Interview with Patrick Müller

Interview with Patrick Müller

In July, Lina Gasser from Switzerland interviewed me for her Matura thesis SUPER 8 – AN ANALOGUE SHORT FILM. I answered her questions.

How did you come to filmmaking? What attracts you to it?
In the beginning there was a huge passion for cinema. The films of Truffaut, Godard, Hitchcock, Stanley Kubrick and John Ford told me more about life than other art forms. After having given lectures on selected films by my favorite directors during my studies in 2003, it was studying abroad in Paris in 2006, during which I attended the Cinémathèque française almost every evening, that I got the idea to try filmmaking. Back in Germany, full of ideas and having hundreds of subversive-transgressive experimental films in my head, I took a camera and went into the woods. The resulting short film was then very positively discussed by friends and film students. Over the years I made more and more short films, which then even ran regularly at festivals. What makes me excited about filmmaking is the moving image: while a painting is quite static, in film, one can now show movement, relate music and sound, and create a unique rhythm through editing. Film as the art form of the 20th century unites almost all other arts in itself. A unique tool to express yourself.

What or who inspired you to start filming? When did you know that you want to film?
Specifically, this was the old King Vidor. Once a great Hollywood director, he got no film orders in his old age. I saw in a documentary how he decided to grab a camera and shoot a movie on his own, it’s that simple. No financing, no big studios. This passion was very inspiring to me, and I also seethed after ten years of theoretical involvement with film in front of ideas that wanted to break ground. I did not know until the age of 25 that I wanted to make films. There was only an tremendous hunger to see works of others from over a hundred years of film history. That was the best film school: seeing movies without thinking barriers. In the net on I wrote for six years in a film diary about my impressions, because it is important For me to reflect the seen.

Have you always worked with Super 8? Or did you first film digitally?
No, my first short films were created digitally in 2008. But I was not really happy with the low resolution, because all films of my favorite directors were shot on film.

Why did you choose Super 8?
Super 8 was once a cost-effective way to shoot on real film compared to the more expensive 16mm film. Nothing reproduces light as magical as film does. At the same time, film has the grain, which to a certain extent captures the soul of the imaged objects. If you shoot on film, you get a very special look that pleases immediately. Warm, unpredictable, alive and lovable as life itself. In addition, one is forced to confine oneself: what sounds like a disadvantage, turns out to be an advantage. While you capture tons of material in digital editing, because the material costs nothing, when you work with film, you think much more precisely and in more detail what you film. Every inch of film costs money. This makes you much more creative and ultimately the post-production, ie the subsequent assembly goes much faster.

What’s special about Super 8?
The special thing about Super 8 is that you have very small, handy cameras, which are equipped with many trick functions in a relatively small space. The film in the cartridge can be changed in seconds, which is very beneficial.

How do you even know Super 8? Still from the parents, grandparents?
I was born in 1981 and my dad had a double Super 8 camera to film my childhood in the GDR. The subsequent projection evenings, when I saw the developed material for the first time, were unforgettable. It is a very magical medium, which you immediately can understand. As a child I was fascinated by this combination of physics and chemistry. Although video technology was introduced in 1980, contrary to all the assumptions made over the decades, Super 8 has never really disappeared. Kodak even makes color reversal film since last year, again. The reason for this are the millionfold available film cameras, which can be used even after 50 years. They only need some lubrication here and there. And above all, film is still the best way to archive what’s there. You can not watch a videotape from 1995 today, a 1966 Kodachrome Super 8 movie still looks like what he was just filmed. Such a movie lasts almost several centuries, which can not be said of a hard disk or a CD.

Did you teach yourself the technique or did you attend courses?
Since it’s not that hard, I just started. Only the great Super 8 manual by Jürgen Lossau gave me some jump start. In the German Filmvorführerforum on the Internet were also numerous professionals who help you with each question competently. That’s a great community.

Did you find it difficult to use this technique in the beginning?
No, I have been photographing reversal film since my youth, and Super 8 is not that different either. And it was always intended as as a simple medium! Kodak film inventor George Eastman’s slogan was, “You press the button, we do the rest.” That was also true for Super8, which Kodak had invented in the ’60s.

Why do you think that Super 8 became so unknown? Why does nobody use it anymore? And do you think that’s a pity?
Since the advent of video technology, the temptation for many artists and amateurs was just too big and they switched to video. But not everyone! As I said, for good reason there would be regular film until 2012, with “Schmalfilm” a popular magazine, with the festivals in Dresden and Weiterstadt popular super 8 festivals, and so on. Who did not like the pixel-precise video look, filmed on Super 8. That also applied to film amateurs. But it’s true that lengthy family films are barely possible, but film students and experimental filmmakers remained loyal to the format.

There are also very few artists working with Super 8. What do you think are the reasons?
You absolutely can not say that. At the moment so much is being shot on Super 8 as it has not been for decades. The advertising industry with music videos from Taylor Swift to Coldplay is well known. Tarantino shot Super 8 in his latest movie, Dominik Graf recently shot tons of Super 8 for a crime scene. One of Germany’s biggest horror film directors, Andreas Marschall (German Angst), is also a passionate Super 8 filmmaker and often uses super 8-sequences in his films. At the last documenta Super 8 movies were going on, in many museums as well, but even more so at the numerous analog film festivals! My films have been shown many times, in Braunschweig, Flensburg, Dresden, Chicago, New York, Paris. Film is trump because the organic aesthetics stand out enormously from the 2K, 4K, 8K monotony. It is worthwhile to visit one, such as the Dresdner Schmalfilmtage. Most of the filmmakers are there and you can talk to them. Since most of the works are only shown on film, this is also an unforgettable experience.

Do you know any other artists who work with Super 8? If so, do you interact with them?
Yes! We super8 filmmakers are a close-knit community in Germany, most of which I know from the film projectionists’ forum. We meet twice a year, in the spring on the film fair in Deidesheim, where all the analogue filmmakers from Europe make a pilgrimage and exchange ideas for three days, project new films, eat, drink and grab one or two bargains. In the fall there will be a meeting in Berlin where we will show and discuss new films. You meet really unusual and exciting, kind people, who all unites the same thing: film. That is perhaps the best thing about the film. Once you have shot it, you love it!

Currently there is a so-called “retro trend”. Here come old things, such as clothing, furniture, … (including cameras) from the example. 80s back into the trend. Do you have the feeling that the Super 8 will get more attention (or got it)? Will Super 8 come back in your opinion? Or does the technology die out?
The aforementioned small gauge-film legend Jürgen Lossau currently is the owner of the camera shop Click & Surr in Berlin, where one of my dearest friends works as a technician and services old cameras, which are then sold with a guarantee. With great success. According to Lossau, the majority of customers today are under 25 years old. The young people are crazy about Super 8 and a lot of cameras are sold. You also get development vouchers with digitization included. Because hardly anyone wants to project today, you want the movie digitally to share or upload to YouTube. While demand for Super 8 actually stagnated from 2010 to 2015, it is currently booming for a long time. Could I still 2013 my Nizo Professional on Ebay in mint condition for 30 € buy, you get today after weeks of searching no less than 300 €. Even good Bolex 16mm cameras are like swept from the online exchanges. Super 8 or movie in general is currently present again. Take a look at the award-winning big films that are in Cannes or at the Academy Awards: almost all are shot on film. Film is still unbeatable in its visual aesthetics.

Do you process your films yourself? If yes, how? So you have your own lab?
Yes, I can do all kinds of development myself, occasionally giving even workshops in schools. I do not want to explain how this works. In simple terms, the film is spooled on a spiral in the dark, packed in a light-tight tank and filled with development chemistry in several steps, in black and white at 20 ° C, in color at 38 ° C. After that, it’s like Christmas and New Year’s Eve together: the small, colorful film images sparkle like jewels and you can not wait to project them. This is like applied magic for me.

Do you cut your films analog or digital? Or do not you cut them at all?
Family films, which I shoot only for myself, I cut analogously and project them exclusively. Film projects, which are later to run at festivals, in which I make an analog rough cut, which I then scan in 4K. I then cut the material in the Final Cut Pro editing program, add sound and subtitles. From Vimeo I then submit it to festivals. For the analogue festivals use the the so-called Digital Intermediate to make a 16mm positive copy with optical sound. Projection in 16mm is simply much easier for big screens because more light is available.

Do you edit your movies digitally? If yes why?
Yes, but only some color correction, so that the scanned film looks like the original.

Do you record the sound parallel to the film?
Since I mostly do experimental poetry films, I do not record the sound in parallel, but mostly do sound collages. But yes, sometimes in parallel.

How is a “normal” video shooting?
I do not shoot on video, only on film! 🙂 Otherwise: I have the camera in the bag and a tripod, usually a Tascam to record sound, that’s all. When I see subjects and scenes that fit the movie, I shoot them! Important is the somewhat flippant filmmaker rule: “Between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., photographers have spare time”. Because at noon there is very harsh, steep light, which makes terrible pictures. In the morning and after three o’clock, on the other hand, you have the most beautiful light you could ask for and you can see that in the pictures. It’s well worth the wait!

I noticed that you often work with poems. How did you come up with this idea to work with poems? What fascinates you about it?
Around the year 2006, I discovered the films of the filmmaker couple Straub / Huillet. These have radically and uncompromisingly revolutionized prevailing viewing habits by providing literary texts with an unusual reading and extremely static but enormously poetic images. Using the means of the cinema, they have uncompromisingly transported their own world view and critique of capitalism. I liked the content and the enormous apparent simplicity of her films. Reduction to the essentials. Somehow this has flowed into my own films. Similar to Straub / Huillet, I then looked for authors who would express what I would write if I could write. And then I tried to put pictures to the side of these texts without being illustrative. That always irritates me immensely.

What do you want to achieve with your films? What do you want to convey to the spectator? Do you want to introduce the spectator to Super 8?
It has nothing to do with Super 8. I continue to make films as I would have made them digitally. In Super 8 they just look a lot more beautiful! Ideally, I would like that the spectator has its own thoughts and associations after watching one of my films. Maybe it triggers a memory, or he reads the text again in the original, or he recognizes something. All my films are very personal films, without telling me here how they relate to me. But my films also work without having to understand the text, in the ideal case you can enjoy them visually, the editing makes the music.

I also noticed that you almost never film people.
That’s true! Since I try to break with viewing habits and usually do not require the lyrics, I prefer to focus on what one otherwise sees less. A reflection, leaves in the wind, silhouettes and thereby maximizing the effect of achieving this effect, which sometimes succeeds. Anyway, the big D.W. Griffith said shortly before his death: “What is lacking in modern cinema is the wind.” I think there is nothing more poetic than wind.

Why? Why are you mainly filming landscapes? What do you like about it?
For me, landscapes are a kind of mirror of the soul. A bare tree, for example, creates melancholy. A blooming one evokes the first love. Reflections on the water make you look into your own soul, as in my film Man and the Sea. My latest film The Garden, a horror movie after H.P. Lovecraft, for example, is filmed entirely in a cemetery in Georgia, where one has this white Louisiana moss, which hangs ghostly from the trees. By using the landscape as a metaphor, one opens up entirely new, poetic interpretive possibilities that do not take the viewer by surprise, but leave him the opportunity to think for themselves.

When you watch your movies, you usually get a sense of calm and contentment. How do you rate this? Do you agree? If so, by what means does this succeed?
Well, the 38 short films I’ve made over the past 10 years include a wide range of topics. But only “calm and contentment” is not exclusively in it, there are also drastic, bad things with indeed hopeful moments, as in L’Éternité, Melancholia, Säv, säv, susa. In the latter case, a young woman kills herself because she is bullied by the envious village. In the end, there is always hope, with the viewer having to think himself. But that is also my personal way of life. How film can work visually and how this effect can be achieved, I learned above all in the silent film, at F.W. Murnau. He tells so visually that you do not need music as an accessory. A master from whom one can still learn.

Which of your works is your favorite work? Why?
Since every film of mine is one of my children, I can choose difficult. Any movie would be unthinkable without its predecessors. Of course, I always like the movie I’m working on, so I’ll say The Garden, which will be premiered at the festival’s festivals by the end of the year.

What do you personally like most about working with Super 8?
In short: the surprise! Mostly the movie pictures always look better than reality.

What do you think is the biggest difference between digital filming and analogue filming?
If you look at the technical process, then you have to wait for the analogous shoot to wait for the development, before you can see the “Dailies”. With the digital everything always looks exactly like one captures in the viewfinder of the camera.

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