How a city inspired me to write a short film

 

 

I started working on my film in  2016. Back then I used to live in a picturesque German city: in Passau. It is a small university city with around 60.000 residents. When I first arrived in that city, on the search of a place to rent together with my flatmate (cause our school moved to this city so all of its students had to move too)  I was absolutely taken by the beauty of this city. It is a city that sits at the junction of three rivers: the Danube, the Ilz and the Inn, and it's at the border between Austria and Germany....It is called "die Dreflüssestadt" which means "City of three rivers". And the magical thing about it is, that the three rivers meet at a place called "Dreiflüsseeck" (The corner of three rivers) but each river keeps its own color, the colors don't mix. The Danube is dark green, the Inn is bright green and the Ilz is kind of black. All of them are flowing into the Danube actually, but they don't seem to melt into one big river. It is by far the most beautiful city I've ever lived in, and I did live in quite a few cities across Europe. I remember that me and my flatmate were walking in the old streets of the city after viewing a few apartments and I found myself saying: Oh, my God, Aly (I will call my flatmate Aly for now) I bet we will fall in love in this city! It is so romantic! And my prediction did come true: we did fall in love, both of us, with two German guys, but that's a whole other story. To tell you that story, I would need to write maybe 10 other articles. 


The point is that this city felt soo romantic and beautiful to me, that it ended up inspiring me to write a romantic comedy. Me and my flatmate found a big, quite nice flat in the upper part of the city, on a hill, very close to the river Ilz. We had the most wonderful view of the forest and the old fortress of the town from our balcony. At night the fortress was lit and the view became even more spectacular. There have been so many nights, sitting on that balcony, drinking beer and talking until 3 a.m. (the flat had three bedrooms, so we ended up having another flatmate, also an actress. Imagine this: three actresses in a flat share... another topic for a movie :))))))))) ) Five minutes from our apartment was the river Ilz and a road that was leading to the forest. Students and families with children used to come to the river in the summer and swim and sunbathe and play volley ball on the lawn near the river. I was there almost every day. I  read books, wrote stories, swam, sunbathed or simply daydreamed. Sometimes I spent my days there with my boyfriend just doing nothing. The river was my refugee. Who needed the beach when I had a river with a crystal clean water and fishes swimming in it and a freshly mowed lawn 5 minutes away from my home?


I lived two years in Passau and spent three summers there, because we moved at the beginning of the summer of 2014 and left in the autumn of 2016.
As I was saying before, the river became my place of relaxation, inspiration, meditation and fun. What I liked most about it, was that even though there were people coming there all the time, it wasn't loud. It wasn't like a crowded loud beach. It was somehow very harmonious, which allowed me to write. In the spring of 2016 I went through a phase where I rewatched the TV shows "A fine romance" and "As time goes by", both written by Bob Larbey and both starring Judi Dench. For those of you, who don't know it yet, Judi Dench is my favourite actress. To me she is the greatest living actress and I don't accept other opinions :))))))) Just joking :)))) Anyway, she is hilarious in these shows and I highly recommend them to you. The writing of Bob Larbey is, of course, exquisite and the actors just makes it look so easy. 


And so I kept thinking of these two shows and somehow being soo frustrated knowing that there isn't another Bob Larbey to write shows like that for me to act in. Do you know that feeling when you love a TV show that much that you wish you were in it?...You wish you were playing the main character and that Bob Larbey wrote those brilliant one-liners for you? Well, that was me. 
So, inspired by these two shows and some personal things that I went through with my then boyfriend, I started to write a few scenes, with no end purpose on my mind. I was just letting my imagination roam around. 

 

It was spring, I think beginning of May, when the trees were blooming and the flowers were having their moment of glory. Everything in nature was so full of life and magic. The first scenes that I wrote, are the last scenes in the movie now. It's interesting, isn't it, how things sometimes start at the end? I also wrote some other short scenes then which I still have on my laptop but that haven't been made into a film yet. 
So, one afternoon I showed them to my boyfriend. I told him that I would like to shoot them for my show reel (cause back then I didn't have any material for it, really) and asked him whether he would help me with that. After he read them, he said that those aren't scenes for a show reel, that they are too long and that they are more like a short film...A SHORT FILM! Bang! That was it! Those were the magic words that brought me to the idea to shoot everything as a short film even if no one would ever watch it. At least I would be able to use it for my show reel, I thought.


So, I worked a little more on the flow of my story and then asked the film teacher from the school I graduated from (It was a school for film and theatre, so there was a film department as well) who is actually also a director of photography and has his own company, whether he would be interested in shooting my little short film. My script was around  10 pages long then. He read it and told me that he was interested in shooting it and open to find two or three free days in his schedule for me, but that I needed to work more on my script. I did, and it ended up being 50 pages long :))))))))) which is why the first rough cut of the film was 60 minutes long. The movie is 21 minutes long now.


Soo, now, that I had a DOP who would even bring his own shooting equipment, I was pumped. I remember going out of that meeting thinking: Holy shit! I am really doing this! I never studied film. I was only in one short film as an actress by then and only had a vague idea of what it means to shoot a film. All my knowledge was based on what I had seen as an actor in the movie I shot that year and of course on the movies I'd seen during my lifetime as a viewer. I did know a little about the process of production and pre-production, and even a little about post-production. I mean I knew how to edit, and that is already a big advantage because it helps you at least visualise the kind of shots you need or the kind of editing speed you are aiming for in your film. To be honest, thinking back to my shot list (which I made for the first time in my life) and all the things I had to do during pre-production, I am quite surprised by how I handled everything, and also a little proud. I don't know where I got all my energy from. I don't know whether I could do it all over again. I wrote, produced, directed, acted in, and edited this film. And everything I did, except for the acting bit, I did it for the first time. It was the  hardest thing I ever did, but God, I learned so much from it.

 

So, back to where we were... I had a DOP, I still needed the rest of the technical crew, an actor, a location (a restaurant), extras and of course budget to pay for the costs. How I managed to pull off all of those things, given the fact that I didn't have a job, I was freshly out of Drama School and still being supported by my parents, I have no idea! But I am sure that Passau had something to do with it. I have never been so inspired by a place, as I was by this city. But I will tell you more about it maybe in a future article. 
Until then, enjoy the scented spring! Who knows what wonderful ideas are yet to be born during this magical season? Until next time!

The view of the city from the top of the fortress

The highest point in the city and the restaurant at the top of the fortress

The harbour

The fortress

City streets

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