget international productions to the legendary production facility (Screen Daily, Feb 14).

At the time, he had declared that he was "very pleased to now have a first class team behind me that can both do justice to international standards as well as have a heart for the European and German cinema", and announced that the studio would "be bringing further large productions to Babelsberg and will be a competent partner for creative producers from home and abroad".