Saturday, 11/3/2012

An Interview with Dennis Gansel

The director on his first few times at Munich's filmschoolfest and his role today as jury president

An Interview with Dennis Gansel Dennis Gansel and 1st AD Götz Borchert while shooting THE WRONG TRIP (Dennis Gansel's first film, produced by Christian Becker - also his first film as producer)

You studied at the Munich film school from 1994 to 2000. When were you at the International Festival of Film Schools for the first time?
Right after starting at HFF. It was one of my first events as a student in Munich. I thought it was great - the festival, the award ceremony, the parties. For me at the time, a 21 year-old freshman student from Hanover, it was the big wide world. I was just starting out and I thought: "This is the beginning of a period of art and creativity!" Everything was so unbelievably exciting - it was incredibly motivating.

And then?
I was at the film school festival regularly, if just to see what everybody else was doing. Where else can you see so many films by your peers?  It's an invaluable experience. It's like the first performance of a play. You finally, after weeks and weeks of work, get to show it to a large audience. You get attention, perhaps acclaim from the public, from your colleagues but also from more experienced people in the industry. Or a theater packed with people who are laughing their heads off watching scenes you thought up. Nothing compares to that and it's psychologically very important. And if you take home a prize as well, all the better.

Do festivals have advantages for the future?
Of course.  An international festival is ideal for making new contacts and networking. I still work regularly with a lot of people I met as a student. And some of us even met the love of our lives at a festival like Munich. A friend of mine even got married and moved to Ireland.

When did you have your first screening here?
It was 1999.  It was "Im Auftrag des Herrn" (On a Mission for the Lord), a comedy. It was incredibly exciting - an international festival, people from around the world - and my film. I was afraid to go into the theater and hung around the doors. When I heard the audience laughing at the right spots, I finally went in.

1999 - Roland Emmerich was the jury president that year...
I didn't see much of Roland Emmerich because I was shooting my first feature-length film in Cologne at the same time and was only at the festival briefly that year. One of my greatest experiences was meeting Alan Parker, who was the jury president before. I'm a big admirer of Parker - I think the man's a genius. And then to experience Alan Parker live at the festival - in his master class but also in front of the theater with a beer in his hand - that was extremely impressive.

And now you're the jury president...
I've hardly ever been in festival juries. So it's a great honor for me to join the ranks of directors such as Parker and Emmerich. All the more so, since I'm not exactly in the same league. I still feel much closer to the students. It's a great honor but I'm sure it's also going to be a lot of fun.

In what sense?
I'm really looking forward to it and I hope I'll get a little new inspiration. I'm a big fan of shorts. After working on so much material of my own, it does you a lot of good to be able to enjoy the creativity of others for an entire week.

Is there anything in particular you want to do as jury president?
I simply want to try to be curious and open for everything these young filmmakers from various countries have to offer. I am curious as to how they see the world today - also in comparison to myself as a film student. And it's my responsibility to pass on a little of my experience, especially at the most difficult step of every director's career, the beginning - leaving film school and entering the work force. I think I can give them some good tips.  That's the most crucial stage: after years at film school, finally making your dream come true - and making money doing it. As far as that's concerned, I may just have a few good suggestions.

There will be a master class with Dennis Gansel on Thursday, November 15th at 11 am in the HFF. It is open to the public. Admission free!