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Interview mit dem SciFi Film Festival, Sydney

Die Weltpremiere von „A Living Dog“ rückt näher. In anderthalb Wochen, am 7. September 2019, ist es soweit und der Film wird beim SciFi Film Festival in Sydney das Licht der Welt erblicken.

In diesem Zusammenhang wurde Autor und Regisseur Daniel Raboldt vom Festival interviewt. Es geht darum, wie Daniel überhaupt zum Genre Science Fiction gekommen ist, wie der Film zustande kam und auch um die Situation von Genrefilm-Machern in Deutschland beziehungsweise die Genre-Tradition hier (die, wie wir ja wissen, etwas zwiespältig ist, da wir zwar einerseits eine großartige Genretradition besitzen, diese aber in den letzten 90 Jahren irgendwie weitgehend vernachlässigt haben). Das Interview ist komplett in Englisch und wurde vom Programmdirektor des Festivals Simon Foster geführt.

Film: A LIVING DOG (Germany, 95 mins) The war between mankind and intelligent machines has begun. In the vast emptiness of northern Scandinavia, deserter Tomasz meets Lilja, the last survivor of a resistance group, who is determined to fight the superior machines. With every minute that passes the machines get closer, their sensors programmed to detect human voice patterns. If you speak, even whisper – you die. A remarkable directorial debut from Raboldt, who draws upon great tales of deep-forest survival and classic, silent-era German expressionism to achieve a new form of futuristic thriller (German with English subtitles).
Session: SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 7 @ 3.30pm
Tickets: A Living Dog + Thursday Night

SCFI FILM FESTIVAL: What have been the science-fiction works – books, films, art of any kind – that have inspired your work and forged your love for the genre?

DANIEL RABOLDT: My love for science fiction started very early in my childhood when I read books like “Around the Moon” or “Robur the Conqueror” by Jules Verne and watched “Star Trek – The Original Series” on TV. I think the biggest influence on me was the BBC show “The Tripods” that I saw in the eighties, when I was far too young for that show. I loved it and at the same time it scared the hell out of me and this trauma is still present in my film “A Living Dog”.
After the first time I saw “Star Wars” on TV and recorded it on VHS when I was twelve, I was finally hooked. I started to make tiny animated films on my first PC (early 1990s) with a drawing program in which you had to draw every image by hand with the computer mouse. I drew X-Wings, TIE-fighters and the Death Star on the margins of every school book I owned, it drove my teachers and parents crazy.
With fourteen I wrote my first scifi novel about an orphaned teenager who tries to get on a starship to a distant planet. Who knows, maybe some day I will make a movie out of it…

SCFI FILM FESTIVAL: How did the original concept for your film take shape? What aspects of your film’s narrative and your protagonist’s journey were most important to you?

DANIEL RABOLDT: “A Living Dog” started from different angles. After having made several shortfilms me and cinematographer and producer Thorsten Franzen started to think about doing our first feature film in 2015. I already knew that I wanted to make a film without any dialogue, because the concept of pure visual storytelling fascinated me. We also knew that we would have the opportunity to shoot in a lonely house in Lappland in the summer of 2016. It was Thorsten who came up with the idea for a scene in which a soldier approaches a house and uses a strange device to cover it with some kind of a plasma shield. I was fascinated by that image and started to think about this guy. What is he trying to protect himself from? What has happened? Why is he alone? What is he afraid of? Fear became the central element of the story very soon.
Additionally I wanted to make a film about a deserter like in “Port of Shadows” by Marcel Carné for a long time. The concept of a courageous hero in something terrifying like a war never sounded very believable to me. I can identify with a deserter much more than with a war hero.
“A Living Dog” is a combination of these elements: the concept of fear, a protagonist who is a deserter and the lack of dialogue. Add my love for giant warrior robots and – voilà – you have a sci-fi movie!

SCFI FILM FESTIVAL: Does the ‘science-fiction’ genre have deep roots in the art and cultural history of your homeland? Were the resources, facilities and talent pool required to bring your film to life easily sourced?

DANIEL RABOLDT: Making a genre film like scifi, horror or fantasy in Germany is very hard because the establishment in the film industry thinks of them as minor forms of art. If you want to make a socially relevant drama about a teenage girl on the verge of adulthood who gets in contact with drugs and has grand parents with a dark past in the time of the Nazi terror regime then you get your funding. If you want to make a film about a guy who tries to hide from giant intelligent warrior robots you have to acquire the money yourself. We financed the movie by making a small crowdfunding campaign to pay for the trip to Finland and had a lot of help from colleagues who worked for free on the film or let us use their equipment.
It’s a sad situation, because initially Germany has a great tradition in genrefilms. In the 1920s films like “Metropolis”, “Nosferatu” or “The cabinet of Dr. Caligari” had an artistic influence on the rest of the world and were an important competition to the films from Hollywood. But this whole tradition got lost long ago and now many young (and middle-aged) filmmakers in Germany try desperately to re-establish it.
Luckily for “A Living Dog” we only needed a small crew and two leading actors. After having done a lot of shortfilms for over fifteen years now we already know lots of people in the business who love to do something cool and entertaining. Being an independent filmmaker in Germany (and maybe everywhere else) also means you have to know most aspects of the filmmaking process yourself. You cannot only be a screenwriter or only be a director. You should also know as much as possible about lenses, cameras, visual effects, sound effects, lighting, makeup and acting. You have to know how you can get a prop or an effect or a location for low or no money. You have to be able to improvise and even to bend (or maybe break) the law here and there. But if that wasn’t the case, it wouldn’t be any fun to make a movie, right?

SCFI FILM FESTIVAL: Describe for us the very best day you had in the life cycle of your film…

DANIEL RABOLDT: That’s a difficult question, because there are three days which come in mind. One is the day we reached the crowdfunding goal on Kickstarter, the second one is the day we started our long journey to Lapland and the third one is the day of the team preview, when we first presented the film to the cast and crew and all of our crowdfunders.
I think I’ll go with the preview day! After having worked on this film for four years and after one and a half year with me sitting night after night at home on my computer, working on the visual effects (there are over 500 vfx shots in the film) and not knowing what people will think of the film, it was an incredibly terrifying day – at first. We had rented the cinema Black Box in Duesseldorf, Germany. 134 people fit into it and all the tickets were booked. I had no idea how much people would finally show up and – more important – whether they’d like “A Living Dog” or not. In the end 115 people were there and I was so nervous that I completely forgot what I wanted to say on stage. Luckily Thorsten Franzen was there with me and he was a lot cooler and managed to say all the right things.
After the presentation of the film I was even more nervous and while everyone was three floors higher drinking champaign I was still cleaning up the cinema because I was afraid of talking to the audience. But when I got up there and saw the big posters hanging, the concept art by Thorsten and the smiling team members and that everybody was having a great time and praised the film, I was incredibly relieved.

SCFI FILM FESTIVAL: Having guided your film from idea to completion, what lessons and advice would you offer a young science-fiction filmmaker about to embark on a similar journey?

DANIEL RABOLDT: It’s not a very original kind of advice because everyone says so, but I think it’s true: Just go for it! Don’t listen to people who tell you that you can’t make it. Prove them wrong. They are just “threshold guardians” as Christopher Vogler would call them. We live in a time where the technical possibilities are so easily available for everybody that there is no excuse to NOT make the movie. You can shoot a feature film with a cell phone today. You can even edit a film with a cell phone. Make your first film. Even if it’s just 30 seconds long. You’ll learn everything while you make it. And when you’ll make your next film, you’ll be even better and learn more. And you get better and better and better… At least better than the ones who never start to make the first film.
Second advice would be: Watch movies! Other filmmakers ran into the same difficulties and issues as you are going to. Watch how they solved them. How did they decide to tell the story? What lenses did they use? How did they solve the focus issue, replaced the prop that was missing on the shooting day, fixed the light or managed to get that impossible shot? Read books about these films and filmmakers that you like, listen to audio commentary tracks. You don’t have to imitate these other films, you don’t have to follow all their rules. But you have to know them, so you can break them.
I think another important advice concerns the people you work with. There are some films that you can make on your own, but most films are team efforts. Surround yourself with people that you like and that hopefully like you, people who have made their own experiences and know more than you. Listen to them. Don’t always do what they say. You can do the exact opposite of what they told you to do, as long you have your reasons, but at least listen to them. And help them with their movies, even if you only do the catering. Every film you work on is an experience for you. So if you want others to help you, you have to help them, too.
The fourth and last (I promise) advice seems to be a bit strange but… learn as many as you can about things that don’t have to do with films. Read a lot. Ask people about their lives, jobs and problems (I’m not very good at that). Because if you only know stuff about films, what will your films be about? What can you write about if you don’t know anything about people or the world in general? “A Living Dog” is not only a film about big machines conquering the world. It is a film about fear. The protagonist is a guy who constantly wants to run away – from the world, from the enemy, from his past, from himself. And I know a lot about fear, because I get scared very easily. By everything – the dentist, the police, dark corners, horses, pencils that don’t write, conversations with people at parties, parties themselves, beautiful women, being caught while doing something I shouldn’t do, religious people, the dentist, the dentist or giant warrior robots! You name it!
I know fear. So I made a film about something I know. The more you know, the more interesting your films will be. And the more films you’ll be able to make.

Daniel Raboldt
Daniel Raboldt

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