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18th ÉCU Film Festival 2023

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Are you listening?

“Are you listening?” is a question often asked to people with ADHD. This experimental film uses nature motives to illustrate the spinning mind of an ADHD-affected person trying to follow a conversation. The struggle of being at mercy of uncontrollable thoughts and the exhaustion of trying to control them is depicted by a collage of ai-generated videos of nature. These videos were created by taking about 1000 photos of each motive, feeding them to a machine learning process and extracting the interpolations of the created pictures into videos. This method was chosen to reflect the randomness of the thoughts which invade the protagonist‘s mind. At the end of the film, he succeeds to focus on the conversation again.


Hi Jörg, congratulations on having Are you listening? part of the 18th ÉCU Film Festival 2023 in Paris, how does it feel to be part of such an incredible line-up of films?


I am really happy to be able to share this film with you. It accompanied me for quite a while, like the feeling I wanted to express. And now to show it at ÉCU is a big reward.


How essential are festivals like ÉCU in creating a genuine platform for independent films and filmmakers?


Festivals like ÉCU encourage independent filmmakers because everyone wants to share their films with an audience, which is genuinely interested. To share a film online is great, but not quite the same as showing a film in a cinema to people who are just there for films like yours.   


Can you tell me how “Are you listening?” came about, what was the inspiration behind your screen play?

When I worked as a content developer, I had a lot of stress and was absorbed in my work. The film depicts what was going on in my head when I went for a walk with my wife. It was hard for me to participate in the conversation even when I tried to concentrate on it.

I used nature motives because the process of taking pictures helped me combat stress. Of every motive, I took about a thousand pictures. It was almost a form of meditation. I fed the pictures to a machine learning process and used the interpolation of the so-created pictures. These are the video sequences. The process of machine learning and the randomness with which the images are created matched well with the way the thoughts came uncontrollably into my head. So the meaning of the film and the methods used to make it mirror each other.


When working on a film like this how much flexibility do you allow yourself with your screenplay?


I only write a voice-over for a narrator’s voice. After that all is an experiment. The film continues to grow in my mind until it’s finished.


What were the biggest challenges you faced making “Are you listening?”


It was my first film with AI-generated imagery. I asked myself how to be creative with a tool, that generates pictures for you. What influence a filmmaker can have on the tools? For example in filmmaking with AI-Tools, establishing a database is a creative act, because you decide, which pictures get trained in the machine learning process. Challenges are very welcome.


"I hope this short film gives viewers an insight into what it means to be at the mercy of stress."

Looking back, what would you say have been the most valuable lessons you have taken from making “Are you listening?”


The development of a story and the use of different techniques sometimes just fall in line. The process of making a film can be a method to cope with challenges in life and at the same time create something of value.

What do your films say about you as a filmmaker?


Experimental films are a great opportunity to push the boundaries of filmmaking. I love film history and like to use the films of film pioneers as an inspiration to make films with techniques that have not yet been used frequently.


You gained your masters from the Filmuniversity Babelsberg, how much did your there help shape your approach to filmmaking?


Filmuniversity Babelsberg is a great place for a student. The place is filled with film history and focuses at the same time on new developments in filmmaking. Its the perfect environment to connect past, present and future of filmmaking.


How much has changing technology impacted the way you make your films?

I love dealing with new technologies. I use new technologies like AI to tell stories. So I can find new ways of expressing my thoughts.


And finally, what message do you hope your audiences will take away from “Are you listening?”


Our modern world requires all of us to function as if we were machines. I hope this short film gives viewers an insight into what it means to be at the mercy of stress. And I hope they find it exciting to see a human side expressed using machine methods.

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