Making the Film - Interviews

Andreas Samland - 26/Oct/03

Question 1: "Andreas, could you begin by telling us a little about yourself, your influences, and how and why you became involved in the film industry?"

Well, I was born 28 years ago in a small town in western Germany. After school I started working as a 3D graphic designer for Playstation games. During my years in this business I felt that my occupation left me with great emptiness (and I still believe that the video game is the most overrated media of our time). Therefore I applied at the German Film and Television Academy in Berlin (DFFB), where I am still studying at the moment. “Tag 26” was my third short film at the academy.

My influences in general originate maybe more from comic books, which I loved in my childhood. Among todays filmmakers I would name Aki Kaurismäki, because of his honesty and humane humour and David Lynch, because his films cannot be described in words. Concerning “Tag 26”, I would name Tarkovskij´s “Stalker” as the main influence.

Question 2: "Your film 'TAG 26' ranks as one of the best short films I have ever seen, along with masterpieces such as David Ward's 'Sixty Cups of Coffee' and Steve Ayson's 'The French Doors'. Please tell us a little bit about where you got the idea from, and how you managed to get the film into development."

Thanks for the lovely compliment! First, there was more of a feeling of the film`s atmosphere than the story itself. Also, the music was there long before the idea of making the film. I ran into that CD at the “Staalplaat” Music Store in Amsterdam several years ago, and although the track constists basically of nothing more than one strange tone, it attracted me in a fascinating way.

Inspired by this music, I wanted to make a film about this final and most fearful threat, which is invisible. This was then the challenge for me and the DoP, Max Penzel, who was involved in the project very early – to capture something invisible on film.

As making a film with almost no dialogue and having actors´ faces hidden behind masks for most of the movie, I also regarded it as an interesting experiment, and the script was pretty controversally received by the school´s script teachers.

Question 3: "I have showed the film to quite a few filmmakers, and the general consensus is that the film would make a brilliant start to a feature film. Do you have any plans to extend the idea into a feature in the near future? If so, please can you provide details on how you plan to approach this project? If not, what do you plan to do next?"

No, I don´t plan to turn “Tag 26” into a feature film. Perhaps it seems like the start of a feature, because it has quite a long exposition for a short film, but it also tells its story till the end. Turning it into a feature would only make it longer, but not better.

I´m currently in the editing room with a 30-minutes TV comedy I shot this summer. For the near future, I will have to write a script for my diploma film, which will hopefully be a feature length film, in case I get it financed... So far, I have no concrete idea what it will be about.

Question 4: "What was the budget for TAG 26? Did the film manage to meet this target?"

The budget we got from the film academy was 2.500 Euros, but it was obvious from the very beginning that this film would be much more expensive. Eventually we finished the film for about 7.000 Euros, with me and Max sharing the extra costs. But without the extensive post production sponsorings that we were able negotiate with VCC Hamburg and ARRI Munich, the film would probably have ended up three times more expensive...

Question 5: "How long did it take to shoot the film? Can you tell us a little bit about the shoot and how smoothly it ran?"

We had 7 days of shooting on this small “farm”, which is nowadays used as weekend house. The location is about 70km away from Berlin, close to the Polish border, in the middle of nowhere.

In general, the shoot ran rather smoothly. With three quarters of the film beeing shot outside, the mixed weather costed us quite some time waiting for sunshine, which made our real shooting time pretty busy. But I guess that´s always the case in European climate.

Further, we regularly had to shoot extra takes, because we had birds, insects, cars and so on in the frame. And we wanted it all dead.

Wearing those suits was quite a physical demand for the actors. During straight sunshine in early afternoon they could only stay in the suits for a few minutes, but they took it with good humour.

Unfortunately, we had to re-shoot three shots 3 months later in autumn during heavy rain underneath a tent, but you would never guess which shots they are, and I won´t tell anyone...

The sound you hear in the film is all foley. We recorded primary sound during the shoot as a reference.

Question 6: "What advice would you give to up-and-coming filmmakers regarding the production of a short film?"

As a practical advice I´d say, don´t put your private money into your films. Although it turned out well in our case, it´s not advisable. Filmmaking is simply way too expensive, and should be treated as a profession, not as hobby.

Besides, the most important and simply crucial thing about filmmaking in general is having an attitude towards the story you want to tell, even if it is a romantic comedy. If you don´t have a personal attitude you will be lost in the millions of possibilities the medium offers.

Question 7: "Finally, Is there anything else you would like to add - any hard lessons you have learnt that you wish to make others aware of, or any points you would like to stress?"

Maybe some final advice to TV stations and movie publishers: You should better take a good look at the short film festivals - there are so many shorts out there which are so much better than most of the crap that is regularly shown on TV and in the cinema. They´re all available, and should be presented to a larger audience.

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