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.