His Traces of my Brother
What inspired you to come up with the idea for the film?
The film is inspired by a true story of a friend of my family who should have gone to World War 2. It was towards the end of WW2 and our Friend was still a young boy.
But he was old enough to be invited to a physical examination that would make him a soldier. He needed to walk a long way to the next city in order to get his physical tests. As he suffered an injury shortly before his departure his foot got so hurt that he didn’t have to go to war and could return to his family.
How do you relate to your characters or subjects?
For me it was a very important story to tell as families are always torn apart during conflicts like war. I’m very lucky to be born in a time of peace and with loving parents.
I also have a big brother and he is a very important person for me. I need to relate to the needs and wishes of the characters I’m showing in order to make them believable and inspired.
Reflecting the violent conflicts that are happening in so many places I found it a responsibility for me as a filmmaker to tell a story about hope.
Children are the first victims but they are also the hope for a more peaceful future.
What aspect of the story changed the most during writing and production?
The basic story served as an inspiration and inception of the film. But I realized that an event in real life can be terrifying but might not communicate so well in a film.
So I created references and a society for the protagonist in order to show him interact and give him responses to the outer influences. It’s all about relations and action.
The bigger brother and his little sister are the most important changes that were implemented into the story. Max (The Protagonist) has to realize that he’s the caregiver to his little sister as his bigger brother was towards him.
What influenced the visual style of your film?
I got inspired by the beauty of the bavarian forest, the place where my family is from and where our Friend lived. My grandfather was a teacher and painter. He had to go to war as an old man but kept his art to find back to his life. His paintings are wonderful and have an impressionistic approach.
I wanted to create non-photo-real visuals that combined painting with 3d-computeranimation.
Together with production designer Josef Brandl we also looked for other references that would put in contrast the two worlds – countryside and city. For the countryside we studied old photographs and landscape paintings. For the city we used references from stalinistic statues to Nazi-architecture that would reflect the cold and strict nature of a totalitarian state.
As a mood-reference we also looked at abstract paintings of Ludwig Meidner whose paintings and graphics capture a drastic mood of war.
What was the most courageous decision you or your crew made during writing and production?
Regarding the scope of the film it had a small budget – everybody involved dedicated a lot of valuable time into the production of the film. I’m so happy for their support and dedication!
Were there any risks that you faced during writing/production and how did you find a way to embrace them?
After nearly 18 months of financing we faced the situation of having only 70 percent of the films budget. The funding bodies were already rushing us to finish the film – even though we didn’t start yet. Ultimately we decided to make the film for a lot less money than we were expecting. Within 5 Months we created most of the film – from storyboard to rendering in order to get a first cut ready. Later we were able to spend another 3 months on necessary enhancements and polishing. Regarding the scope of film – with 10 Characters and a dozend sets – and it’s limited budget I learned a lot about financing, efficient planning and production of an animated film.
What risks does your story take?
Facing comments like it’s “another flim about World War 2” I want to stress that Traces of my Brother is not a film about war. It’s a film about children and families. I think it can’t be more important to show what conflicts do to children. Wars don’t only threaten lifes right now but also behavior and therefore everyones future.
Max’ injury may be a lucky event for some people – but for me it’s a result of his anger that turns into his luck. He is a kid and should be allowed to make mistakes. Only through these he can learn what’s really important.
I’m happy that I can tell “what if” stories.
How would you encourage others to tell their story or manage through the process of screen writing or film producing?
Filmmakers need experience and need to apply their vision of storytelling! So I’d encourage everyone who wants to make films to do one and keep on doing them. Small films – big films – but keep on doing. Learn from the mistakes, check the audience and question your artistic decisions without being too negative on yourself. Many people are waiting for the opportunity to do a film – but you as a filmmaker has to work yourself towards the opportunity by staying stubborn! Nevertheless if your budget gets cut, your favorite festival rejects your new film – keep on filming and creating!