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British Shorts Berlin 2019
Kathrin Steinbacher 
The Woman Who Turned Into A Castle

Festival Screening / Documentary Special

Documentary / Animation / Experimental

Sat 19.1. 18:00 / Sputnik Kino 1

An animated documentary about a woman who turns into a castle based on Oliver Sacks Case study.

Hi Katherin do you ever get any nerves ahead of a festival screening?

Yes always. You never know how the audience will react to your film.


How does it feel to be at the festival with The Woman Who Turned Into a Castle?

It feels amazing! I am very excited about this its always amazing if your film gets selected for festivals. 

This one is special in particular because The Woman Who Turned Into a Castle will be screened in Germany for the very first time. 


Tell me a little bit about The Woman Who Turned Into a Castle how did this project come about?


It is my first-year film I have done at the Royal College of Art. It started as a research project in collaboration with the Wellcome Collection in London. We were allowed to see their fantastic archive, which focuses on connecting science, medicine, life and art.  I was trying to find case studies in their collection where people in an extreme situation might have experienced time differently.    


What was the inspiration behind this film?

While researching, I found out about a disease called Encephalitis Lethargica (sleepy sickness)  and got really interested. Encephalitis Lethargica swept the world in the 1920s and left people like statues, speechless and motionless. 

In the 1960s, when it was discovered that the drug L-DOPA is able to reverse the symptoms, some of whom had remained virtually comatose for 40 years or more suddenly woke up.I was especially interested in the question what could be asleep for 40 years, and then awakening, teach a person about life? What does it say about our request to life 4-ever? 

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What was the biggest challenge you faced bringing The Woman Who Turned Into a Castle to life?

Time and narrowing down the narrative. It is all hand-drawn on paper with charcoal and worked with different layers to make it look a bit like a print. It, therefore, was a very time-consuming process. It is also a huge topic, and it took me a long time to figure out what I actually want to say. 


Have you always wanted to be a filmmaker?

I always loved films. I have always been a creative person, and I knew that I wanted to do something creative, but it happened a lot later when I got really interested in Animation and Illustration.  When I was younger I never really knew what Animation was, nobody at schools tells you how to be an Animator. I almost accidentally figured out that I love drawing when I did my Art & Design Foundation at Kingston University. Before that nobody really encouraged me. This was the time when I got really into it, also because everybody around me was super excited and passionate and positive, I have never experienced something like that at school before. 


What is it about animation that interests you so much?

There are no restrictions.

Animation offers a unique contribution to the exploration and expression of rare human states, subjective experiences and the experiential. Possessing an inherent lack of restrictions, the medium is capable of capturing that which a camera may not. This virtually limitless capacity for originality and novelty grants the ability to portray things that do not yet exist or are difficult to imagine, such as emotions or feelings. Unrestricted by the dictates of photographic realism, animation can, through its unique vocabulary, render such experiences palpable.


As a filmmaker how important is the collaborative process for you? 

Independent animators usually work in very small teams and often even on their own. For this film, I collaborated with the composer Jan Willem de Witt, who did a great job with the music.  If you work on the narrative on your own, you get blind and easily stuck in your own head. Working with other people creates a talent pool, it is therefore essential and more fun for me.

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How much has your approach to your work changed since your debut short film?


My approach always depends on the film I am making. If you are making an experimental film, you don't really need to do an animatic or design characters, whereas for a narrative film it's very helpful. The film I am currently working on is a lot more experimental, and it sometimes feels almost like a relief to not plan everything properly. You work a lot more freely. One big thing that has probably changed it that I am thinking about the sound straight away. And I am doing the sound design myself now, which I am really enjoying.


Do you have any advice or tips for a fellow filmmaker?


Work hard but also try to take breaks and have a social life. Take good care of you. Animation is not the most important thing in life, even if it sometimes feels like that. As a filmmaker, you get easily trapped in this ‘filmmaking’ bubble, but it is important to notice that there are loads of other great things in life. I found that being aware of this helped me to be more productive and creative. 


What are you currently working on?


I am currently working on my graduation film,  a film about my grandmother's hiking shoes and an animated documentary which I am co-directing with my friend Emily Downe about Women in Animation.

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