Interview with director Franziska Heinemann


Franziska is a Director and Colorist from Bavaria who lived in Berlin, Frankfurt, Capetown and studied in Hamburg to produce value-oriented advertising films.  As a colorist, she has been able to take on a lot of responsibility in recent years and work freelance for international clients. The desire to anchor her own values more in the films brought her to creative producing and directing. In doing so, she can combine various skills in collaboration with other creatives to create a complete work: Special details, an eye for aesthetics and the urge to use the power of advertising in a targeted way. 

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

Not really, it was more like a natural flow, from doing fun videos with my sister and friends, capturing holidays and birthdays, doing weddings, capturing my hometown Regensburg, which won a price and so on. As a “solo filmmaker” I had to do everything myself and learnt a lot. Later I specialized in colorgrading, because I wanted to make my own videos look better (thanks to an old 8-bit Sony of my dad). That way I had the chance to collaborate with a lot of different people, always learning about ways of storytelling and approaches, till today.

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

Many people are showing it’s not. But of course, a network like at the renowned Filmakademie Ludwigsburg in Germany helps. I’m thankful for the contacts I made at my media management studies in Wuerzburg and Master “value orientated commercial” at Hamburg Media School, too. But some of the directors I work most with, like Tom Streller or Alexander Ronsdorf learned all the stuff themselves. From the technical side I did so, too, before entering the classes and during studying as well. It’s always what you put into yourself.

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

Personally, I like the analogy of a train. Getting tons of weight moving can be very hard. If it’s rolling, nearly nothing one can stop it. For me it’s just the baby steps every day and the process that keeps me going.

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

With kids, shooting is always different. So most importantly it was about going with the flow and listening to the kids. Only by that we had that one story in the end that just felt right to tell the big topic iKhaya le Themba in the small, reduced on one personal experience. Of course, the reason for being there and the dreams of the kids differ individually, but I always like to focus on one story.

  • 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?

Number one production realities: No money, limited time, small team. We just rented the necessary amount of equipment and paid by ourselves without any funding. Otherwise, we had no cost, as all of the crew worked for free.

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

Due to the safety issues in South Africa we were quite restricted concerning the places and times to shoot. So, from an aesthetic perspective we didn’t have the best conditions and were for example not allowed to stay for blue hour in the township (of course!). We didn’t have any safety persons booked but were quite lucky to know Phila on our side, the property manager of iKhaya le Themba, who accompanied us through Imizamo Yethu, the township. Also due to the course of the topic, iKhaya le Themba is an afternoon care, we shot most of the film in harsh sunlight, which normally is not the wanted condition for a commercial, at least without big flags and frames. But story wins and it was also nice to grade Dani’s pictures.

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

Alex and I are running a film production company in Würzburg, Germany – Boxfish. Dani and I were already in contact through Instagram. So, when I saw he’s in South Africa, Capetown, too, we met and quickly decided to realize a project together. I would describe us as good friends with similar values, wanting to tell stories that matter.

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

The Filmdirectors as “auteurs” do it for themselves. That’s what I believe. Other way they couldn’t constantly do these films with all the sweat, uncertainties and tears over the years. Everybody has a spline, something that motivates them to tell the world, packed in cinematically pleasing pictures and sound.

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

To be honest my first thought was not too positive. People getting excited over some trophies, needles, and certificates. But nowadays I register the importance. Good work must be seen somehow, and I would lie to say it hasn’t helped myself. I also like the events and meeting colleagues and friends from the industry. For clients of course it is a nice prove of concept regarding the production.

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

It’s just about finding your style and your voice. But process-wise, so this includes, for me at least, always trying new techniques. A classic style can be a solid foundation for discovering your own untreated path.