monthly newsletter of NISI MASA
DEC11 comedies CONVERSATION:
Jonas Grosch L asse Nolte
Scene from The Artist (2011)
Comedy is a genre that has a seed of subversion growing in its heart. Like the court jesters in theater plays, certain filmmakers use humour as a mask through which they confront us with the ugly truth, telling it straight to our faces. Comedy is thus more open to questioning socially and aesthetically accepted values, and its makers are more likely to indulge in excesses of style and content otherwise impossible in mainstream cinema. Trash cinema is an example par excellance (hello Troma Entertainment!), but flirtations with „bad taste“ can also be found in satires and grotesque spectacles, such as the Monty Python series. The international recognition of Monty Python, as well as many other acclaimed British TV shows, demonstrates that humour can develop into a recognisable national attribute. British biting satires, the Spanish toying with the chauvinism, bigotry and superstition inherent in their culture and tradition, as well as specific humorous approaches to the lives of ordinary people in the Finland, the Czech Republic and Serbia helped to distinguish and establish their national filmmak-
Jerry Lewis & Sammy Davis, Jr.
ing style, making out of their humour a brand that can be sold at international festivals and markets to the worldwide audience, as an authentic slice of their national identity. The interesting thing is that some filmmakers, from Monthy Python's writers to Pedro Almodovar and Alex de la Iglesia, use humour to question (even to mock) the notions of their own national identity, creating an international image of a certain country that doesn't often rhyme with official stories propagated by the state. Even on a practical level making a comedy demands a lot of work. If telling a joke to make it sound funny is sometimes hard, think about the effort it takes to achieve a comic effect in a film! Finding the appropriate pacing in editing and storytelling, choosing the right timing to emphasize a funny moment, finding the right actors for the role… These are just some of the arguments that prove that making a good comedy is not just obeying a formula. It is a craft, as well as an art. By Mario Kozina
Mas y Mas is a monthly newsletter published by the association NISI MASA. EDITORIAL STAFF Coordination & Layout Mario Kozina
Contributors to this issue: Otilija Kerbelyte, Mario Kozina, Atso Pärnänen, Getter Trumsi, Riste Zmejkoski
NISI MASA (European Office) 99 Rue du Faubourg Saint Denis 75010, Paris, France Tel/Fax: +33 (0)9 60 39 63 38 + 33 (0)6 32 61 70 26 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Website www.nisimasa.com
Comedies might be funny, but making them is certainly no joke! We have tried to give you a glimpse into the different ways that the art of humour can manifest itself: in a humorous approach to socially engaged topics in the cinema of the Balkans, making fun of (and with) certain elements of national identity (Germany, Finland and again the Balkans), while also using the genre framework to explore different approaches to certain topics and styles (Nolte & Grosch). Have fun!
Excess as an Opportunity Exploitation cinema has a rich history on both sides of the Atlantic, but is appreciated mostly by genre buffs. However, its excesses in subject, imagery and style often question the notion of good taste more bravely than most mainstream movies would dare to. Lasse Nolte, German director, writer and editor of the Nazi trash comedy Der goldene Nazivampir von Absam 2 (2008) shared his views on the genre. What possibilities does trash cinema offer when compared to conventional genre films? Trash cinema is an opportunity. Trash is excess. Trash is profound knowledge of genre, style and pacing used to create new, surprising and challenging views on what the conventions of the genre and the viewer expect and demand. The „pure“ genre movie has a limitation to which level it can be expanded. Even the Anti-genre, like Anti- (or Neo-) Western is mostly the negative image of what the genre’s conventions allow. Trash breaks free and exposes the quirks of the genre through exaggeration. For me, trash is mostly a loving yet challenging attitude towards the genre movie itself.
From Boeing Boeing (1965)
When you were making the film, who was your ideal viewer? The most frenetic reviews for the Nazi Vampire came from movie buffs people who spent a lot of time watching the grind house classics, who understood all the references from Ilsa, She-Wolf of the SS (1975) to Shock Waves (1977) within the movie. Yet when writing the script (which is extremely tame by trash’s, even by genre’s standards) I was trying to bridge the gap between the mainstream audience and hardcore trash fans (a quest in which I didn’t succeed, as I can say now). I saw the Nazi Vampire as a movie which through its exaggeration and parodic elements would appeal to a more general audience than a
Practical Ways of Being Funny The same way Goofy learned Flog, let us now look at the art of comedy or more plainly: How to be funny in a practical way? How to get those laughs, the kind that come all the way from the belly, not the polite ha-has that girls are excellent at faking, while they sense your desperate attempts to please? Comedy is as much courting and wooing as are the gentleman's other interests. As Jerry Lewis finely pointed out there is ”being funny and telling funny". Comedy is thus more than a white poster with red letters that during Christmas season carries the word "Love" on it and spring break -time has the word "Pie". Inserting the F-word also can't guarantee to lift you to the heights of the masters. Ever heard it from Don Rickles or seen it on the
genre piece itself. Frankly, I thought the ideal viewer would be someone who watches the movie and has a great time, hoping some of the popcultural references would be noticed. Sadly, this concept didn’t work out. The movie mostly appeals to genre buffs. „Regular“ critics despise it. Trash cinema rarely pays any attention to good taste, and its trademark is excess, both in terms of the plot, imagery and style. Is there a balance that you should maintain during the making of a trash movie or does the term „too much“ simply not apply here? Even the trash movie has a „told universe“ following certain rules. They may be hilarious, they may be distasteful, but the movie should stay within these self-set limits. Breaking your own rules would result in a postmodern, meta-trash kind of movie, something like Brecht’s „VEffekt“. So that’s the balance you need to maintain: don’t mess with your own universe. Within that universe, you can go far beyond anything the genre itself would accept. And you need to: otherwise, your trash movie’s going to be only a far-out genre flick. By Mario Kozina cards of an ever green silent movie? Comedies are best written on a piece of paper or alternatively with a computer. If you're short on pens and keyboards use a chisel and you're bound to make some noise. In the end a lot has to do with ”getting it”. The joke and the laughs, the acceptance. The schmuck who didn't like a book doesn't shout ”this is not literature”, but will be happy to proclaim with a loud voice: ”that's NOT funny!” Therefore at once forget the more even-handed idea of something being different from people's preferred sense of humour, since with comedy come enough insecurities to employ an army of psychoanalysts. Come to think of it, comedy is indeed a lot like dating. No matter how much chocolate and roses you get, if the chemistry is not there, it ain't gonna fly. By Atso Pärnänen
dossier Only A Wife Can Make You European The bitter-sweet humor of Balkan cinema It seems that European bureaucracy and its rigorous immigration policies are an essential part of daily life
in the Balkans. Judging by the results presented in the Balkan Monitor 2010 edition, 48% of Kosovars and 58% of Macedonians believe that there are better opportunities for them outside their country. On the question "if you had the opportunity, would you like to move permanently to another country, or would you prefer to continue living in your own?", one third of the respondents would move to another country permanently, if there was an opportunity for them. Having an
opportunity can be discussed from various perspectives, but one thing is sure: sometimes, instead of waiting for your opportunity to come, you can buy it and start living under the shiny yellow European stars. The dream of becoming a European citizen who will leave the local worries behind is the key subject in two recent Balkan movies: The Wedding Tape by Ariel Shaban (Kosovo) and Cash & Marry by Atanas Georgiev (Republic of Macedonia). The fact that Shaban’s film is a fiction short, and Georgiev’s is a feature documentary is not very important for this occasion. The way in which this European dream is presented, with all its procedural barriers, and by mixing international law and local possibilities for corruption is what unites them the most. Filmed in a very positive and humouristic manner, Cash & Marry and The Wedding Tape would not be that funny if they didn't confront the spirit of
the Balkans with the complexity of European procedures. Having Balkans in the role of emigrants you always have one question crossing your mind: should I laugh or should I cry? The undermining of the official procedures for a passport and citizenship of some European country (which is the dream of the people from the Balkans, as presented both by the poles and by these films) in these cases is very smoothly transferred into a screenplay. However, you do nothing and you can go nowhere without a woman. Whether you need a passport from Austria, or you want to move to Germany, remember: all you need is woman! If you don’t have one, you can always buy one. By Riste Zmejkoski
The world of the occasionally laughing out loud Finns Since for many the Kaurismäki brothers equal "Finnish cinema", it is only appropriate that Mika lives in Brazil and Aki in Portugal. Early in their careers their films were popular mostly in Germany, which might tell us more about a German effort to obtain a sense of humour than anything else, but do their films really represent Finnish cinema - or Finnish humour for that matter? One could argue that Bergman became Bergman only because Sweden has lived in peace since 1815 (yes, eighteen fifteen) thus giving a very specific platform for his mind to be cultivated in. How much does an artist create himself? How real is the world he makes on screen and in reality? How much does the world create the artist?
If you approach Finland from the East you know you have arrived to a somewhat Nordic country, but if you come from the West you might as well ask where on Earth have you landed? Viewing the Finland of Kaurismaki films in an urban European art house centre could easily turn in to a kind of "let's laugh at the peasants" or, should we say, an "anthropological" experience. Can a country like that really exist? Am I supposed to laugh or take this seriously? Would I understand it if I spent the winter there... in darkness?
Soviet cars roam freely, yet managing to capture an essence worthy of bottling, but not easily explained. And the humour? In his latest, Le Havre (2011), Kaurismaki cast the great comedian Pierre Etaix. That should tell you something.
The world presented in many of Aki's films is often closer to a Finland that has never been than the one that was. A mixture of nostalgia, pop culture, a world where American and
But while national cinemas may have clear reflections of their times and insignia for the countries in question, a typical Finnish Macguffin in a non-Kaurismäki film might
be a man urinating by the road less than ten minutes into the film. With Kaurismäki one might do better by starting with the melodramas that Douglas Sirk made in Hollywood and see where this path of analysis might take you. Only after that can one try to make sense of Finland. By Atso Pärnänen
A young, loving couple decides to celebrate Eastern festivities together but their plans are interrupted by two unexpected visitors: her lover and his mistress. That's just the starting point of The Last Lie (Die letzte Lüge), a modern screwball comedy with musical surprises directed by Jonas Grosch. Independently produced and distributed, the film also tackles the possibilities of creating alternative families.
Can you tell me something about the genesis of your film? The main idea was to write a script which is not too expensive to shoot. So I came up with only one location and just a few actors. My sister Katharina Wackernagel, who is quite famous in Germany, supported the idea from the very beginning. So we raised some money and technical support from companies in Berlin. Also we had a small team of around 10 people who really were up to making independent cinema without being ruled by anyone else but yourself. How open is mainstream German genre cinema to unconventional approaches? Well, I guess it is not that open. The problem in Germany is that you are not really able to make movies for cinema without money from television. After the theatrical release the film will probably be screened on TV, so they try to make your script fit to their channel. The final result is that more and more cinema films are starting to look like TV movies, which is a real pity. Do funding institutions in Germany have their own (un)official set of rules regarding the plot and the style, especially in the comedy genre? It is possible that they do, although I can only guess. If you apply with your script and a famous comedian promised to appear in the film, there is no problem in getting some money. But if, for example, your characters suddenly start to sing, it becomes complicated. The reason for that is that the funding institutions are also probably afraid of new stuff. And concerning music in features, we´re not as used to it as for example France is. Can you explain why you chose to add musical numbers? For me it was a wonderful way of explaining the feelings of characters. In The Last Lie everybody lies all the time, except when they are singing. That is a very nice way of showing emotions and moods inside of a character.
director of The Last Lie
Also, as I am a music lover, it was a great honour to work with independent bands like The Busters and Mardi Gras.BB. Not only is The Last Lie produced independently, but its distribution was also independent. Can you tell us something more about it? While I was writing the script I already had the idea to distribute the movie on my own. If you distribute a movie here in Germany you have to wait for 6 months to make a DVD release. In our case we were free, because this law only concerned movies which are funded. My idea was to promote the DVD while we were touring through several cinemas in Germany with the movie. We went through 20 cities with The Busters. Before the movie started the band was playing in the cinema, and after it finished they played again some songs from the film. So we created a wonderful evening for the audience and afterwards we offered our DVD. How open is the German distribution network to independently produced films? The problem is, if you´re not funded by a film institution to produce the movie the chance to get subsidies for distribution is even less. Therefore distributors are not very interested in independent films. What would you say are the positive and negative sides of independent movie making? Negative: You cannot be aware of how much money you get for two years of work. On the other hand, I did it on my own. I guess even much more successful filmmakers here in Germany like for example Fatih Akin have to make compromises. I haven´t. That is the biggest luck you can have. By Mario Kozina
After various successful workshops across the globe, the Nisimazine team heard "the werewolf's howl" and decided to organize a workshop in Tallinn during the 15th edition of the Black Nights Film Festival! Read all about how 4 Estonians, 4 Finns and 4 Lithuanians spend their days... and nights!
Photo by Liis Mehine
CHARACTERS (WITH SPACES) Imagine a situation in which at least one person understands your reference to a movie that you love. Try to form a place in your mind where sitting in a circle for hours feels like something you do all the time. Add a little bit of learning to the whole combo and you got yourself a NISI MASA workshop. To be honest, I had a very different opinion about the workshop before I arrived in Tallinn and the Black Nights Film Festival. I was certain that a lot of hard work, criticism and sleepless
THE TITLE AND THE CONTENT After centuries of lethargy I was woken up by the werewolves' howl of the 15th Tallinn Black Nights Film Festival (PÖFF) which could be heard for miles. I sharpened my fangs, powdered my fur, wrapped my tail and whirled off to the Tallinn. It was a beautiful and warm day in Estonia, although sometimes raining and the wind raged on the streets and flapped hair like in Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights (2011). The participants of the Nisimazine Tallinn film journalism workshop – 4 Finns, 4 Estonians and 4 Lithuanians – wandered from one cinema to another, from one film to the other, creating
nights were ahead of me. By the end I was only right about one thing: getting a good night's sleep was impossible (but sleeping is overrated anyway). Don't get me wrong, there was hard work as well, but it felt like something completely different – I enjoyed the work! Looking at the faces of the others, 12 of us sitting in a circle, I was definitely not the only one having a good time. This was probably the reason why the workshop functioned so smoothly: participants were happy, well-fed and eager to learn about writing and discuss it together as a group.
The festival itself was a good starting point, with a wide range of movies shown in six different cinemas all over Tallinn. It had something for everybody, which means that I found movies for each day of the workshop that I wanted to write about. The only thing that the festival did not provide was snow, but the absence of it was overruled by the festival offering free coffee. Talk about a writer's dream! With all those movies, no snow (easier to walk from one cinema to another) and free coffee the workshop was destined for success. Besides that, it was nothing more and nothing less than another step towards being better at writing reviews, in focus articles and interviews. In conclusion, personally, NISI MASA Tallinn was worth all the characters (with spaces) that I wrote! By Getter Trumsi
tactics to catch filmmakers for interviews. At night, we didn't close our eyes while writing articles about the festival's best films and every morning we discussed the texts we wrote the previous night. However, everything begins and everything ends. So everyone went to different parts of the world. Some of us brought a lot of creative sparks from the black magic film nights. Others left confused by the differences between film criticism and film journalism. And others just got stuck in the game of charades while guessing famous film titles, somewhere in the space between the Title and the Content. By Otilija Kerbelyte Photo by Liis Mehine
news Torino Film Lab Script&pitch 2012
Every year TorinoFilmLab offers Script&Pitch, an advanced script development course for scriptwriters and directors of first and second features from all over the world. The course lasts from March 2012 to January 2013 and foresees 3 residential workshops, 2 online sessions and 1 alumni meeting. It follows the entire scriptwriting process, offering close collaboration and insights into the challenges of each step, up to a final pitch in front of producers and sales agents during the next Torino Film Festival. 20 applicants will be selected to participate in Script&Pitch: 16 scriptwriters and 4 story editors.
Deadline for applications December 10th 2011. More info: www.torinofilmlab.it/training.php
NExt film festival call for entries NexT International Film Festival (March 28th to April 1st, 2012 in Bucharest) celebrates innovative and creative filmmaking from all around the world. NexT Trophy is an award of 4000 euros, while the films can also be submitted for three special off-programs. The call for entries is open to live action or animated narrative films completed after January 1st, 2010 with a duration of up to 60 minutes.
Deadline for submissions December 15th, 2011 More info: www.nextfilmfestival.ro/en/archives/2564
call for entries The Dragon Award for New Talent is a special program of the Götenburg Film Festival (January 27th - February 6th) and has the world’s largest online short film competition. The call for entries is open until December 31st, and you can apply here: w w w.dragonawardnew talent.com/en-us/ home/
philip bloom workshop
call for participants After the successful workshop in September, FEST FILM LAB will once again have Philip Bloom to host the workshop designed for those who wish to elevate their knowledge on DSLRs and Digital Video. Due to the great number of people interested, we are sure the workshop will be sold out very quickly. Therefore don't hesitate to apply as soon as possible. The workshop will take place on January 21st & 22nd. Visit: www.filmlab.fest.pt/?p=195&lang=en
agenda 10 december
Closing submissions for TorinoFilmLab Script&Pitch
Closing submissions for NexT International FF
Le jour le plus court (screening of "A minut ici tout s'arrete")
oberhausen FF call for entries
The 58th International Film Festival in Oberhausen (April 26th – May 1st) is open for submissions. Works of all genres and formats may be submitted, but they must not exceed a length of 35 minutes (45 minutes in the German Competition) and have to be produced after January 1st of 2010. International submissions must have reached Oberhausen by January 13th 2012. More info: www.kurzfilmtage.de/en/submission.html
Le jour le plus court NISI MASA France is supporting Le jour le plus court, a festivity that celebrates the richness and value of short films. It will take place on December 21st all over France and on various film and TV-screens. At the Maison de l’Europe NISI MASA France will participate by screening three titles on the topic of "road movie". More info: www.lejourlepluscourt.com/ www.fr-fr.facebook.com/people/Nisi-MasaFrance/1327472085
Closing submissions for Dragon Awards
3 - 8 January
ESP 2012: scriptwriting workshop in Luxembourg
Closing submissions for IFF Oberhausen
screenings Films from the Cinetrain 2008 workshop will be screened during the Moscow Short Film Festival (December 15th - 19th) on December 18th at 3 p.m. This international festival explores the richness and variety of short films. Info: www.debutes2011.msff.ru/index/english_ version/0-16 On December 15th in Commune Image Média in Paris, a production company Affreux Sales & Mechants will screen À minuit ici tout s’arrête by Just Philippot, developed during ESP 2008, as a part of their birthday celebration. The same film will be screened in the same place on December 21st as part of Le jour le plus court. Info: www.facebook.com/pages/Affreux-SalesM%C3%A9chants/11733690668
Newsletter of NISI MASA - European network of young cinema