Interview with director Dennis Baumann

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

It was 2001 when the first Harry Potter was just in theaters. I knew before that I wanted to tell stories in one way or the other – but when I saw what people can do with the magic of filmmaking: that’s when I knew that that’s not just the right, but the only way of telling stories.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

Absolutely not. In many cases film schools want to teach you that there’s only one way of making a movie. That there are rules you have to follow and that the only movies that really matter are the one’s from a hundred years ago. Maybe it’s good for meeting other young people who want to go in the same direction. The most important thing is: watching a whole lot of movies and then making a whole lot of movies.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

I would say that it was harder to keep going. Getting started was easy. I just took the camera of my dad and one or two friends and we did a movie – that was easy and fun. But to keep on track with the growing business is definitely the harder part. You always have to watch your back if there’s someone who has a better idea or the better connections. But maybe that’s what keeps us going anyway.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

The most important lesson I had to learn over many many years of doing short films: as a director you are not alone. Filmmaking is teamwork and it’s a mistake to think that your vision as a screenwriter and
director is the only right vision. As a director you have many talented and creative people in your company and you should listen to what they say – think about it, throw you ego away and just go with their ideas.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

From the very beginning of the production until the end I had one vision for the film. But there are – as I said – many other crew members with great ideas and visions for the final product. What I did was listening and combining their ideas with my vision. I knew that I could trust them, so I did. And somehow the movie became what I always imagined it to be.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

The hardest artistic choice I made was to shoot a film with a kid. A kid which never stood in front of a camera before. She came all the way from Argentina to Germany to film this movie and I had no idea if she was capable of handling the role of the main protagonist. But it turned out that she was the was the perfect choice and in many ways even more professional than a lot of other more trained actors.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

95% of our crew came from our film school. As Is said: it’s good to meet new fellows along the way and stay in touch with them. If you help them, they will certainly help you. The other 5% were longtime friends who shot movies with me from the very beginning.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

I believe that the audience doesn’t know what they want. I often showed them for example a thriller movie even when I knew they were more into romance stuff – but in the end they are always surprised how much fun they had. As a filmmaker it’s not about to show the audience what they want, you have to present them the stuff they don’t know they love.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

In all those years I never attempted any film festivals. Maybe one or two along the way but I just wanted to do movies for myself. Sure, I wanted others to see them, but I didn’t know that therefore I should present them at film festivals. In the early days I often made my own film festivals where I invited my family, friends and friends of other friends. But that’s not how you get attention or in touch with other filmmakers. I know that now.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

Maybe a bit of both. You can’t be a revolutionary when you’re just a traditionalist. But you also don’t know how to change the future when you don’t appreciate the past.