Q & A w/Filmmaker Jana Bürgelin of CONTACT CALL
Born on 21/06/1983 in Ludwigsburg. After graduation in 2003 she studied art and graphic design in Freiburg for two semesters. During this time many art and photographic works were created. Then she studied Applied Media Economics in Cologne and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Her Bachelor thesis was a study of the influences, characteristics, themes and features of Senegalese cinematography. Afterwards, she attended various internships at several feature film and television productions. In Geneva and Barcelona she visited language courses in French and Spanish. During her long journeys across Australia, Nepal and Senegal, she realized own short film projects, which finally led her to study film. Since October 2009 she is studying directing for documentary film at the Film Academy Baden-Wuerttemberg.
What inspired this film? How did you find your subjects?
Born in 1983, I grew up in an era of technological progress; the transition from the typewriter to the computer via the expansion of the Internet, to mobile phone, Blackberry and Co. The mechanization of everyday life overtook society so fast that a world without these amenities is today hardly conceivable. Technology also means communication, contact, and participation in life. If you are not logged into Facebook or other communities you get to know everything last. One cannot make the developments of the modern world reversed; they have become part of our society. At the same time, they evoke nostalgia for me, as true values and intense conversations seem to go more and more lost. In the search for alternative, original life forms I’ve encountered on hippie communes, mystics, and other dropouts. But with no one I’ve felt so much fascination and amazement as with Bernard’s way of life.
My home is the Black Forest. Known as Germany’s largest contiguous mountain range for the typical farmhouses, the Black Forest gateau, Black Forest ham, the “Bollenhut” and the cuckoo clock. But what remains hidden to the many tourists, are the few outlying residents who have closed the modernization of the world. They live like hermits without heating, without any comfort, with little contact to the outside world, in farmhouses that have survived two wars without renovation. These solitary people, however, became very rare. Time will soon overtake the people in this region.
I, too, could not develop the world behind the idyllic façade a long time. It is very difficult, to locate these deliberately withdrawn people, let alone establish contact with them. After a long, persistent search, I could meet a very special hermit, who gave me a little insight into his world. After months of persuasion and many meetings, he was willing to participate in the film.
What were some of the biggest challenges/surprises?
First of all, it was very difficult, to get to know a person from the Black Forest. People there are very withdrawn. When I then finally, after a long search found Bernhard, I realized we have to get to know each other very well before we could start a project together. Everyday he changed his opinion about the film project until I finally let him go and was looking for another subject. But then, after a few weeks, he called me and asked if we are still interested in him. Suddenly, he felt to be part of this project. Bernhard’s willingness to participate in this film then sprang from an inner urge to change his life, to break out of silence. This step will also lead both, him and the audience, out of the oppressive atmosphere of his world.
The many ups and downs that occurred during the film shoot match the life of our protagonist and correspond with the dramaturgy of the film. For me, this film project is a very personal and profound experience that I do not want to miss.
What was your VERY FIRST film?
My very first film was a documentary about a German woman, who has been living in Senegal for 38 years.
A chain of coincidences guided her to her adopted country. Almost everything in her life turned out to be different from her expectations. But now, Heidi believes to have arrived and to have found her home. Here they just call her Aminta Diallo.
She lives a solitary life but is never by herself. After three marriages, she is now able to do what ever she wants: Collecting pearls, design jewelry, receive salesmen, write poetry (about unachievable lovers), support the people from the village, revel with Griots.and much more!
“Now I have reached an age, where I can do what ever I want and I am taking advantage of it…”
What is your proudest professional moment?
When we, after a long time of work, show our films for the first time in cinema in front of the audience and we get an overwhelming feedback. Then it has been worth all the ups and downs of a film process.
I am very proud to be part of the Silverdocs with our film. That’s maybe one of the proudest moments so far.
What other projects are in the pipeline?
After CONTACT CALL I created a short Essay film about the sentiment of people. Our team tried to throw a humorous and thoughtful view at the current condition of the people in Germany. Documentary elements are interwoven with staged parts, oldies meet young people, joy meets sadness, humans meet nature. It’s called EATING CAKE and has its world premiere at the INTERNATIONAL HOFER FIILMTAGE in October 2012.
And right now, I am in the pre-production process of my first feature film project about children in Germany who are coming of age. The adolescence is a very special, changing and important part of life. In a portmanteau film we try to show the whole variety of the growing up process combined with surrealistic elements and a dream level.
Why did you become a filmmaker?
My mother is an artist, so creativity was given me by birth. My whole life I was confronted with art. Drawing, painting, making plastic figures, photography, everything.
After my graduation, I wanted to study history of art, but then decided to study arts and graphic design, because of the more practical reference. During this, I realized, that the implementation possibilities of the tasks were too stylistic and not free enough. After a long journey to Australia, where I tried to find myself – as it’s said- I began to make films with my digital photo camera. After the trip, I knew, that I want to become a filmmaker. I bought a little film camera and applied at a film school for film producers to get to know the theoretical parts from the beginning. During the studies, I created my first own film project in Senegal and after it, applied at the Film Academy Baden-Wuerttemberg, where I am now studying since 2009 with great enthusiasm. There are always the stories of other people who make me think and arouse my interest. Whether real or fictitious, I find irrelevant if the emotion and passion of a story are communicated forcefully and emphatically. I guess I found what I was always searching for!
What are some of your creative influences?
I love movies that appeal to me, artistically, visually and in content. Mostly the thoughtful, but at the same time hopeful, movies are touching me. One of my favorite feature film directors is Julian Schnabel. I think he has the gift to combine all these elements perfectly, without losing sight of the story. As Documentary filmmaker, I love the intensity and closeness of the films of Georg Stefan Troller. Even if he is working with a commentary, his films are really moving me. I also love GIMME SHELTER and SALESMAN of the Maysles Brothers and films by Victor Kossakovsky, especially THE BELOVS or from the visual point of view VIVAN LAS ANTIPODAS. As modern documentary films, I like WAR PHOTOGRAPHER and SPACE TOURISTS by Christian Frei or even some movies by Ulrich Seidel. They both have their very own and individual film language, in story and style, which I cherish a lot. But as well, I was very fulfilled watching the new documentary MARLEY by Kevin Mc Donald this year at the Berlinale.
Did you go to film school?
I’m still attending film school. The Film Academy Baden-Württemberg in Ludwigsburg/Germany (http://www.filmakademie.de/en/main-page/). I’m in the 6th semester right now and will graduate in March 2014.
I’m very happy that I got a scholarship to visit the film school AFDA in Cape Town for one semester in 2013.
What do you shoot on?
Most of my films are shot on a Canon 5 D. The main reason for this is, that I own this camera and I love the shallow depth of field and the whole look of it. Because it’s pretty small, it is possible to get very close to the protagonists, without becoming too perceivable as a film team. But I know, that this camera is very popular and many films are shot on it, so I will maybe soon change my working equipment. I also love to shoot on film. CONTACT CALL was shot on a 16mm camera by Arri, but unfortunately it is very expensive to develop film material and as a student it’s not possible to shoot many films on a film camera. I would love to continue working with film.
What has been the most unexpected thing to happen since taking the film on the
Our film CONTACT CALL got a predicate especially valuable by the German film evaluation company (http://www.fbw-filmbewertung.com/film/kontaktruf). And it is invited to the Silverdocs Documentary film festival.
2012 marks our tenth edition of the Festival. Why did you want to screen your film
Because it’s a very popular festival in the US and has a very good reputation in Germany as well. For us, it’s a very great honor to show our film at Silverdocs because we made a very personal movie, which means a lot to us. The topic is not very common for Americans we guess, they are maybe not used to people like our protagonist. But we think, that maybe in every person is something, everyone can find in itself. We are very excited of the screening and are looking forward to a great festival week!
How old are you in your head?
I don’t really know. In some fields, I feel very mature and even serious. But in other parts of life, I’m still a child. But I think everyone of us should keep a piece of his childhood in his mind and head.