How to find love at a fair and about it to the virtual Pückler.
Or how Walter Schönenbröcher collects more than a dozen companies, throws everything overboard for the great love and finally wins prizes on four continents in the Pücklerstadt as a pioneer of virtual worlds with Lusatian faces.
Should filmmaker Walter Schönenbröcher ever run out of material, his own life would certainly be worth a screenplay. It tells the story of entrepreneurial advancement in the gigantic Internet boom, including the dream of big money, of love that changes everything, and finally of the departure into virtual worlds. Walter was born near Cologne in 1964, grew up there, and graduated from high school. His penchant for computer science brought him to Aachen to study mathematics and economics, his Apple Ile with a phenomenal 64 kB RAM in tow. For the Cologne boy, Aachen was too dusty, so he moved to Berlin with his girlfriend and friends and continued his studies there. It was shortly after the mid-1980s when the Internet was just emerging from its infancy.
At the time, he was a real exotic with a passion for IT and computer skills, but quickly found out how profitable it could be. In 1988, he founded his first limited liability company with a friend, followed by several companies, one of the first Internet agencies in Germany, and a wild time with bulging accounts and financial crashes. He sacrificed his diploma to this turmoil shortly before the finish line and was quickly caught in the hamster wheel of entrepreneurship. Amounts were shifted back and forth, companies were founded, bought, and sold again. At times, more than 60 people worked in teams on the digital dream. Reinvestments were made, and big players like Suzuki Europe, Sixt, and Techem graced the customer list. When the online bubble burst for the first time in the 2000s, two-thirds of the employees lost their jobs almost overnight, but the company network survived by the skin of its teeth and rebuilt itself with software products and online marketing. It grew again and the carousel of companies turned incessantly. As an Internet entrepreneur with a family, a house with a pool on the outskirts of Berlin, and the best prospects for the future, life seemed to be in the fast lane. Walter Schönenbröcher was a real doer.
Then came 2008 and a first full stop. In the rush of entrepreneurship, real-life got lost, the relationship came to an end after 24 years of marriage, the question of meaning knocked on the door. It was precisely at this moment that Walter Schönenbröcher learned about his future, which was to catch up with him completely four years later. It was a trade fair in Berlin, where he was an exhibitor and the Cottbus singer Kathrin Clara Jantke was a guest on stage. She presented her new album – the title „Sometime now begins“ seems to have been chosen by fate. AC/DC fan Walter couldn’t get anything out of the pop song, but a conversation after her performance stayed in his memory. They became Facebook friends and after more than three years it was a nice post from her to which he replied – and two meetings further had become sometime now.
Walter put on the brakes for the second time, hung up his Internet business for good, and moved to Cottbus to be with his love. The time of self-realization dawned. He had already started taking photographs two years earlier – now he wanted to finally pursue his passion for light and pixels. He shared his works with the world and gained 35,000 followers. Ottfried Fischer, Alice Brauner, and other celebrities made him a star photographer. Exhibitions followed in London, New York, and Barcelona. At the same time, he built up a considerable portfolio at Italian Vogue, which published some of his images.
In 2017, virtual reality burst onto the scene as a new hype that allowed him to combine his penchant for technology with art and imagery. First VR films corresponded with a previously made, award-winning photo series on traditional crafts. Another film series was dedicated to Cottbus artists. Today, it is probably a stroke of luck that their finale coincided with the start of the pandemic. So suddenly there was a lot of time, which he used to submit films to some 40 international festivals. Prizes followed every week, from Los Angeles, New York, Tagore – trophies were sent to the Pücklerstadt from four continents.
Today, Walter Schönenbröcher dreams of his virtual Lusatia, or better yet, of a virtual Europe. For Lusatia, he sees the illustrious Pückler as a suitable companion for his virtual worlds. He has read his letters and traced the prince in the park. In his opinion, no one else stands so much for fantasy and change. One would actually like to write the same into the book of the Cologne boy‘, who today glows far more for the crazy Pückler city than many a local.