Paula Pfitzner: “It was worth all the stress”

Young German director speaks about her
short Niemand Ist Weg.

The young German director Paula Pfitzner is one of the biggest talents in our region. Last year she made the short Niemand Ist Weg.

“At this point I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.”

Can you tell us something about yourself first?

“My name is Paula Pfitzner (1992), I am born in the German Saarland. I am a Film student at the Art Academy in Maastricht – recently in my last year of Bachelor. In my past half year I lived in Munich, where I worked as second director and set manager on the film set of Dinky Sinky, and afterwards as intern in the acquisition of the international film distribution company Wild Bunch Germany (Youth, Victoria). Now I am back in Maastricht and planning my next movie, as final bachelor-movie project that is supposed to be shot in the early summer of 2016.”

Last year you made the short Niemand ist Weg. What’s it about?

“The short movie Niemand Ist Weg was directed and written by me and was set in my hometown Essen (Ruhrgebiet). It deals with an 11-year old girl, who runs away from home since her parents do not stop arguing and in all their disputes of their marriage crisis forget about their child. As she is all alone in the cold carrying a big suitcase in the scary and tough industrial landscape of the Ruhrgebiet – far, far away from home – she decides to go back home, hopefully believing her parents being worried about her miss. As she enters home she has to realize that they didn’t even notice she was gone.”

Why this story?

“It was our first feature-film project in school and we were given some indications, which our story had to include. It should hold a rather dark tonality, and play with the borders of reality and fiction. I remembered an actual rather funny story of my childhood, when I was around 10 years old and ran away from home. I wanted somehow to make my parents worry about me and draw attention to me and so decided to just secretly leave home. Yes, I probably was angry on them. I walked actually only about two streets further, but for me – in this young age – it seemed super far away and I felt totally rebellion. I had never been so far away from home alone without permission or any kind of agreement. After some intentionally waiting, I decided it was time to go back and release my parents from their worries. When I came back very proud and full of hopes, I had to realize that my mother was still occupied with painting and did not even asked where I had been. I was so disappointed and even more angry. My sweet first act (well: attempt) of rebellion.”

What was the biggest challenge during shooting the film?

“The biggest challenge (but also chance) was the last day of our shooting, when it suddenly started to massively snow. My car had no winter wheels and the continuity (no snow in the picture before) was completely disordered. On the way to our location (The hill with the big steel art-piece) we had a small car accident, since the streets were slippy and the car crashed into another. Additionally the motor did not start-up and we had to get help and drive it into a workshop. At this point I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and just about to cry.”

“We were immensely out of our time planning and as we finally arrived on the hill it was full of walkers with dogs and families, who all stood in our picture. So one of us (mostly Kim Hotterbeekx, the producer red.) had to walk all over this hill (because we also had extreme total shots) to ask them politely to walk out of the frame. Every two minutes there would appear a new person in the frame. Also it was extremely cold and our poor little protagonist, Carlotta, who of course, had to wait a lot, wore only jeans and had to carry this heavy, stupid suitcase through the snow. We wrapped her into one of those emergency blankets, fed her with chocolate and built a warmth – circle around her, like penguins. The conditions on this day were everything but pleasant, but in the end we had the most beautiful shots of the movie. Also Continuity was all right, since it just gave the impression that she would have walked very, very far away. The snow gave this key-scene a very poetic face and it was definitely worth all the stress.”

What’s the most valuable thing you learned while making the film?

“Preparation is everything. Be open for spontaneous changes of your plan and open your eyes for unexpected special moments that appear to you during the production. Maybe you can use some of the off-material. Also, stay calm – take it as it comes and be concentrated. It is still ‘only’ a movie, not the end of the world. Treat your actors well, make them feel comfortable and rehearse as much as you can. Everyone needs to stick to the hierarchy. No discussion on set! Most important for a good movie: a good script and suited actors, who can act! Better do not write the following things in your script, when you do not have the financial basis: monsters, one million dollar in cash, big party, funeral, marriage, children, school, babies, and thunderstorm. A good crew is worth gold.”

Who is your biggest example as a director?

“Pedro Almodovar for his surprising and unexpected narrative storytelling and his humoristic interaction of gender roles. Paolo Sorrentino for his talented aesthetic view and the poetic beautiful study of light, atmosphere, dialogue and his sarcastic view on society. Wes Anderson for his creative, theatrical and imaginative creations of eccentric figures within a very poetic world. David Lynch for forming a fascinating scary, mysterious and humoristic story at the same time. They all have a very personal way of storytelling and share a damn good sensitivity for catchy visuals, quirky characters plus fine music, which in total raises my blood pressure.”

Are you currently developping new projects?

“At this moment I am working on my new script for my bachelor movie, which is going to be a short-movie around 20 minutes. It is really hard to come to a catchy, short story that is doable in this short amount of time and without any finances. I plan to shoot it in the south of France in May and hope to present it at our bachelor end-exposition in end of June. My focus and concentration now belongs to the writing process, but when I am finally done shooting and editing, I want to apply for international short film festivals. After my bachelor I would like to travel through the USA and I am looking also forward to find an intern / job in the film business in Los Angeles for some time. I think it is important to learn from the ones we copy most. To gain an idea how the film business works it seems logical to me to have it experienced once. Also I would like to learn surfing and help to improve the critical circumstances for refugees in Europe in any kind I can.”

What does CineSud means to you?

“CineSud accompanied and supported us while our last short movie project. Guido Franken gave us the Chance to pitch our projects in the pre-production process and CineSud chose one project that they supported financially. For our new Projects I am hoping that we have another chance to pitch again. I would really like to have the support of CineSud to produce or co-produce my next project, which is kind of tricky since I am producing in German and shoot in France and not in the Netherlands.”

“CineSud also organizes very interesting events, which support young talents of this region and give them a possibility to present their work in public. With Niemand ist weg we had the great opportunity to celebrate our Premiere last march in the Lumiere Cinema in Maastricht and now CineSud selected us to join the Euregio Short Screening in Sittard. For the area of Limburg with Maastricht as European melting pot CineSud is a great network of and for Euregion-filmmakers to get in contact, work together and inspire each other.”

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