FILMSPARKS – 50 Years DFFB: Hinderk Emrich

The complex question posed to me is exciting because cinema is all about working on and in a contradictory medium with many challenges. The liveliness of the “cinematic experience” – strangely fictional, technical and also very real and sensual, even “musical” all at the same time – has a “way of touching people” that leads to psychological changes that extend right into the personal and professional life and change it. The filmmaker Jörg Graser once spoke of cinema as a substitute for religion and Gilles Deleuze of its “Catholicism.”

What does “influencing the person” mean in this sense? Encounters here are not only encounters with individuals, but with a collective and in some respects even “archetypal” character. “Big films” radiate something like a “super” individual being, created by a large group of people, who driven by a certain theme, shape the effectiveness of an emotional and intellectual fluidity, which is not only intellectually, not merely factual for itself and others, but also resembles a simultaneously individual and inter-personal character.

In this sense, “encounters” and psychological changes are never one-dimensional. Rather, people always express themselves in resonance with phenomena, in forms of experience that overlap and at the same time contradict each other. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, for example, as a deeply lonely person, has a constant kaleidoscopic exchange with his staff and actors and (in the spirit of Michael Theunissen and his book “Der Andere”) “transformed” himself respectively. To put it in Hegel’s words: we are what we are, always simultaneously the other of ourselves. This – in the realm of cinema – is triggered by the “natural” character of the film experience, which is always fictional and yet at the same time technically produced.

In my case, a very early impression came about through the fact that both my parents performed in theatre plays as teachers, whereby I was allowed to act in plays written by my mother – on the stage and as a drummer in front of the stage – which had a strong formative effect on me early on. At the age of thirteen, I bought myself a 8-mm film camera and my first great film experience was Kalatozov’s WENN DIE KRANICHE ZIEHEN (The Cranes Are Flying), which effected me so deeply that it became clear to me – great film can truly be a work of art.

In my opinion, people are not so much shaped by facts as by the fluidity that carries these facts. This fluidity represents an intellectual-spiritual space, an interpersonal, reality-creating energy in us – ultimately a metaphysical reality – that constantly shapes, transforms, and influences us anew in our life. In this context, we often speak of transdisciplinary sciences. But what does that mean? Today, transdisciplinarity is usually nothing more than pure addition, not a real penetration into a new field of knowledge in the sense of a deeper discovery, even an enlightenment. Conversely, however, it can be the case that knowledge in one field, e.g. psychiatry, psychoanalysis, or brain research applied to a completely different field, such as art or philosophy, can produce a completely new perspective in the overall context of “life”. In my profession as psychiatrist and psychotherapist, through experiences in philosophy and art, I have been able to fundamentally pursue my profession in a new way and not only to endure the certain gravity of the job of a psychiatrist, but also to exercise it with a new interest, new enthusiasm and new creative power, because the university at which I was working allowed me the freedom to do so (Medizinische Hochschule Hannover).

In my philosophy studies, I was influenced by professors such as Arno Baruzzi, Dieter Henrich, Robert Spaemann (Munich) and Michael Theunissen (Berlin). Each of these philosophical personalities exuded a tremendous resonance in my life, for my intellectual, spiritual formation, which had a fundamental effect on my profession as a psychiatrist and psychotherapist, because it was precisely through philosophical reflection that new therapeutic and analytical perspectives arose.

Interdisciplinary, scholarly artistic and philosophical work can indeed lead to enormous breakthroughs in knowledge and changed perspectives in professional work and personality development. In my schizophrenia research, for example, I took as my starting point a philosophical idea from the transcendental philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who in his “Wissenschaftslehre” lays out the conception of the “spontaneity of I” and thus develops the self-constitution of the subject and its constructiveness. This has now been of enormous importance for schizophrenia theory with regard to the dilemma of internal censorship mechanisms in the brain. In neurobiological brain research, my research group was able to prove the defective connectivity in the brain of schizophrenic people by using functional MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) measurements.

The possibility of such investigations has yielded further findings in the various fields of psychiatry, e.g. also in the field of synaesthesia research. These results, however, could only emerge on the basis of the synopsis of psychological, philosophical and ultimately artistic intuition for psychiatric anthropology. All this, however, was ultimately triggered by a dream, about 35 years ago, a feverish dream in which F. Dostoyevsky appeared to me and informed me: “You’ve read my novel The Double incorrectly. It is not about the division of the ego in schizophrenia, but rather about revealing the previous disintegration – or “multiplicity” – which is revealed in psychosis. This dream experience led me down the “right path”, i.e. “All true life is an encounter,” as proposed by Martin Buber. Through these encounters we are constantly re-formed, reconstituted, newly developed; through kaleidoscopic contradictions, we are enabled not only to see horizons, but even to grow beyond them.

In a very similar way, this was the case in artistic fields such as the film industry, where my first great experience was working on shooting the film “Abrahams Gold” (1990) with Jörg Graser and starring Hanna Schygulla, which began after a very serious on-set accident with the original actor Sibylle Canonica. At the time, I was shocked that the creation of something fictional (the film) could endanger someone’s life. Other crucial encounters were with professors at film schools: Siegfried Zielinski, Peter Lilienthal, Jeanine Meerapfel, Reinhard Hauff. I can still remember when I showed the American film GIRL INTERRUPTED at the DFFB, in which the moving fate of the borderline patients is showed. After my talk, the students asked me, “Where are the boys with borderline symptoms?” And then one of the students answered spontaneously, “The boys are in prison.” This is one of the many experiences, in many different film schools, where I had the impression again and again that I got more from the students – more or less gifts – and more than I was able to give myself.

The lectures at the HfG in Karlsruhe, which I was allowed to give together with Edgar Reitz, were a particular ray of light in this context. Our topic at the time was the dilemma of working out a philosophy of space in the cinema, a project that inspired us so much during our joint lectures that we decided to publish a dialogical book on the subject.

The main idea of this text is that “space in film” does not only represent geometric dimensions, but rather value worlds, relationships of proximity and distance, dominance and weakness. Particularly exciting in this context is Edgar Reitz’s concept that in cinema there is a space that can’t exist – and this is where the camera stands.

FILMSPARKS – 50 years DFFB: Bela Tarr

It is almost impossible to explain why and when somebody becomes a filmmaker. Usually it happens randomly, and depends on the person. It is as unpredictable as an accident, unstoppable and unlearnable. “Moments of learning” never stop. Sometimes you come to understand something because you were confronted with your own stupidity. And sometimes you need a little help from outside. In 1975, I shot an amateur film on an 8-mm camera. My social activities put me in contact with a homeless family that had one child, and we became friends. They were squatting in the top floor of an empty building in a run-down area outside of town. The order to vacate the premises came only a few days later. In my outrage at the situation (which I still feel today), I decided to at least document our shared sense of powerlessness.

And so, on a beautiful summer’s morning, we waited for the authorities to come. Two officials showed up along with furniture movers, six police officers and a growling dog. The child was afraid of the dog and hid behind his mother. The parents looked pale as they held on to one another, and I held up my Soviet-era camera in defiance. The next thing I saw as I looked through the viewfinder was a big hand that covered the lens.  They tore the camera out of my hands and took me away to the nearest police station. As they dragged me away, I saw how the police yelled at my friends and pushed them aside in order to get into the flat and start the eviction.

I remember the police station very well: plastic-covered walls, steel chairs, the Hungarian People’s Republic seal behind glass and a sheet of press board used as a table. On the table was my camera, a present from my father on my fourteenth birthday. They had taken the film out, but at least the camera was still there… But between me and the camera was an impassable barrier: a huge policeman – huge to me, at least – who was there to keep watch of me. The weather that day was was a little too hot for the policeman. He scratched his stubbly chin and scowled down at small, skinny me. Every now and then he impatiently ran his hand through his oily, frizzy hair. Drops of sweat were soaked up by his collar and trickled downwards behind his tie. All of the sudden he grunted, went over to the window and opened it. The result was terrible: through the bars there came a rush of brutally hot air – and thousands of flies. He sat back down next to the camera and started hitting the table with his fist as if he were trying to get the flies. His neck muscles stood out, his pupils grew larger and he seemed to be shaking with rage. If looks could kill, I would not be here today. Next he turned on the radio to hear the news. Eventually he had enough and turned it off. I think he didn’t have the nerve to hear the weather forecast. He leaned back in his chair and wiped the sweat from his neck in utter misery. That was when I began to understand: I was sitting in front of two hundred and forty pounds of misery. It was this thought that made the threat seem smaller and smaller. I pictured his wife and children. His garden with a cheap corrugated iron fence and a pig sty with a pig they could slaughter for a party in February.

His colleagues finally returned seeming very pleased with the work they had done: a successful eviction. They weren’t interested in me and my camera. My guard left immediately. One of them looked over at me, shoved my camera into my hands and threw me out of the Mosoly street police station with a brief: “Get out of here!”

I can still see the family sitting together on their furniture in the barracks’ courtyard: the child clinging to his teddy bear in tears and the parents glowering at me as if I had abandoned them, because I didn’t help them at the critical moment. And that was because of the silly idea to film it all…
In the end, they were probably right to feel that way.

Hagazussa hits cinemas on May 17th 2018

The DFFB feature film HAGAZUSSA (R/B: Lukas Feigelfeld, K: Mariel Baqueiro, P: Simon Lubinski, Lukas Feigelfeld) hits select German-language theatres starting May 17th 2017. The official theatrical distributor for the film is Forgotten Film Entertainment. Indeed Films is responsible for VOD distribution.

Hagazussa is a dark tale of a woman’s struggle with her own sanity. In a time when pagan beliefs of witches spread fear into the minds of the rural folk, the film aims to explore the thin line between ancient beliefs, magic and delusional psychosis.

Following its successful World Premiere at Fantastic Fest in Austin, where it won the Next Wave Award for Best Film, HAGAZUSSA has gone on to screen at renowned film festivals such as CPH:PIX, the BFI London Film Festival and the Max Ophüls Prize Film Festival

Now online: Christian Petzold and Barbara Auer moderated by Ben Gibson during the Berlinale Talents

German auteur film director Christian Petzold (Yella; Barbara) shared the invisible inspirations for his new feature film Transit, which had premiere in this year’s Competition of the Berlinale. Based on Anna Segher’s famous novel of the same name, Petzold had originally developed the script together with later deceased filmmaker and friend Harun Farocki: “Transit was our favourite book, we read it once a year. It’s actually our story: this being-thrown-into-the-world.“ In this talk, Petzold and actor Barbara Auer revisit the production process. They explain how they uncovered, rethought and refreshed the core and characters of the historical narration in intensive dialogues and rehearsals with the cast and crew, whom Petzold calls his “partisan group.“

This is an archived event. Watch it again:

https://www.berlinale-talents.de/bt/program/telelecture/2838

FILMSPARKS – 50 Years DFFB: Albert Serra – Obituary for Lluis Carbó

Today I would like to talk about Lluis Carbó. I believe that every one of you would find it easy to rate his acting skills, not just in QUIXOTIC but in all the other films he later made with me.

I have actually known him for a long time, for most of my life, sometimes rather superficially, sometimes a bit more profoundly. I finally really got to know him while working together on an amateur film in 2000, CRESPIÁ. That was the first time that I asked him, more or less at random, if he would like to play a role in it. I only wanted to work with amateur actors. While editing, I noticed that he is uniquely “photogenic”, in the sense in which the word is used in France, i.e. there are people who you cannot stop looking at on film because everything they do is good, they possess an unbounded photogenic talent in the physical as well as the spiritual sense. He surprised me, unlike other actors whose appeal was always somehow limited. He really stood out because of something I would call “primitive photogenics”.

Since this first film, but actually from a lot earlier on – I have known him since I was young – he has enriched me intellectually in a natural way, mostly through what we could call Surrealism and Rock ‘n’ Roll, in this particularly strong manifestation of the “ludic”, the playful…that was what made up his character, his tendencies, the originality of his incalculable being and particularly the mental independence of his life that was rich with eccentric and even scurrilous moments (although he led a relatively normal life).

I quickly noted that his way of doing things fit perfectly with my method of working, without preparation and filming with three digital cameras. We always did very long scenes just like in a performance, in which every moment is unique for itself. Without this digital possibility of making humorous, playful films that exist outside of the realm of reality, I would never have become a filmmaker and in light of the fact that life gets more boring, repeating itself and growing monotonous with the passing years, I have always assumed that filmmaking should help me not only to change my life, but also to indirectly influence the lives of those  around me. This was the case with Lluis Carbó because anything was possible and at the magic moment of filmmaking, everything had power, our playfulness made sense out of everything that we were doing made, and we took every sort of risk out of “creative” ambition, whereby ambition without this playful aspect remains dry and sterile: formal or academic ambition. As part of this playfulness, ambition develops an interesting patina, it is jollier, far from boring. Lluis always enriched the films he was in by mixing courageous, wild, provocative and primal acting, all arising from this playful element. And it’s what lends the unique note to the films I shot with him.

This all grew more and more complex from film to film, leading to my – and probably also his – masterpiece that I made for the Biennale in Venice, Singularity (2015). His unpredictable and original way of doing things allowed Lluis to unconsciously motivate people. That was really valuable, a drive that fulfilled every scene and kept them from going flat. Minimalist films are always in danger of going too flat, but he turned the process into something unique, actually all my films, but particularly Singularity, where he took things to a radical and original level, which I found to be true genius from my point of view.

It was also interesting that he, although not an educated person, always understood the gravity of the final product. He knew that was what it was all about, not just being recognised at festivals, even though that is what gives a lot of people self-assurance, because they can sense that their work is being appreciated. Independently of that, he understood the aesthetic value of the final product, something that brings together the traces of his personality that always seem a lot more subdued in the editing monitor than on the screen, and he also understood that this final product is always better than his performance in reality. That is something that only a few can master, specially those without any sort of training, who do not grasp the formal logic that every film is based on. He recognised the value of that, intuitively. And after he grasped that while making his first film, from then on all his concentration and dedication followed this approach.

A film is more than just the time spent shooting it, it’s also the countless hours of post-production that we spent together in Banyoles, he was there nearly every day. And then on countless totally crazy trips, such as the one to Mar del Plata in Argentina, where we flew with six or seven people. That was the most off-the-wall experience of my life. And even there, he always had the aesthetic final result in the back of his mind. He knew that I was fond of making a joke at film presentations: ”I have experienced countless crazy, confusing moments, so funny and original that most people can only dream of them…on the other hand, I have, unfortunately never experienced such divine actors as there are to be seen here on the screen.”

He had a certain way of collecting all the different influences: the best of him, the best of me, the best of everything that was involved in the film, and he contributed to freeing them from their egotism and their tendency towards self portrayal, crystallising the magic and fascination that exudes from people who know that they are in exactly the right place at the right time while still not forgetting who they are, where their power lies – in their exhibitionism and naturalness.

He retained his naiveté to very end and I would really like the public to make the comparison with my last film SINGULARITY as well, even though it would be difficult as this thirteen-hour installation is only to be seen in museums. But this film is rich in storytelling, full of dialogues that confirm what I have always maintained. One can sense the way his precision develops, his last ounce of concentration and dedication, even though he was exhausted from his chemotherapy. The shootings seemed to reanimate him. I still have touching memories of the last shoot in Ireland. He could no longer walk properly, we had been filming for twelve days in the cold and rain, were drinking a lot and getting away with excesses that no doctor would have allowed. It was like a miracle. He came back totally changed, could walk again, could almost run again. His subversive way of participating was to recover his physical self-control, which gave him the moral strength and energy that he never found in real life, one that can only be found through art and through which he overcame almost all his physical handicaps.

His presence in filmmaking is a marvellous example of how one can combine popular aspects with refinement and excellence in art, a much more interesting combination than any purely formal art, of that I am convinced. Without this combination, art is – whether better or worse, I dare not say – much more boring.

In autumn 2018, the DFFB will launch its new programme of study, Editing/Sound.

This coming September, the DFFB will offer six students the opportunity to study editing and sound on a full-time basis. This programme, titled Editing/Sound, joins the existing four DFFB programmes: Directing, Producing, Cinematography, and Screenwriting.

The Application Tasks Editing/Sound 2018/2019 are the first steps for applying.  Our application platform opens 22nd May 2018. Applications must be submitted by 7 June 2018. The entrance examination will take place in Berlin during the week of 9 July–13 July 2018.

The first year of studies is the same for all DFFB students: the curriculum is generalist. During this time, the theoretical and practical foundations are laid for future collaborations between the different disciplines. Throughout the course of studies, the boundaries between these disciplines remain open – students become well-rounded filmmakers. They develop a holistic understanding of cinema and gain specialised knowledge relevant to their individual disciplines. Understanding all stages of filmmaking is an essential part of the DFFB’s teaching philosophy. Through working together on film projects, students test filmmaking theories to see what works best for them.

Editing/sound students will benefit from this structure. From the onset of their studies and during the course of each project in which they participate, they are considered equal partners to their directing, producing, cinematography, and screenwriting peers. Editing/sound students contribute to story development, understand the cinematic elements of dramaturgy, and are able to assess the quality of an actor’s performance. Furthermore, they have knowledge in the fields of music, sound design, art history, and, above all, film editing.

Through film editing and sound design seminars, editing/sound students acquire filmmaking tools and methods for their own practice. Working on collaborative film projects is at the core of the DFFB’s teaching philosophy. For editing/sound students, the cutting room is the ultimate classroom – it is where conversations with peers and teaching staff take place. Through the process of editing, the cinematic possibilities of image and sound are experienced and examined. In the spirit of Pudowkin: “The development of montage – this is the path that will secure the future of cinema.”

 

Acclaim for LET THE SUMMER NEVER COME AGAIN and VIOLENTLY HAPPY

This week prizes were won by the DFFB films VIOLENTLY HAPPY (R/B/K: Paola Calvo, P: Andreas Hörl, Florian Schneider, Maren Lüthje) and LET THE SUMMER NEVER COME AGAIN (R/B/K: Alexandre Koberidze, P: Alexandre Koberidze, Nutsa Tsikaridze, Keti Kipiani). Paola Calvo, director of VIOLENTLY HAPPY, received the prize for Best Up-and-Coming Director of Photography at the 10th International Women’s Film Festival in Dortmund/Cologne. LET THE SUMMER NEVER COME AGAIN was awarded the prize for Best Feature Film at the 9th IBAFF Festival Internacional de Cine de Murcia. We warmly congratulate the award winners.

More information on IBAFF 2018 here.

More information on the prize for Best Up-and-Coming Director of Photography here.

Filmsparks – 50 Years DFFB: Jessica Hausner – Speech at DFFB

Dear graduates, I would like to start by saying that I never completed my studies. In fact, the time I spent studying wasn’t even very happy. But despite all that, I became a filmmaker and, today, I would like to explain how that came to be.

It started when I applied to the director programme at Filmakademie Wien (Film Academy Vienna), but I was encouraged to join the editor programme due to my appearance and due to my sex, which made them think editing was a better fit for me. And so I joined the editor and director programmes, and was bad in both. I think a lot has changed since then, even in Vienna. But back then, I found myself in an environment that was full of non-artistic teachers and technicians, who were generally convinced that a young woman could not handle the job. I should add, however, that I was fresh out of school at St. Ursula and 19 years old when I joined the Filmakademie. My face turned red whenever I had to say something out loud, and even I had the feeling that I didn’t belong there. In addition, my professor of film directing told me that it would be better to get married than to end up like all the unsuccessful film directing students who never became proper directors. I should also mention, that back in the mid 1990s, there wasn’t much happening in the film sector in Vienna. Most went to television. So why should I of all people be able make it? The odds were really stacked against me.

Back then, my main problem was that I couldn’t accept the tasks that were given to us as students. No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t see any sense in filming a chase scene and a workplace scenario. Whenever there is a chase scene in a film, I always think of something else because they seldom interest me and I never know who is chasing who. I have a bad sense of direction. Whenever I go to the restroom at a restaurant, I usually can’t find my way back. I’ll end up in the kitchen or leave the restaurant through the emergency exit.

The films we analysed were American genre films, all filmed by men. I couldn’t relate. I loved films that were mysterious and surreal. Maya Deren, for example, or Buñuel. And I was interested in style and aesthetics. In cinematic language. But I was apparently looking for a language that was not spoken or taught at the film academy. We were supposed to learn the so-called rules first – before we were allowed to break them. It’s an idea that I still find ridiculous, because who is it that defines the rules? Syd Field? Why him? Because we grew up with these films? Who says that cinematic language can’t be totally different? Maya Deren, of course, was only dealt with marginally in an optional class. But those were the only films through which I was able to understand how editing works.

Anyway, nobody paid much attention to my chase scene, and after my practice films, it was recommend that I drop out of the academy. I had already failed the editing programme, because I didn’t edit my projects the way I was supposed to.

My highest or lowest point was in the seminar for voice recording. We were asked to dub a bad love scene in the style of a television show from the 1980s. I was totally out of my element. I didn’t know what to say to the voice actors. I wasn’t able to take it seriously, and so I couldn’t think of one single direction to give them. The voice-dubbing director who led the seminar gave everyone some feedback at the end to let them know what they did well and what they did poorly. In the end, he said that only one student failed completely – and he pointed to me. I can admit that this was a low point for me. I didn’t graduate in film direction and had to repeat a semester. Just think about it: I wanted to be famous and make great films, but I wasn’t even good enough to complete my studies in film! And so I repeated a semester, shot a film twice, and during this whole, unbelievably depressing scenario, something became slowly clear: I had to get out of there. Then my professor of film directing died, which set me free for a time and I took a leave of absence. I was scared that nothing would become of me. That the others could make films, but I couldn’t. I flew from Vienna to Berlin, worked as a trainee in a film, and worked on a screenplay in the evenings. When I got back to Vienna, I showed my new professor the script and he said that the most important thing was that I liked it, and that I had to know the story that I wanted to tell, but I had to know it exactly and to make it happen exactly as I wanted, without letting anybody influence me.

That struck me to the core. No one had ever said something like that to me before. It was always about fulfilling a certain task, or to suit someone’s particular taste. And suddenly somebody was telling me that I should do exactly what I intended to do. That and only that. The script’s title was Flora and it became a 20-minute film, and I was happy while I was shooting it. I could feel that I was able to realise my vision. My previous weaknesses (realisation, spatial orientation) suddenly became my strengths, because I chose a scenic realisation that worked without any spatial orientation. And that’s how I continued to do it as a filmmaker. I use my inability as an asset: since I don’t have good spatial orientation, my scenic realisation must work emotionally. The people and their feelings are focus points within a space, the internal dramaturgy is my orientation system and film editing is a wonderful means to connect places and times that could have never been connected, because they belong together emotionally. Like in Maya Deren’s films.

There is also my inability to create excitement through speed. Today, I create excitement through a threat that I let develop within the head of the viewer by means of a strange idea that takes time to develop its full effect.

After my experience with the voice actors, I worked for a while with amateurs, in order to discover for myself what I wanted to say to actors,  what was real for me, what felt real and what style of acting I would choose. And suddenly it was clear to me that it was a good thing that I couldn’t do what others could do. It forced me to find my own way of making films. I had to discover everything for myself.

I learned stylistically from the amateurs and now I work with professional actors, but I still act as if they were amateurs. I don’t give up on casting until I have found the person who embodies the role, who fits perfectly, who naturally acts exactly as needed for the role. I treat actors like amateurs. And when an actor asks for the backstory, I delay the discussion until the clapperboard strikes and we’re shooting.

So what I’m trying to tell you is that I wasn’t able to do what was expected of me, but that led me to do something differently and the audience liked it. And I would also say that if I had done things according to expectation, it would’ve been bad. That was confirmed already at the beginning of my studies.

Today, this all sounds like a good story, like the ugly ducking that finally finds his swan family. But back when I was in this hopeless situation, I had no way of knowing that everything would work out in the end – there is no way of knowing what the future may bring. But looking back, I can say that it was necessary for me to fail at following all these supposed rules. It was necessary to fail at film directing in order to understand that I couldn’t do it the way anyone wanted me to. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I couldn’t!

I would like to add another chapter to my story. So I was able to shoot my short film Flora. I was happy, but I had already been singled out as a loser at the film academy. The film had to first gain recognition elsewhere – Flora won some prizes at international film festivals – and then people started treating me with more respect. I later shot a film for my graduation, and it was also successful at festivals. This helped me get financing for my first feature film: Lovely Rita. And so I seemed to be on my way. I had survived the film academy and become a filmmaker.

Then I shot a film called Hotel: the idea was to shoot a genre film that went against the genre. It is a mystery thriller that never resolves the mystery, and a horror film without a monster. When the film was finished, public opinion was split. Some were aggressive and annoyed. Users left comments on the film’s website like; “it’s like jaws without the shark,” or “I want my money back.” Global sales were disappointing and I had to deal with a lot of criticism.

And I was disappointed, because it seemed as if the film hadn’t been understood. But the only reason to make the film was that there was no monster! I was – and still am – convinced that the idea was good, but maybe my realisation of the idea wasn’t good enough. But now, 15 years later, I’m going to try to make another film that breaks the rules of its genre. The viewers’ expectations will not be fulfilled, so that the film takes an unexpected turn.

What’s interesting is that most people who read the script will make recommendations that would make the film conform to the expectations of its genre. And they make these recommendations thinking that they are their own good ideas. Of course, it makes things easier when something has already been stamped as “good” by the general public. Most people don’t realise that they just want to see something that they’ve already seen before, and that’s the way things should be! But I want to take the risk of not fulfilling viewer expectations: to do something where you are not sure whether it will work or the audience will like it. Only later can you look back and say if it was worth the risk. But in the current moment, you can never know for sure if something will work.

My experience at the film academy showed me that if I follow my own plan, the individual pieces will come together in the future and form something that I cannot yet see. Something that seems wrong can turn out to be correct, true or good in the future. These are all very relative terms that are defined by the times.

I can only pursue things that interest me personally. It is the only way to create something that will also interest others, or that others will find good and exciting.

While I was studying, I couldn’t follow the so-called rules of good filmmaking. And I feel that it is my duty, now, to tell you that you won’t be able to do it either. You shouldn’t be able to do it. Because no matter what happens, you will only do a good job if you are doing what you truly love and if you are fully convinced of what you are doing. Trying to be like someone else is a recipe for failure. Because you’re only doing something that someone has already done! You will only find success by doing something very personal that you want to do and love very much. That is why I want to ask you to do something: keep looking. Don’t repeat something just because it worked well in the past. Rediscover filmmaking on your own terms and reinvent the wheel. You – and all of us – will be amazed at what you can achieve, and you will look back and say that it was obvious that things would work out the way they did. But now, at this moment in your life, I hope that you will have the courage, and not accept what other people are saying. Every day, you should consider the possibility that everyone else is wrong.

Jessica Hausner made this speech on 10 June 2017 at the DFFB diploma ceremony at Weddinger City Kino. Thanks to: Ben Gibson.

Filmsparks – 50 Years DFFB: Wolfgang Tumler – A little misunderstanding

One summer, maybe in 1974 or 1975, I was in California for one of my first television reporting jobs. It was about a self-help group for drug addicts. At the same time, the Film Board had set up a scholarship program, under which a decent amount of money was made available to visit and observe famous directors or producers abroad at work. To qualify for the scholarship, all you needed was a credible invitation from such a person. Because I didn’t just want to be a reporter all my life, but also wanted to try my hand at the dramatic arts, I was interested, and someone gave me some contacts in Hollywood – to CBS, George Lucas and Robert Altman. So, during my trip to the drug addicts’ clinic, my aim was also get an invitation to be a so-called “guest observer”. At CBS, it was quite impressive but rather anonymous. I didn’t like it. I left out George Lucas immediately, because he had just left the romantic streets of AMERICAN GRAFFITI for STAR WARS. That was too technical for me – but I did go to Robert Altman’s.

Back then he had a little production building in Westwood which was beautiful by European standards with smells from the kitchen, narrow stairs and various production noises behind every door. This relieved me of any fears I might have had, and so with good intentions I approached the then very fat Robert Altman who was squeezed in behind a large desk. His “What can I do for you?” was the only meagre, but quite friendly opening for my little talk about my wishes, dreams, self-assessment, enthusiasm for Altman, and so on. The man looked me up and down, grumbled half coherently, half impatiently, and while talking I was trying to think of what else I could say to convince him to allow me to be a future guest observer. He didn’t reveal anything of himself. At some point, I could think of nothing else, and that was it. Now it was up to him to decide. But somehow it didn’t seem like enough or convincing enough. I searched my mind for my ace card, and there it was. There was one thing I had completely forgotten: “By the way, it won’t cost you a cent,” I suddenly said and was proud that I didn’t say “penny”. “It’s all paid for by a German fund, and if that’s not enough, I’ll bring my own money too.” I looked up to see Altman’s reaction. Should I stand up already for a handshake? Altman looked me right in the eye, as his eyes got smaller and smaller.

“Are you saying, I can’t afford you? Are you telling me, I can’t pay you?” In slow motion – like the moment before a head-on collision with another car – thoughts, better said reflexes, raced through my mind. Was I at the wrong party? Was this clever, creative man with the European-style production building the same man I just sat down in front of? Did I do something wrong, something terrible? When? Where? Altman’s worlds cut through this buzzing in my head: “Out!” And his powerful finger pointed me to the door.