Category: Uncategorized

Christopher Rowe

Christopher Rowe/DoP

Born and brought up in England, Christopher relocated to Berlin in 1983 and has lived there ever since. After training as a camera assistant and cutting his teeth as a cameraman on news and current affairs while the Berlin Wall came down, he went on to shoot and produce documentaries and music videos in the heyday of the Berlin techno scene. Learn more about how his passion for image film-making  evolved and what piece of work he considers his most important.

When did your passion for film start? What triggered your passion for film?

As a viewer – being fascinated by the surreal and powerful imagery of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, Wrath of God. I was a teenager when I discovered it by chance on British TV. It was the first time I realised that films are more than just traditional, Hollywood-style storytelling, that a film can also be poetic and move one emotionally.
As a practitioner – around the same time an uncle passed his Super 8 camera on to me. The opportunity to create little stories by joining moving images together really grabbed me. Looking back, it was the perfect combination of my two main interests – theatre and photography.

When did you realize that you wanted to be a DoP?

My interest had shifted from theatre to film-making while I studied Drama at Exeter University. The main reason was that a film-maker can control the audience’s point of view in a way the theatre director cannot. I moved to West Berlin in the 1980s intending to make films as a writer/director, but soon realised how specialised the various positions on a film set are. Because my main interest in film-making was the visual aspect, it quickly became clear that I should concentrate on cinematography.

Can you describe your first project? How did it go, and what would you do differently now?

An old friend from uni asked me to shoot a documentary on his family story – his father was from a Jewish family and had escaped from Germany to London just before the war. We had studied drama together, so we knew a bit about story-telling, and I had started a camera assistants training course, so I could handle the gear (just about). But we had no idea how to make a film and started shooting interviews and whatever else came to mind with borrowed equipment in a very improvised way. I also edited the film, and as an editor had to work around all the mistakes I had made as a cameraman. Would I do it differently today? In almost every respect! Would I want to? No! I learnt so much from that experience and all the mistakes we made, it was a great grounding for everything that followed. Even today I recommend aspiring cinematographers to edit their own work or at least sit through the edit for their first few films, it teaches you so much!

Which of your cases is your favorite? And why?

Die Kinder von Blankenese is a docudrama for German TV about a home for Jewish orphans in the post-war years, including flashbacks to the children’s traumatic experiences during WW2. The authentic script drawn from interviews with eyewitnesses, the moving performances by the child actors, a director with an amazing sense for the emotional heart of each scene and production design and costume departments that worked wonders on a limited budget formed a perfect combination of elements. All of that enabled me to create images that transported the audience into the horrifying world these children had experienced, and into their minds as they gradually came to terms with these experiences and their new situation. Watching the film today the shots are still as raw and emotional as when I first saw them through my viewfinder.

What is your biggest dream regarding your profession?

The Maha Kumbh Mela is an incredible Hindu festival that only takes place every 12 years. After shooting a documentary there and experiencing the vibrant, colourful, busy, quintessentially Indian atmosphere I wrote a treatment for a feature film that could be shot in semi-documentary style during the festival, but never found a partner with whom I could develop the idea. I would love to realise this project because it combines all the elements I most love about my profession: a strong, entertaining story, a fascinating, exotic setting, and a raw, spontaneous shooting style.

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Borbala Szelei

Borbala Szelei/Director

Originally from Hungary, Borbala Szelei made her first experiences with processing images during a photo camp taking place close to Balaton. Mainly propelled by curiosity in her work, Borbala has directed inside and outside Europe since. Learn more about what she considers the beauty of her profession and whom she enjoyed working with most.

When did your passion for film start? What triggered your passion for film?

I went to a photo camp in the countryside near Balaton where we used old analogue cameras and processed the photos on our own in an old house. That was the first milestone when my passion for films and photos started to awake and never went back to sleep. My first job was an internship in a feature film when I was 22 and the producer told me on the first day that I was around his 100th trainee of him over 30 years of which only 3 took root in the film industry. He was sure I’d quit after 2 weeks so he gave me his phone number to let him know if I want to give it up. But I fell in love and he realised that he needs to take me seriously.

When did you realize that you wanted to be a director?

 I had the urge to express myself and directing naturally became the medium I focused on. I didn’t have premade ideas about myself or who I wanted to be. Curiosity propelled me, I let this feeling grow and it led me wherever it wanted to go. When I got my first little opportunity it started to grow to a bigger one – and step by step, I got more and more tasks as a writer/director. It went fast from this point. When I started to direct, a new part of myself was born and I just felt: this is me. I really enjoy directing. In the following years, I had the chance to travel and directed a lot inside and outside of Europe.

Can you describe your first project? How did it go, and what would you do differently now?

My first project was a video shoot for BMW. I got the opportunity to develop the concept and direct the video. I will never forget the feeling when we finished the final cut of the video with the editor. My hands were sweaty, and I was so happy and excited. We got really good feedback, and the entire process was exciting and new for me. I wouldn’t do anything different, because it’s the nature of the profession that we are developing and changing every day. Everything has its own beauty.

Which of your cases is your favourite? And why?

My favourite case was a short film of Roger Ballen which was shot in South-Africa. He is one of the most interesting characters I ever met. His philosophy had a big impact on my world. If you want to create something great with another artist, you need to have a deep understanding and respect between each other. This is one of the most crucial parts. We clicked and enjoyed working together.

What is your biggest dream regarding your profession?

It is essential for me to represent a good message in my work. It doesn’t matter if it’s a commercial, music video or feature film. I want to draw attention to important things, even if it’s only possible in a subtle or hidden way.

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Q&A Remote Shooting

Q&A Remote Shooting

Due to the circumstances during the Corona crisis, we had to deal with shootings taking place remotely for the first time. As it is often the case in the film industry, there’s a technical and a human perspective on the issue. Based on our experience over the last couple of months, we have compiled a detailed Q&A providing helpful advice and information about remote shooting.

What are the main advantages shooting remotely?

The key advantage in these special times is obvious: Remote shooting helps to protection against a corona infection. Also, it’s a sustainable way of shooting since environmental pollution can be reduced. Not to mention time and money as a factor which both make the remote set-up an efficient way of shooting.

What are the main challenges of filming from remote?

The key challenge is to make sure you have a continuously stable video transmission and communication with the client or agency.

First of all, a reliable Internet connection is a must here. If there’s no good connection available or you’re shooting outside, work with a mobile router with SIM card. If you have a bigger budget, a multi-secured connection backed by three different telecommunications providers and 3 different SIM cards, is a safer option. In addition, it is always worth checking the locations and signal strength beforehand.

When communicating with the customer, you should clearly define who is communicating and when. Therefore, we always work with a remote operator, who is exclusively responsible for the communication with the client.

Last but not least: Shoots with voice recording require special attention. In general, we recommend to define clear slots for communication and providing feedback to the customer. As soon as the camera is running, it’s quiet here too 😉

How does remote shooting work in technical implementation?

We stream the image of the main camera and another camera with a studio wide shot via zoom. In the meantime we realize the video stream via YouTube stream as the video quality is better there. Via the YouTube chat, you can communicate or alternatively open a parallel zoom, Skype or team session.

What’s the biggest difference between shooting remotely and on-set?

On location, there are interpersonal nuances that are not transmitted online. It is much more charming to be together on the set, to cultivate friendships and to discuss the next steps over a cup of coffee. The fun of the work should not be too much subject to efficiency.

How do you ideally prepare for a remote shooting? What needs to be taken into account?

It is good to agree in advance with the customer on how many people will participate virtually and who will give feedback. Certainly it makes sense if several participants from the customer’s side agree in an internal chat before they communicate with the remote operator on the set. Of course, location inspections can also take place online. A remote operator then guides the DOP, Director and Producer and communicates with the client. When it comes to post production, it is already common practice to work with complex systems like frame.io or screenlight.tv.

What is one typical good day of shooting like?

While models or actors are in the mask, details of the stage can be discussed. Also, light and first movement sequences with assistants can be tested. The make-up and styling can then be checked in front of the main camera and adjusted again if necessary. It is also possible to have an additional camera installed in the mask to switch if necessary.

In general, we have been breaking new ground here and are constantly gaining new experiences. Hence, we keep on optimizing our processes and are in close contact with colleagues all over the world.

For how long do you think you will still have to shoot from remote?

For sure, purely corona-related remote shootings will be available for another year. Regardless of this, there will be a strong trend in the future for reasons of efficiency and the environment. Savings in travel costs for flights, hotel etc., time savings and environmental aspects by avoiding flights etc.

What are the top tips you can give to someone wanting to shoot a film remotely?

  1. Make sure roles are clearly distributed and ideally prepare a small handout for communication.
  2. Check the technical conditions for the Internet transmission beforehand.
  3. Those who shoot remote for the first time should try a test run with colleagues, for example from home office to home office.
  4. For more complex challenges, there are service providers who are also familiar with mobile transmissions.
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COVID-19: CHECKLIST FOR SHOOTINGS

COVID-19: CHECKLIST FOR SHOOTINGS

Not every country and region is affected by a complete lockdown due to Corona, small-scaled studio shoots are still possible in some cases. Just before the official contact ban, we did our last shoot under strict hygiene measures ourselves. Based on our own experiences and further professional sources, we have compiled a checklist to ensure you can shoot under certain conditions – despite Covid-19 currently turning our lives upside down. 

1) Key rule and relevant to every party involved such as clients and agencies:  Reduce the team to a minimum!

Ban all persons from the set, who usually tend to just stand around. Set up a remote so people from the office or home office can connect and see what’s happening on set.

2) Wash your hands, wash your hands and… wash your hands! ?

  • Make sure that a sink with warm water is accessible without having to open doors!
  • Wash your hands for 2 minutes with warm water and soap!
  • Provide hand disinfectant!
  • Always provide disposable paper towels!

3) Be clear and direct: Don’t hesitate to regularly sensitize everyone on the set to wash hands in between and not touch your face. Especially people in contact with technical equipment must wear gloves. ?

4) Keep distance – we recommend 2 meters to be safe. If this is not possible, always work with a protective mask and replace it with a fresh one every 2 hours. ?

5) Corona Catering rules ?: 

  • Person in charge must wear gloves when preparing the catering 
  • Disposable cutlery is not necessary if it has been rinsed sufficiently hot 
  • Each spoon, fork and knife must be laid out individually and at a distance (no containers!)
  • Less ecological, but necessary in this situation: individually packed snacks
  • Bananas layed out one by one, at a distance
  • Absolute NO GO: the Haribo bow!

6) Stay fresh: Ventilate the studio regularly to reduce germs in the air! ?

7) Relax, but don’t cuddle: Make sure there is enough seating, respecting the 2m distance order. The sofa is a taboo these days and should be ideally removed from the studio! ?️

8) Coughing or sneezing forbidden – and if unavoidable, use your elbow! And remember to always turn away from other people or take a few steps aside, if possible. ?

9) Speak up: Have the courage to ask colleagues to respect the measures if they do not follow. We are all human and might forget about it once in a while. Usually everyone is aware of the situation we are in – and will be thankful for a friendly reminder. ?

10) Ideally, each participant should take a corona test before shooting. If you already have respective symptoms, stay home! ?

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Andrey Serbin

ANDREY SERBIN/DIRECTOR

Director: Andrey Serbin

Born and raised in Ukraine, Andrey Serbin’s path led to being an editor and DOP as soon as he moved to Kyiv, the country’s capital. Soon, when exploring the working field of a director, he realised that there might be further development stages to wait for him and shape his career. Find out which project marked the start of his professional success and why his future goals go beyond his own projects.

 When did you discover your passion for film? And what was the trigger?

When I was a teenager, I started parcouring and it pushed me to take my camera. I filmed, directed and mounted videos of our team. It was a turning point in my life. I am grateful for the time when I clearly realized what my life was all about and where my path would lead.

When did you realize that you want to be a director?

When I moved to Kyiv, I was editing and worked as a DOP. A few years later I realized that being a DOP is not the limit of my possibilities and not my main goal either – so I continued to develop further as a director and editor.

Can you describe your first project? How did it go? And what would you do different now?

My first project was at Fashion Week. I made a film about a designer and his new collection. It was a cool project and I did my best – which is the only way to achieve anything! To myself at the time, I would advise to be less afraid, more determined and more confident! But in fact, I knew that the film would be cool and stylish!

Which of your works is your favorite? And why?

My most successful and coolest project at the moment is Favourite Sport, although there was a lot of post-production and it was not easy to shoot. But we worked as a big team, and I played several roles at once (I was director and editor!). It was a cool experience to demonstrate my entire skillset.

What is the biggest dream for your professional life?

I dream of being part of the people who move the film industry world forward. To be one of those who set the style and dynamics of the film industry. To be part of a team of world-class professionals.

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Darja Pilz

DARJA PILZ/DoP

 DoP: Darja Pilz 

When did you discover your passion for film? And what was the trigger? 

I was born in Russia and lived there until I was 6. My mum was traveling to Germany a lot and once carried a tiny TV with an integrated VHS deck and a VHS with MTV recordings back to Russia. I was watching the music videos over and over. I was fascinated by the variety of visual styles and the interaction of musical rhythms and the rhythm of the edited visuals. I soon started to shoot my own music videos on an old S-VHS camera that we had at home. 

Besides that, I was influenced by the soviet cinema that was regularly watched at home. A moment I will never forget was when I saw the Belorussian anti-war film “Come and See”. I was about 12 years old and devastated by the images that will never get out of my head. It was the first time I could feel the significant impact that film could have on human emotions and it influenced the way I feel about storytelling today. 

When did you realize that you want to be a DoP? 

It was more of process than one specific moment of inspiration. I started with photography when I was 14 and shot a documentary with our youth club when I was 16. Back then, I had not been yet that this could be an actual profession. I was doing a lot of research on what I would like to study and all my ideas were aiming towards visual arts and especially film. After hours of research I understood that there is someone responsible for the photography in films specifically – and that’s when I decided to study cinematography. 

Can you describe your first project? How did it go? And what would you do different now? 

My first project was the short film „In the Nick of Time“, that I shot during my undergraduate studies. I teamed up with a director from my class and we decided to produce the whole film on our own, even if we didn’t get funds from the school. We worked part-time to get enough money and produced it on a level so that we could apply for festivals later on. The preparation took half a year and we were wearing so many hats. Gladly we could find an amazing crew who helped a lot but still, we had to be really creative: the lack of money just didn’t allow us to realize all our ideas in art design and postproduction. 

Eventually the short film was very successful and was screened at over 100 festivals worldwide. I wouldn’t do anything different because producing it from A to Z was the best experience for a first project. It taught me a lot about the infrastructure of filmmaking. I would just not let the wrap party take place in the shooting location anymore – to avoid the damages that the boisterous partying and music making crew has accidentally caused. 🙂 

Which of your works is your favorite? And why? 

My favourite case is the feature SHARAF, that is currently in post production. Based on Sonallah Ibrahim’s famous novel, it tells the story of a modern Candide – the young man Sharaf – who gets imprisoned unjustly after defending himself against a rape attempt. 

The world he faces in prison reflects the complex situation of global societies, economic tensions and dependencies on authorities and capital. In the microcosm of the human encounters, Sharaf realises how each individual has caused the global crisis or is affected by it. He falls victim to bribery, manipulation, blackmailing and physical violence until he decides to take action for himself. 

For me, the story is so important to tell because it shows in a universal way that it is time not only to rethink but also to actively change ourselves and our society structures. Sharaf represents millions of humans, who have to cope with uncertainty and confusion. We may not feel that here as much as in other parts of the world, but a lot of our safety and wealth is built upon the suffering and the bad living conditions of others. So horrible that they risk their lives to leave it behind. I hope that the film will give power to those voices that are often not heard. 

What is the biggest dream for your professional life? 

I want to shoot films that have an impact on how we live together as humans and how we create our environment. Many have been conditioned to live in separation and mistrust and lost the sense of community to the individualistic lifestyle of meritocracy. I feel very inspired by artists who are able to tell stories that bring us closer together.

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Sven Lippold

Sven Lippold/DoP

 When did you discover your passion for film? And what was the trigger? 

During the early days at home in Leipzig, I would just tape loads of arthouse movies and animations from Arte, a German-French art channel, onto my vhs recorder. I have always been into foreign movies, different languages and cultures and I just wanted to get a taste of the world out there. 

When did you realize that you want to be a DoP? 

I knew that my profession had to be something related to art, music and some kind of visual language. I actually wanted to become a craftsman but didn’t know what to pursue in the first place. Then I discovered 35mm Stills Photography – and that triggered a creative nerve in me. 

I started out in the wrong field but changed my profession 5 years later when I went 

to study at the FAM, a TV Academy in Leipzig, and things slowly got into shape. 

Can you describe your first project? How did it go? And what would you do different now? 

My first project was a documentary about “wild Eastern Europe” which I shot in Ukraine and Poland for approximately 5 months. It was an intense experience, and from there on there was no point of return for me. The film turned out alright, but from a technical point of view, I would approach a shooting like this in a totally different way today. Still, for what I knew back then, it was acceptable. 

In all stages of my career, the learning curve has been steep and as professionals, we grow with each job. So there’s nothing to regret. The best experiences were the jobs when I actually failed and had to reset my plans – it’s always been a creative and technical battle. 

Which of your works is your favorite? And why? 

I have a few favorite projects, all of them were special in their own way. 

What is the biggest dream for your professional life? 

I moved to Asia in 2006 and that is when things became really interesting. Working within a totally foreign culture, I had to challenge myself everyday. That’s the best thing ever happen to me, I became a different person. What I would love to do is shooting a major feature film, in order to collaborate with like-minded people that all want to shoot projects from the heart. 

The goal is to refine the craft, to shape my skills and constantly adapt to new technical inventions which is an ongoing challenge. Also, I would like to continue travelling to far out places, see and feel more of our wonderful earth. I am very grateful and lucky to have a life like this. 

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Alexandre Pluquet

Alexandre Pluquet/Director

 When did you discover your passion for film? And what was the trigger? 

When I was young, my whole life revolved around music. I practiced instruments like the guitar, the saxophone, the piano and percussion and spent a lot of time in a music school in my town where I played in a band and the symphonic orchestra. And when I played, I always imagined pictures in my mind, like a spiritual journey. Playing music was like a way to tell a story. And it offered me a fabulous process to develop my imagination. 

A little later at school, I discovered the work of artists like Gaspard Noé, JL Godard, Bunuel, David Fincher, Michael Mann, Ridley Scott and Wong Kar-Wai. For the first time, I was able to view films as a powerful way to express myself. And as a viewer, a powerful way to evoke reflection and shift perception. This was where my deep passion for both watching and making movies began. This feeling has remained with me ever since! 

When did you realize that you want to be a director? 

When I discovered the magic of making movies, I didn’t set out to be a director: I just wanted to create and explore film. For many years, I worked on opening titles for feature films and series or as an art director for commercials. This was a really great opportunity for me as feature film directors and producers offered me the possibility to express my own vision and feelings through the movie, without constraints. 

These experiences helped me to develop a trust in myself as well as my creative vision and to define my own style. After a while of working on different productions, I became curious about the rest of the creative process for other parts of the movie, and wanted to tell stories. So being a director became a natural transition. 

Can you describe your first project? How did it go? And what would you do different now? 

My first professional project as a Director was a music video for a famous french singer. It was a collaboration with two other colleagues and our idea won the project. 

It was my first time to work on a professional set which was both a really exciting and challenging experience. As a first-time director I had to manage teams and lead the project which reflected in a learning curve. Maybe the film is not perfect and I would make it differently now, but it’s like a finger print of my creative period. Above all, it confirmed my desire to become a director… 

Which of your works is your favorite? And why? 

It’s difficult to choose one of my movies particularly because all was interesting at their period. Some for the great challenge they had, other for the success they gave me, or for the human experience they’ve brought me. But they all have something in common: the pleasure to create movies with passion and creativity. 

What is the biggest dream for your professional life? 

My biggest dream actually is the realization of some personal projects. I hope I will be able to do so in a nearer future. 

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Michael and Mathias Jener

DoP & Director: Mathias and Michael Jener

When did you discover your passion for film? And what was the trigger?

Working as a duo ever since, we’ve been fascinated by capturing images from a young age. When we went on a trip to Barcelona, we decided to videotape our journey for fun. Back home, we couldn’t wait to edit everything we had captured. It took us six weeks to finish editing since we were total beginners – but once it was done we both realized how passionate we were about it. We then traveled to the south of France, solely to record again. It was amazing how we were able to bring life to the footage we were capturing. The combination of motion picture and rhythm is what eventually triggered us and became our passion.

When did you realize that you want to be a DoP and become a Director? 

We always worked for free and just posted our stuff for fun on social media. A friend of ours saw our work and asked if we would like to produce a film for Bosch. We had never done any project in this magnitude but were sure we could complete the task. We were successful and both realized that we could take our talent to the next level: directing.

Can you describe your first project? How did it go? And what would you do different now?

Our first professional project was the one for Bosch in 2015 where we especially learned how to serve other people’s ideas. It was intense due to the fact that to that point, it was just the two of us when shooting freelance work. Suddenly, we had a crew of 10 members and were working with a famous actor. We were nervous not knowing if the client would be happy with our work. But that was the case and the client started recommending us for other work. 

Which of your works is your favorite? And why?

Our favorite case is the freelance work we did for Benjamin Rayher who is both an artist and a triathlete, a project we took on because we were fans. We had time for trial and error and tried different tactics, searching for our niche. It took us one full year to finish – but this work became the biggest learning lesson for us no man can teach.

What is the biggest dream for your professional life?

Our biggest dream is definitely to shoot visuals, for big clients and the big names, that will be remembered and inspire other people. 

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WOMSE

WOMSE/DIRECTOR

When did you discover your passion for film? And what was the trigger? 

For me, the passion for film has more to do with the desire to tell stories. As a kid, I accidently broke a window. I didn’t want to get into trouble so I came up with a story in which there was a storm and a branch destroying the window. When I told it to my parents, they believed me and I didn’t get in trouble. I was happy and I realized the value of stories – that’s how my passion for storytelling came about. 

When did you realize that you want to be a director? 

At the age of 10 I saw “Jurassic Park” and was completely fascinated by the film. I also wanted to tell such great stories and wanted to know which profession I would have to learn to make movies. That’s why I bought my first “Making of” book, from which I learned that my dream job is called “director”. By the way, the book is still on my shelf today. 

Can you describe your first project? How did it go? And what would you do different now? 

My first “real” project was a short film at the beginning of my studies. Before, I had only realised one-man projects, but was still convinced that I knew what a director was doing. But standing at a studio set with a big team for the first time, I did not have a clue. I made an infinite number of mistakes during the shooting and felt useless afterwards. But when I realized afterwards that I had learned an incredible amount through it, I learned that mistakes don’t make you fail – they let you grow. 

Which of your works is your favorite? And why? 

“Wahre Gefühle” for Schauspiel Köln is my favourite project since it combines sound and vision in a fantastic way. The combination of an absurd plot, the outstanding sound design and the counteracting music is simply fun. 

What is the biggest dream for your professional life? 

Treasures, hidden rooms and secrets have always fascinated me. This is why my biggest dream is shooting an adventure film à la “Jurassic Park”, “Indiana Jones” or “The Goonies”. 

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