Interview with director Mark Kuhlmann


Mark Kuhlmann, born December 26, 1994 in Ludwigshafen am Rhein, Germany, completed an internship at UFA Fiction in Potsdam-Babelsberg after his high school diploma and a four-month trip around the world before he decided to study directing at the Macromedia University of Applied Sciences in Munich. Together with his cameraman Alexander Gruber and his directing colleague Alexander Müller, he has been making his short films and commercials since the first semester. In addition to directing, Mark usually also takes on the role of scriptwriter for the respective projects. This is also the case with his latest production, the graduation film”Header”. Mark’s claim is that film should not give good answers, but ask good questions. Following this mantra, Mark starts every new project. With “Header”, Mark tells his most personal story so far, a story that, due to its power of identification, leaves none of us cold. Because nothing is stronger than the feeling of motherly love.  

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

I was always attracted to movies but there was one particular event. I made a video for my graduation in high school. As I watched the reaction of the audience while they watched the movie, I knew I had found what I wanted to do.

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

I think there is no guaranteed road to become a successful filmmaker. Attending a film institute can be very helpful to meet your team such as a DP or a producer. I would say it is a really good platform for building a network. But certainly not the only way.

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

I think to get started and find your comfort with the project. For me, once I feel that I know what I want it starts to become fun and joyful. But until you arrive at that point it´s just a lot of hardship every time. You need to resolve you own doubt. Unfortunately, no one but you can do that for you.

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

That if you are very well prepared for the shoot, you can react quickly to all difficulties that come up during the shoot. We knew we couldn’t control the weather, but because we took that into account we managed pretty well to adapt and hence were able to continue to shoot.

  • 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?

The production reality was that we actually had a budget which ensured that I could shoot the film as I imagined it. The pre-production went pretty smooth up until the final week prior to our shoot. In that week the actor for the big brother broke his arm. I only had five days to find a replacement for him. I remember that day to be the only time where I wanted to just give up, but I calmed down and said okay, how can we fix this. Luckily it all turned out pretty well.

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

The short film that I shot before “Header, I made a really bad casting decision regarding the lead actress. Already during shooting I really struggled to connect with her. When we started to edit, I was so unhappy with the material, that I decided to not finish the movie.

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

I discovered all of my team members during my film studies. For the key positions I always work with the same people, that I meet in the first semester. Felix my DoP for “Header”, I met through a co-student. “Header” is our first collaboration.

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

I think you want to be taken on a journey as well to be presented with a really good question. We want to identify with the characters and do so, because we find a piece of ourselves in them. It is a filmmaker´s role to worry about proposing a good question and to create likeable characters.

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

“Header” is my first project, that is being screened at festivals. I think festivals are a place to celebrate our craft as well as to find collaborators for our next projects. I think if you are open, you will find opportunities that can only get birth in such a melting pot.

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

I think a filmmaker should look up to his role models but develop his own style. Every project needs a specific style, if that style is original or classic really depends on the very project.