You’re a founding member of Curtisfilm with producer Jörg Lassak, how did you come to form the studio?
We’ve been friends for a long time. We got to know each other at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. Jörg studied Cultures of Media and I did Visual Communication. After we graduated we both got accepted for the post graduated film studies (Production, Directing) in Hamburg the same year and we also ended it together with our short Roentgen in 2008. Then it was about earning some money and getting into the business. Next to the painfully collected whorewage of the film and media industry and the always long and – of course – lonesome desk work, which is inhere to filmmaking, we always liked to realise little projects for friends for the good of our souls.
The name CURTISFILM was more kind of a ‘band name’ and refers to a special network of inspiring and great people who we like to be and to work with. The first big project came from the fantastic, Australian director Emma Freeman with the video We Are On Fire for CocoRosie and with that CURTISFILM was lifted to a new level.
Personally, I’m well up for being musically stalked by Parasite Single throughout my day. What was the genesis of the concept?
In the wide streets of the unsexy outskirts of every bigger city, where the rents for commercial areas are really low, there is a lot of space for every imaginable kind of need. That’s been fascinating to me for a while. These endless blocks with hair dressers, betting shops, exotic bistros, washing salons, sex shops, wedding and army shops… As they are, with all their colours, lights, decoration, all this eclecticism, etc. I once started looking at them like stages when I was taking a walk with my girlfriend (she is a passionate geo-cacher). The idea to use that for a music video was not new, but to enter them through a fictive character, only came into my mind two weeks before shooting. Like a month ago now.
Parasite Single have been running a crowdfunding campaign to fund the video, does that mean that The Hunt commission came to you directly from Jasmina and Christian with no label mediation?
That’s right. And I would like to leave it without comment for now. The culture-political and economical debate which belongs to it would lead beyond the constraints of our conversation. However, to get the release date of the video as close as possible to the release date of the single, Christian and Jasmina had to get the budget, which could only cover the most necessary aspects by the way, from private sources. Now they are trying to recover at least a part of these debts by crowdfunding. Who wants to support them? You can get a lot of nice goodies and fun actions in return: http://www.startnext.de/parasitesingle
Each scene features a fabulously colour coordinated outfit for the band, was there a tight styling brief that Franziska Grau worked to which tied each look to each location?
For Franziska the largest constraint was not to get disturbed in her visual ambitions by the tight budget and the even tighter schedule! We worked parallel on costume design and finding the locations. In the end we had the same amount of costumes, as we see them wear in the video. Most outfits were decided before, but a few came out during the fitting the day before shooting, so we had to puzzle a bit, which was fun. Of course it was helpful that we know and like each other a lot. So our independent instincts also work really well together.
Is there particular significance to the places you have your heroine frequent in the video?
Definitely. They illustrate the circumstances and the daily life of the main character. They speak to her desires and a few modest passions and also her loneliness and the captivity of her own life. Technically we also looked for beautiful available light situations. It was clear that we wouldn’t have a lot of time for big light installations with 8 locations over two shooting days.
Your heart goes out to Katja Danowski’s beleaguered character due to her pitch perfect performance. How did you find her for the role?
Like probably every second German, my attention was first drawn to Katja Danowski ten years ago in her role as ‘the beautiful chef’ in the really well known movie Herr Lehmann. Personally I met her during my studies in Hamburg. We liked each other and kept in loose contact. I like how she approaches her profession. Intelligent but physically also. She welcomes new figures warmly and and gives a naturalistic authenticity to even absurd fantasies. At work we immediately found the same language. It was pure joy, not only with her but with every single one of the team.
To develop the figure we didn’t have a lot of time. She really came out as a reflex. The costume did a lot of it, in conjunction with the script. Also it was nice to start with the stroboscope part. That was mostly improvised and an uncomplicated task at the same time, like a rehearsal on stage where crew and cast could get to know each other. There we could also come closer to the main character.
The video features several matched framing shots of the band. What was your gear set up for the shoot and how did you approach those shots to ensure they would be free of jarring jumps on the cut?
At the first location we set up the first part of this sequence for the band and DOP Marius von Felbert and his assistant Jonas Wache marked the positions of the band and their distance to the camera really precisely, noted them and did other marks on the monitor. We could then place the band in every other location with identical framing. So the most important tools were measuring tape and felt tip.
Katja’s final dance is grin inducing, I’m presuming you all couldn’t help but get down and bust some moves with her?
I first wrote sort of an angry anti-dance for Katja’s role. But in our first project-meeting, Katja told me that she is actually a really good dancer, so we gave a new turn, a bit of a new twist to the figure in her showdown… and brought Katja some comfortable sneakers. Her dance choreography and also the choreography for the camera kind of emerged live within three takes.
Have you got anymore work coming up we should keep an eye out for?
We’re planning a new music video for our friends from Tropic, who we shot a video for last year. This time directing and concept will be from Katrin Gebbe, whose multi-decorated film Nothing Bad Can Happen was the only German contribution in Cannes last year and also features an original soundtrack by Tropic. Apart from that we’re looking forward to every new request from all over the world for short formats like advertisement, music, fashion… You can easily get in touch with us through curtisfilm.com.
MarBelle has a strange compulsion to watch as many films as he can get his hands on and find jobs that give him a legitimate excuse to drill filmmakers about their work. Directors Notes is the latest incarnation of this disorder and so much cheaper than film school. Twitter: @MarBelle