16th ÉCU – The European Independent Film Festival

9th, 10th, 11th April 2021
Greta Benkelmann
Student Film 
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Theo has dementia. While he is busy dying, life puts a spoke in his wheel. A film about friendship, pizza and other things worth living.


Hi Greta thank you for talking to TNC, how are you holding up during these very strange times?

Thank you for your interest and for offering a platform for our film! I’m quite well. I am healthy and that’s the most important thing. But of course I miss a lot of things that aren’t possible at the moment. Going to the cinema, for example.

Has this time offered you any creative inspiration or opportunities?

First of all, this time gave me the opportunity to pause and gain new perspectives on things that I would otherwise possibly take for granted. As a result, questions on how I’d like to live my life are raised.

Congratulations on having Autumn/Herbst selected for the 16th ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of short films?

It’s always an honour to be invited to festivals, especially international ones. They make you see that films connect people. Despite different languages films can be understood beyond borders. The ECU Film Festival is special, because only independent films that the judges consider particularly innovative and creative are accepted in their line-up. There is a reason why the festival is called “Sundance of Europe”. It’s a great compliment that, this year, our film is part of it.

You are a graduate of the Hamburg Media School, what was this experience like for you, and is film school something you would recommend for anyone interested in filmmaking as a career?

I would always recommend studying film at university! Not because it’s necessarily required for a career in film, but because you can completely delve into the topic in a secure environment and with like-minded people.

Can you tell me a little bit about Autumn/Herbst, how did this film come about?

“Autumn/Herbst” came into existence during my studies at Hamburg Media School. With every film on our film school the students of script writing write treatments and the directorial students apply for it. I applied for “Autumn”, not only because I liked the story, but also because I wanted to work with Ellen Holthaus, the script writer. And she wanted to work with me.

But I find it important, too, to know your roots. Only by knowing how films are usually created you can consciously approach them differently.

What was it about Ellen Holthaus screenplay that interested you so much?

My grandmother had dementia. I found it appealing to allow humour in approaching this difficult topic. Because there were many situations with my grandmother that were simply funny and humour helped us greatly at that time.

What where the biggest challenges you faced brining this film to life?

One of the biggest challenges, in fact, was finding a bridge that was high enough for suicide and one we could use for filming.

Looking back is there anything you would have done differently on this film?

In hindsight, there are things I would have done differently in every film I’ve made. I find it important to always know why I did the things the way I did them. That’s the only way to learn something and I can do them another way in the next film.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

After school, I was interested in the life on a film set and I worked as a script supervisor for a long time. During this time I worked closely together with all kinds of directors and was able to support them in their work. Meanwhile, the desire to direct myself grew steadily.

How has your approach of your filmmaking style changed since your started out?

Not much actually. With every film I learned so much about how to realise the things I have in my head. But the things that matter to me in the process of making films are still the same. They haven’t changed: Storytelling at eye level, complexity and ambiguity of situations.


Is there any advice you have been given that has really helped you?

A director once told me to dare to make mistakes. I would pass this on to others as well. It’s the only way we can create new things.

Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?

Absolutely! But I find it important, too, to know your roots. Only by knowing how films are usually created you can consciously approach them differently.

What tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?

My advice would be to listen to your gut feeling. In retrospect, my first gut instincts have often turned out to be the right thing and I often wished I had trusted in them.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Autumn/Herbst?

That tragedy and humour are often very close to each other and that it’s okay to laugh in tragic situations. Humour heals!