Case Study: Unlike Today Astrid Menzel tells about her short film Unlike Today
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Case Study: Unlike Today

Astrid Menzel tells about her short film Unlike Today

Some things are inevitable: we all get older everyday and at some point we need to accept that our body and mind will change. This is a struggle that Astrid Menzel captured beautifully in her film Unlike Today.

"I tried to understand what it meant for my grandfather to leave this world. Preparing to loose someone who didn’t want to go and whom I surely wasn’t ready to let go either."

17 maart 2020

How did the idea come to you?

"I wrote the first draft of Unlike Today (originally entitled Nicht im Traum), many years ago. A time when I visited my grandparents very often. Those also happened to be my first years attending film school in Lisbon, Portugal."

"At the time, my grandfather’s increasing hospital visits made me go back and forth between Portugal and Germany a lot. One day, I switched on my camera and started filming, probably to try to hold on to whatever was about to vanish soon. I looked for small memories, traditional habits, details and objects all over the house. I even interviewed my grandparents and other family members. I tried to understand what it meant for my grandfather to leave this world. Preparing to loose someone who didn’t want to go and whom I surely wasn’t ready to let go either."

"The final script is a dramaturgically condensed version of events I witnessed during that period. Most of these occurred at night when I was supposed to be sleeping but couldn’t. My grandparents’ struggle was simply impossible to overhear. I vividly remember the moments when I was standing outside their bedroom door, not knowing whether to intervene and try to help, or whether I should respect their privacy and just stay where I was. Writing down these memories became my driving catalyst for the script."

Where did you get the funding? How was the production?

"The film was funded by nordmedia – Film- und Mediengesellschaft Niedersachsen/Bremen mbH."

"I applied for production funding myself with a finished script and the entire financial calculation. Somehow, I felt I preferred to convince the jury myself instead of searching for a producer first. It certainly helped that I had worked as a production assistant before and knew a whole lot about how to manage the numbers. All in all, I thought I needed to do this one film right, and then start asking around in the industry."

"Producing the film without anyone supporting me with feedback or professional help was quite a big challenge, and I’m sure I could have done better as a director if I hadn’t been so busy with all the organizational obligations. Nevertheless, I can also call myself lucky, as I got to make all of the decisions myself. Although that at times felt like a burden, it was also a blessing. Working with a reduced crew made sense for this film. Apart from me, there was only the DOP (who also did the lighting), my sound engineer (who also did the boom operation) and my best friend, though ended up being quite the caretaker for all of us."

"The production company, Kinescope Film GmbH, got involved only after the shooting was completed when I was already late in the editing process. At a time when I struggled with the film’s dramaturgy, my sound engineer introduced me to my future producer Mike Beilfuß, who just happened to be exactly on the same page as me. He connected me with a bunch of his industry friends and basically made this high-quality post-production possible. In addition, he provided me with valid feedback to finalize the film. Today, two years later, he has founded his own production company together with the very same sound engineer, Urs Krüger and it is with their newly-found company, Freischwimmer Film GmbH, that I am currently producing my first feature-length documentary Flausen (AT)."

What festival distribution did you have?

“Unlike Today had its world premiere at the 52nd Hof International Film Festival in Germany in 2018. In April 2019, it won the major award: “Minister of Fine Arts Promotion Prize – National Competition” at the International Short Film Festival Dresden, Germany."

"Since then we have found an international distributor, Ben Vandendaele of Radiator Sales, and received the certificate “extremely valuable" from the German Film Rating Commission, and have toured several festivals all over the world, winning numerous awards in different categories, such as “Best International Short Film” in Los Angeles., USA and at the Slemani International Film Festival in the Iraque, “Best Script” at the Linz International Short Film Festival in Austria and “Best Director” at the International Short Film Festival Court en Scènein France."

"All of this has been made possible by lots of hard work by the production company and myself. We decided to invest our personal money on festival fees, splitting the distribution work for festival applications and marketing initiatives. Radiator Sales stepped in as the international sales agent for the film distribution after the festival tour, meaning they are responsible for Video on Demand platforms, Television Channel rights and screenings at educational association events. At theses events the film is used as a conversation starter to talk about aging, early onset dementia, domestic caregiving and better care for the elderly in general."

"For me, this tremendous success is still unbelievable to grasp. I never would have expected the film to get such great feedback at so many different festivals, and to be able to pay some of my production debt back by showing it."

"The best part is, I can keep on making films. With Unlike Today I was able to prove what I am capable of and, though there is still a lot to improve upon, the film out as a kind of trademark for me now. It represents who I am as an artist and it is something I can use as a tool to leverage new opportunities and future projects."

(c) All visual material is used with the filmmaker's permission.

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