After falling out with her mother, juvenile Sofia hitchhikes southwards in search of the father she never had.
Hi Martin, it's great to talk to you again, how's everything going?
Great, enjoying the slowly approaching Spring in Berlin.
What does it mean to be at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival with Favoriten (Favourites)?
It's a dream come true. I was at Cannes in 2013 as an Assistant Director on another film and ever since it has been a goal to return one day with a work of my own.
Favoriten (Favourites) is part of the Cinéfondation, does this add any extra pressure on you?
No, on the contrary, I feel the pressure is off now because this selection means so much already. I’m glad that the collaborators who have worked hard on this project also get a sense of reward.
Will you get any nerves ahead of the festival or are you just taking it all in your stride?
I’m sure there will be some nerves before the actual screening in Cannes, but apart from that, I am going to just enjoy this whole process.
What goes through your mind when your screening at a festival?
Is the sound okay? Are the subtitles well timed? Technical things like that, mostly. And of course, will the audience react in the way I hope and anticipate. Having said that, reactions that surprise me are extremely valuable as well.
Can you tell me a little bit about Favoriten (Favourites), how did this film come about?
Favoriten is the first film that I made during my Directing degree at Film Academy Vienna. I wanted to make a short road movie and to explore the feeling of unfamiliarity that comes with every road-trip because that mirrored the experience I was having personally as I relocated from Berlin to Vienna. When I met Lia Wilfing, the main actress, I put those thoughts and ideas into practice by fitting them to her personality and her own life experiences.
"Ignore and mistrust definitive judgements about your personality, your ability or your potential and listen to your inner voice instead."
What was the inspiration behind this film?
The feeling of wanting to leave everything behind. And the realisation that you take everything with you. I was also aesthetically inspired by street signs, motorways, gas stations, trucks – the whole infrastructure of motorised road travel. I find these spaces have a strange aura and a sense almost of calmness and serenity, despite being so artificial. Chirping birds against a background noise of cars and the smell of gas. There’s a poetic absurdity to it.
What was the most challenging part of bringing Favoriten (Favourites) to life?
Shooting in cars! Everybody warned me beforehand about this, and they were right: at times, this was really extremely challenging. Logistically, technically, creatively. It was also a stressful experience for crew and cast, particularly Christian Dolezal, who plays Michael, who had to do a lot of driving.
What was the most valuable lesson you've taken from making this film?
Trust the initial spark of inspiration at all times.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I’ve always had a passion for films but making them myself was the cumulation of a relatively long process of discovery. I only made my first film when in my mid-Twenties. Before that, I lacked the conviction and tenacity to follow that instinct. However, I started out taking photographs when I was about 14, so that was always there.
How much has your approach to your films changed since your debut film?
It is more about structure now, and about having some experience with the effects that certain stylistic choices will have on the viewing experience. Things like the long take, hand camera – you have to try them out to understand what you like, and when to use them for what purpose. So, I have a more analytical approach now but also I have much less fear to dive into the experience in the same way that an actor might. With experience comes spontaneity.
Is there any advice you've been given that's stuck with you?
Honestly, I have mostly been given bad advice! To quit altogether, that at 30 you are (too) old, to become a DP instead, that cinema is dead and that VR is the future and so many more things. Ignoring and overcoming them was the real challenge.
Do you have any advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?
Ignore and mistrust definitive judgements about your personality, your ability or your potential and listen to your inner voice instead. A filmmaker just starting out is very vulnerable to that. If you feel inside a conviction that you have something to offer and to say, follow that conviction.
And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Favoriten (Favourites)?
There’s no message – I hope people will be intrigued by the characters in the film, and curious to understand what has made them the way they are.