Friday, February 11, 2022


A salute to everyone reading this interview. We've been utterly lucky having extraordinaries indie filmmakers aorund here lately, filmmakers shooting movies with micro, low and other not so low budget, I mean, diversity is what it is, that way so that people (I expect newbie filmmakers) who read them could be able to understand the vicissitudes a movie production has and what they may face while shooting their own, that is the goal.

Following with the above statement, today's interviewee is a Germany filmmaker, who spent most of his childhood in USA: FRITZ BOHM. As I wrote, he was born in Germany an there would live his first interactions with art, the feeling of creating something, from the moment he watched David Lynch's Eraserhead, the curio instinct erupted out of him and all begun. We talked about his latest work: WILDLING in 2018, a movie that revolves around the transformation both physical and personal that a teenager experiment spicy up with folklore story tale. The movie had wonderful ensemble cast: Bel Powley, Liv Tyler and Brad Dourif (The Exorcist III) among others. Entertainment Weekly described it as "Wildling is a clever, unsettling horror debut". The movie was distributed by IFC Midnight in the USA.

FRITZ walked us through his first steps in the film industry, how was his enterprise to watch his longed for first movie screen out, the path to craft the script, advice about each of the stages a movie production has and wealthy wealthy information that I know would help any filmmaker out there, so, come on! Scroll down and read this blow mind interview.

EFF: First things first, thank you for chatting with me, really. Let's start with telling us where are you from? And tell us a little bit about your filmmaking background before directing your first feature.

FB: I’m from Berlin but my earliest memories are from Delaware and New Jersey. My family lived there throughout the 80's before we returned to Germany. I spent most of my childhood drawing, in my early teens I started drawing comics, first it was just short stories that fitted on one page. Then, the stories got longer and the comics eventually turned into storyboards. It was around the same time that I saw Eraserhead, it blew my mind and I read somewhere that David Lynch thinks of movies as 50% visual and 50% sound. I didn’t have access to a camera yet, but I did have some basic audio equipment. So, I started creating soundtracks for these non-existing movies I had storyboarded. The soundtracks had everything: Dialogue and narration, the voices of me and my friends, sound effects, songs and even self-composed scores. Sometimes, I would make the soundtrack first and then the storyboards. I screened them for my friends, like slideshows to a pre-recorded soundtrack. 

A few years later I had made my first 16mm short which got me into film school, I felt the need to learn more about the business side so I entered the producer class. A few years into that I founded a production company in Munich, produced a bunch of student films and two feature films: Desperados On The Block and Tage Die Bleiben. Because I had a knack for VFX and post-production I also found work as a post-production supervisor which I did for almost ten years, while running my own company at the same time. I was making a living in the industry but I found myself missing the thing that had lead me here in the first place, creating my own stories. That’s how Wildling came about.

EFF: WILDLING was co-written by you and Florian Eder, please; tell us how the story came up to you two and if you got inspirations from anything in special?

FB: My little sister. When she was a kid she dreamed of being an Apache. We didn’t know much about Apaches but we had this romantic fantasy in our heads that they live in tune with nature, that the wilderness is their home and that they're also extremely fierce warriors who can take it up with anyone. I made this into a short called Flucht durch die Wildnis, starring my sister. It's almost the exact same story as Wildling, except she’s Apache not Wildling and it’s only 20 minutes and cost almost nothing. I’m in it as well, playing a crude version of the Daddy character.
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EFF: How was landing the story on the script format? I mean, you have an interesting story, but take that out of your mind and writing it down on paper is always tricky, explain us how that process was, how many drafts you two got done before to get the definite one.

FB: I did a bunch of radically different drafts over the course of several years while working on other things as well. I had wonderful collaborators and supporters, my wife Christine, Florian Eder, David Palmer (executive producer) and my company collaborate Sven Nuri (executive producer). At one point, I hit a wall. My agent at the time didn’t believe in the project. All the versions I had on paper had been deemed too expensive. I decided to throw it all overboard and restart from scratch, I holed up with Florian in David’s back house, where I lived at that time. 8 days later we had a completely new treatment; we felt so good about it that we decided to go straight into script. This took us another 8 days, I’ve never written a feature this fast, but it was only possible because of all the work and conversations that had already gone into it the previous versions.

EFF: The plot per se masks a human aspect as puberty into the mythological world, gravitating between these two aspects always. Was that your intention in the first place? Give us your voice about what the movie is about.

FB: There is a beautiful creature inside all of us. We humans tend to think that we’re above all other creatures, but we’re really just domesticated animals. As humans in society we’re all locked up in an attic like little Anna. When puberty hits, that’s the time of change, that’s when we get our chance to break free. The tragedy is that most of us fail, not because we don’t have the ability in ourselves but because most people don’t like change. They prefer to keep things the same, they yank you back if you try to leave the confines if what they know, and they're incredibly quick to antagonize the other, those are the real predators.  Anna is a fantasy because she goes against this and she goes further than most, like a great pioneer. If I think back to that short I made with my little sister, it already had the same idea in it. What if we could somehow return to those animal roots and be truly free, go anywhere we want?

EFF: As you said, we’re domesticated animals, more sociable ones haha. Now, let's talk about an important aspect to all the movies, well, all projects, Money, funding. How did you get funding for this movie? Did you have to pitch it out?

FB: Back in Germany I had created a teaser for an earlier version of the story. I shot most of it in the Austrian Alps in the snow. This was really crucial as a sales tool or proof-of-concept but it took some time to find the right channels for it. I had already pursued a bunch of financing leads when I was introduced to a manager named Lee Stobby. He was very enthusiastic about the teaser and wanted to see the script. I explained that I had just been told that it was too expensive and that I needed to figure out how to rewrite it. A few months later I got back to him with the finished script, he was even more enthusiastic and started making calls, submitting it to a number of production companies along with the teaser, we got positive feedback from Celine Rattray and Trudie Styler’s company in New York. They liked that it was female-driven and they were keen to do something in the genre-space. We started talking about cast, budget and locations. I had my first meeting with Bel Powley, we received word that Liv Tyler was interested. The train was moving.

EFF: How did you approach your day-to-today shooting process? I mean, did you storyboard all the scenes, what tips or techniques you used that help you during your daily setups.

FB: Most of the movie was boarded well in advance, but due to the tight schedule things needed to be simplified, shortened or omitted entirely. The compromises were painful in many ways, but at the same time I felt lucky to be there at all. One of the biggest timesavers was the use of A/B cameras, not for simultaneous shooting but for piggybacking. While we were on the A camera, Toby and I would have B camera prep the following setup, so by the time we got our shot, we could instantly switch over. No more waiting for setup. It’s not a perfect method but it helped us average almost 70 setups a day.

EFF: What was the hardest scene and why?

FB: All scenes that involved the Wildling suit, the facial make-up, the teeth, the fur and the nails. These things usually cost millions of dollars and we were trying to do it for a fraction of that. We retouched what we could in post but there was still a large number of shots that required an in-depth digital make-over of Anna’s face. The VFX-process for this took well over a year.

EFF: You had a wonderful ensemble cast, tell us a little bit about the casting call, how did get involved such amazing actors as Liv Tyler, Brad Dourif and obviously the lead Bel Powley.

FB: Thank you, I feel very lucky for having this cast. I looked at hundreds of Annas but none of them were right. Finally, Celine brought up Bel. Celine had seen her in Diary of a Teenage Girl at Sundance, soon after I met Bel at a cafĂ© and we decided then and there that we would make this movie together. Liv received the script through her agents who happened to be the same as Bel’s, we met at a house in LA where she was visiting and discussed the movie. All her previous movies had much bigger budgets than ours, so she had many questions, but she finally said yes, without her and Bel the movie would not exist. Brad came aboard last minute, he was suggested by Trudie and her husband (Sting) who had worked with him on David Lynch’s Dune many years ago. Brad read the script and agreed to meet me in New York, he started the meeting by telling me that he wasn’t going to do it, I don’t know if he was serious or not, but as the meeting progressed, we found a psychological angle for Daddy’s character that rang true to us and that he could connect with personally.

EFF: Locations are in many movies a character by itself, it's fundamental. How did you manage the location scouting, anything you can tell us about it?

FB: The movie was shot in and around New York. New York has great crews and production incentives, which were essential for production, but location-wise it was not ideal for this particular movie. I needed a large natural cave which didn’t exist, so we had to bluescreen it in a soundstage. I also needed a wild river surrounded by cliffs and forest, the only river in New York that is not the East River or Hudson or a concrete canal and has some natural-looking vegetation is the Bronx River inside the Bronx Zoo. Getting a shooting permit there and going into the water was a bit tricky. I also needed some large stretches of really wild, mature forest, there is no forest like that anywhere in the 20 mile New York radius. While I was editing I went to Northern California to shoot additional forest backgrounds, ferns and rivers.

EFF: What camera did you use in the movie and why?

FB: Toby and I decided on the ARRI Alexa Mini. It's small, light and modular, this allowed us to work fast within our tight schedule which included a lot of shoulder rig. We used an ARRI Amira as our B camera, both use the same chip so they mix well. As for the lenses we got old Bausch & Lomb Super Baltars, they gave us a subtle vintage look and they're also very small and light.
Fritz Bohm and Brad Dourif

EFF: Please, what was your experience about distribution with this film and what piece of advice would you give to us in this matter in order to get the best possible?

FB: Being a first-time feature director I didn’t have much control over the distribution. Wildling was financed mostly through private equity. International presales didn’t start until after principal photography, while I was editing. Between the markets in Berlin and Cannes the film was successfully sold into roughly 40 territories. A sales promo was created for this purpose. Much later, shortly before our festival premiere at South by Southwest, IFC Films won the bid for US theatrical. Even though it’s been only a couple years, I’m not sure this particular model would still work the same way in 2021. If I would be making Wilding today it might be a streamer original or a mini series or something completely different. The best advice I’ve ever gotten is to go where there is excitement for your idea and do your best to harness it. Chances are it will lead somewhere as long as you keep the energy going.

EFF: Any other advice you would tell newbie filmmakers out there trying to make their first horror movie, based on what you learned from this movie?

FB: I would say concept is key, focus as much as possible on concept and check to see what’s already out there. The concept needs to be original or fresh enough to cut through the noise. The good thing about straight horror is that it typically doesn’t require a big budget, so you can embrace that by containing your story, I didn’t and it was difficult, then again, Wildling isn’t really horror. It was categorized as a horror film because it’s about a creature, but it’s really a coming-of-age fantasy about our primal nature. It’s a genre-mix, like most of my favorite movies, and they are often more difficult to market than straight genre. If I had made Wildling a straight horror, maybe it would have all taken place in the attic and it would have gotten really claustrophobic there. It would have been a lot easier to make and to market, but it wouldn’t have been the movie I wanted to make.
Fritz Bohm BTS - Wildling

EFF: What are your inspirations; directors or films?

FB: I feel inspired by conversations with my wife, I like watching interviews with interesting people, I like to go to new places and look around, even if it’s just some old gas station, I often get ideas from places. Films can also be an inspiration but I think of them more like a language I’ve been learning from childhood on. My first movie was E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial and every time I rewatch it I learn something new.

EFF: How have you lived this pandemic? Personally, Professionally…

FB: There is too much complaining in the world so I will shut up.

EFF: Are you a horror fan? What movies do you like most?

FB: Favorite movies are too many to list here. Favorite horror would be a tie between Alien, Jaws, Rosemary’s Baby and The Shining.

EFF:  What new projects are you working on now, something you can anticipate us now?

FB: I just finished writing the first three episodes of a Gothic horror series.

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