Interview by Andreea Boyer // Edited by Chris Charles of Idol Features
Soeren Witzel is a new filmmaker with an interesting background that led him to filmmaking. His short, Hilpert and Macao, which he plans to develop into a full-length feature this year, is his debut as a filmmaker.
Andreea Boyer: Where are you from and what can you tell us about yourself?
Soeren Witzel: I am from a farming village in East Germany. I guess I really saw some change happening there. As rugrats, our grands took us to the fields on horse wagons. Food came from the fields and garden. The clothes where cyan and purple. There were only few cars on the streets. When you returned to the barnyard from strolling, you bumped into at least ten senior folks stuffing themselves with pies and gossip.
As teenagers all of that was gone. The old folks crammed themselves in their tiny kitchen windows, most parents got ripped off by “Wessis,” and the youth basically turned American. I guess that was also pretty typical East German. In school, it was a lot about Neo-Nazis versus Zecken (leftists). However, after lecturing us on Latin cloud names and calculating the zero of a function, we were set free and I went to Leipzig. Warmest place I’ve been so far.
Ten years ago, I came to Berlin. Took me about a year to realize that this is the party and drug capital of Europe. Where KitKat people on Keta in fetish clothes share a seat with a Hijabi in the train, while a hobo raps about his heroin addiction for some change. Jobwise, I was working on different construction sides and did practical effects on set sometimes.
Andreea Boyer: Have you been working in the film industry mainly in your country or also somewhere else around the globe?
Soeren Witzel: Hilpert and Macao is my first film and we shot it in Brandenburg.
Andreea Boyer: How did you start your career in films and has filmmaking always been your main focus?
Soeren Witzel: Well, I made my first steps into the movie scene when a friend asked me to build him a kind of topshot machine for his first feature film. So I built him a rack in which we mounted a Red Monochrome on heavy bearings. It could spin crazy fast. He shot a scene with 10 nude models who laid beneath the spinning camera. That was pretty scary, but everything worked out fine. Then people started to ask me for other shoots. I upgraded this machine so the camera could also slide up and down while spinning. After that, I started to build other stuff, like dollies and practical effects. So at this time, my motivation was only of practical nature.
Andreea Boyer: When did you start with your career as a filmmaker and what has your motivation been?
Soeren Witzel: A friend from my home region came to me one day and told me about a little canyon close to our village. We decided to shoot a small short there. After one week of preparing the story and the production, we shot for three days. It was about a young jobless guy trying to make some cash as an entertainer for children’s birthday parties. The midpoint was him falling into that canyon, without a chance to escape. We used German Schlager for the music and played with the cultural situation we knew. I guess that is kind of my motivation now. There are some pretty unique things that happened in East Germany in the last thirty years and that are happening now. Making that part of our movie culture is my motivation. So it’s only natural that I am inspired by the absurdity we are confronted with. The AFD is taking over East Germany. Meanwhile, the party system is crumbling into pieces and Uwe Steimle loses his job for interviewing some racist Saxonian grannies. Today, you deserve a bitch slap for complimenting someone you want to hook up with. Meanwhile, 90 percent of all sex crime goes unpunished in the German judiciary. And why do so many German men turn into “Reichsbürger” after reaching fifty?
Andreea Boyer: What can you tell us about the cast and story from your movie?
Soeren Witzel: The cast was striking cool! I was so happy, as all of them were enthusiastic and we had a really good time on set.
Franz Marius Lüttig played the main role Hilpert and kept on surprising me with getting into the emotional situation of this corky and anxious painter like nothing. In the test screenings you could set your watch by the audience laughter and reaction on his play.
Carlo Felice Audrines probably had the hardest part, playing the postmodern lunatic painter Macao, but he managed to develop a quite unique craziness for the character that ran smoothly. And as a little plus I wanted him to emphasize his Venezuelan accent which made the character quite lovely and cute.
Stefan Brunner played Jenny, the living art project of Macao, who transformed from a Berghain slave to a start-up laborer in their newly founded advertisement company. As every real Berliner, he develops a wish to move on the landside and get a family of course.
Roman Namor played the Curator, a character driven by contradictory motivations of masculinity. He wants to be an authority, a buff guy having his heart in a fitness studio but also wants to be the king of the gallery. He is the Porsche poser of today; uneducated and full of himself. A dandy in a tank top. Roman has an incredible voice and an impressive presence, so I was very happy having him fulfilling this role.
Considering the plot, I guess that’s enough information, we had stunning actors, kick-ass characters and the story is nutty as a fruitcake! Check it out!
Andreea Boyer:Where did you film your movie?
Soeren Witzel: We filmed in various parks in Brandenburg.
Andreea Boyer: What can you tell us about your other films and work?
Soeren Witzel: Not much. I had fun. Experimented. I am thankful for all the help I got, crazy how nice people are in general. I will start to turn Hilpert and Macao into a feature this year, so watch out for it hitting theaters in 2022!
Andreea Boyer: What can you tell us about your best experiences and which moments in your career have been the most influential ones for you and what has inspired you?
Soeren Witzel: Well, as my career basically started with Hilpert and Macao, I can‘t really answer that. Although, thinking about it, I guess the best experiences and most influential moments are not happening on set, anyway. Of course, I learned a lot about the procedures of filmmaking by being on set, but I don’t want to make movies about movies. When I worked with pothead-Neo-Nazis and self-sacrificing Georgian moonlighters, alcoholic corpse scrubbers, and some other funny characters, that was influential.
Andreea Boyer: Which moments on the film-set have been the most difficult ones for you?
Soeren Witzel: When we shot Hilpert and Macao, we planned to capture three minutes of material in one day, which worked out quite well. We could even shoot some additional stuff as everything was planed pretty reasonable. On the last day, we shot a few extras and I had to deal with some naggy public order officers about nothing, so we ended up having one hour for a whole three-minute scene before sundown. I was in a cold sweat, threw my shotlist away, and started to shake a leg. Fortunately, everybody was prepared well and we managed. I remember waking up on the next morning and just feeling like a dog with two tails.
Andreea Boyer: What is your advise for all young independent filmmakers on how they should work on their goals and reach the best audience for their individual work?
Soeren Witzel: Frankly, this is my first considerable short, so I don’t see myself in the position to give advice. After Hilpert and Macao turns into a feature, I’ll be happy to share everything I learned. Thank you for the interview.
Thank you, Mr. Witzel. We wish you continued success.
See more on Soeren Witzel’s works at Film Freeway.