by Shelly Schoeneshoefer
Almost every day at 18:00, the Hamburg Film Festival held interviews sponsored by the Bundesverbandes der Film- und Fernsehschauspieler (BFFS) The talks included directors like Katrin Gebbe who won the award for Tore Tanzt and JulianRoman Pölsler from Bella Block Angeklagt to director Bettina Oberli over her wonderful film Lovely Lousie. (see separate film review). I had the opportunity to see two of the directors tell their sides of the story.
Andrea Gerardinterviewed Christian Alvart, director of Banklady
Christain Alvart’s film Antikörper was his big breakthrough which took him to Hollywood. He has since returned to Germany and has now directed over 30 Tatort series for television and loves it. He always wanted to be a director since he was 12 years old. He said that he was afraid on the eve of his first shooting that he may have actually chosen the wrong profession. This irrational fear vanished and has never returned.
Gerard: Do directors also, like actors, not always have continuous work, especially in these economic hard times?
Alvart: Of course it happens, but I have been very lucky to have work constantly. The first film just didn’t take off, so I wrote Antikörper which I thought was a small, dirty, little film and never imagined that it would have the worldwide success that it has had. I did not have much of a budget for that film but, by the time I reached Hollywood, I was offered a budget large enough to fund his next film.
Since I was twelve I wanted to make films but actually didn’t know what that meant to be a director. I wrote not only scripts but also just for myself. I was an amateur film maker with no professional schooling and belonged to a Frankfurt group of amateur filmmakers who supported each other. I started thirty films and actually finished six, the last of which had a professional debut and that took us further than anticipated; I learned a great deal during this time. One of the advantages of going to film school, which I did not have, is that you know people in the grades above and below you. Therefore you have a chance to use those people on your projects, whereas I had to start from scratch. That, of course, made me an outsider. The positive side of not belonging to a film school is that the projects belong to you and are directed by you.
Gerard: Why did you come back from America?
Alvart: I went there first because the Germans complain too much and I am a man of action and liked the idea of “Yes we can.” Many were small, independent studios that even won awards and were fantastic but, due to the economic crisis, almost all of these studios closed and all the Americans started to complain. I thought, “Well, I can have that in Germany and also work.” Here I have more control over my work than in Hollywood.
I was interested in the story of Banklady about how a shy lady from the 1960s became a sex-symbol bank robber of the republic. The development of her story in real life was perfect for a film. I also like working in television because its rhythm suits me better; after four months you can see it on TV which is quite different than working on a film. A film takes lots of time before completion. It was not a money-making decision but one for fun.
Gerard: How do you choose your actors or actresses?
Alvart: I know immediately if someone is perfect for the role or not. I look at many different qualities to see what fits. What is different about my style as director is that I am up close to the actor which is unusual. That was very intimidating for people on the set but then they got use to it and really liked it. Normally the director is sitting in his chair with the camera team but I like to work more intimately. What I like most about America is that everyone supports one another. Everyone has seen each other’s films and I wish that would happen more often here.
Stephan Schade interviewed director Buket Alakus, director of Einmal Hans mit Schafer Soße
Buket Alakus grew up in Hamburg and comes out of a working class family. She studied under Hark Bohm and now lives in Berlin.
Alakus: It was fate that I became a director, since I could not think of any other occupation to do and certainly don’t have the skills to do something else. I work as a freelance director, so that sometimes I wait a long time for a project but that is also okay. I see myself as a cross-country runner in the pool of directors and when something comes along that feels right to me, I dig in my heels.
My parents, both handworkers, had no understanding for art. I left home early and went straight to Berlin where I studied film, an unknown subject which gave me the freedom to find out what I wanted in this creative environment.
It was completely by accident that I ended up in Hark Bohn’s film academy, where I realized that I wanted to be a director. I was learning editing and doing all sorts of work and it was amusing because I had no idea what it meant to be a director, but I am now completely committed to the profession. I clearly had a rocky road ahead, since I was thrown out by the academy and had to make my own way.
Festivals are important to me not only because of the public who watch my films but because they take me to places in Germany where I have never been. I can see how other communities view my work differently in each place I go.
The combination of a novel and an actress, with whom I had always wanted to work, inspired me to make this film. Each film is different. It could be music or a place but it needed to be something to cause me to fall in love with the idea of making a film. I met the author at a party and found her a bit crazy but when I finally read the book, I realized I should take her seriously and that was the beginning of the project. This is made for TV but it was to be made in film quality. In spite of a low budget I had to do fantastic work with what I had, although they didn’t have enough money even for masks for the actors. I had to improvise on all the set designs.
The most important quality from an actor/actress is trust and that he/she will go to their limits. I am there for the people and I want it to be intuitive. I have created a series out of this project and love each of my actors. When something doesn’t work, then we have to talk about it. For example, the oldest daughter is quite a sexy actress and was not really happy about wearing a scarf on her head all the time. So we had to write in a bedroom scene so she could show her hair. I am very excited how this new project is going and hope that everyone will see it.