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Victoria Film Festival Interview - "Plastic Planet" director Werner Boote

Plastic Planet - At Victoria Film Festival
by Jason Whyte

“Plastic Planet is a humorous disaster movie. This investigative documentary shows that plastic has become a threat for human beings and the environment.” Director Werner Boote on the film “Plastic Planet” which screens at the Victoria Film Festival.

Is this your first film at the Victoria Film Festival? Tell me about your festival experience, and if you plan to attend Victoria for the film’s screenings.

I would love to come to Victoria Film Festival and present my film. We always have great discussions going on after screenings. As I spent ten years of work on my film, I cannot afford to pay my flight by myself.

Tell me a little bit about yourself and your background, and what led you to the industry.

I started at the bottom as a best boy for TV and cinema and did almost every possible job in the industry. I love making films, especially documentaries. I think that my job is one of the best jobs on earth because you are meeting great people, seeing fantastic places and learning about important issues.

How did this whole project come together?

In 1999 I read an article in the newspaper, saying that fish are dying out because of a substance, which leaches out plastics. I wanted to know more about this case and started to investigate. As my grandfather was managing director of the German Interplastic Werke, plastic was a very important material in my childhood. I needed to find out the truth about plastics. My Viennese producer Thomas Bogner had contacts to producers in Canada, UK, Belgium, France, Italy and US but then decided to keep it manageable. The result is an Austrian and German co-production.

Please tell me about the technical side of the film; your relation to the film’s cinematographer, what the film was shot on and why it was decided to be photographed this way.

The first take of “Plastic Planet” was shot on 35mm film in Morocco because I was there for another movie and did not have anything else around. Because I enjoy making very very long interviews we then decided to shoot HD-Cam. Photographer Thomas Kirschner and I already worked on several documentaries together. It is very important for me to know that the DOP knows exactly what I want. As I am often protagonist of my docs it is even more important, because I sometimes cannot even give him instructions. We always are shooting with Easy Rig, a portable camera support system. I like it because preparing the camera does not take as long as with steadicam. You are extremely flexible, camera-movements are smooth and the camera-position is not as high as the cameraman’s shoulder.

Out of the entire production, what was the most difficult aspect of making this film? Also, what was the most pleasurable moment?

After shooting on the garbage dump in India the whole film-crew got seriously ill and we spent a week in the hospitals getting infusions. The plastics industry considered to bring me to court. I accepted two blood-tests to find out whether I have plastics in my blood or not. Chinese authorities put my production manager to jail for one day because he organized the shooting with a collector of plastic-bottles in Shanghai which they did not want to show to the public.

The most difficult moment of making this film was that I finally knew so much about the dangers of plastics while still everyone bought plastic without challenging it.

The most pleasurable moments came after the opening in Austria. Plastic has become an important issue for the public. Dangerous Baby soothers are banned thanks to our tests. Some baby bottles are now off the market. All local political parties agreed to work out a better way of dealing with poisoning substances in plastics. Even the EU-Commission made plastic to one of its subjects. Families started experiments to buy less plastic. The University of Vienna made scientific studies about my film and my comments. The plastics industry in Europe produced a 14 pages long media kit for all their members about the film Plastic Planet.

Who would you say your biggest inspirations are in the film world (directors, actors, cinematographers, etc)? Did you have any direct inspirations from filmmakers for this film in particular?

Tom Hanks once said that his biggest achievement was endurance. I learned that this is one of the important abilities in the film world.

How has the film been received at other festivals or screenings? Do you have any interesting stories about how this film has screened before? What do you think you will expect at the film’s screenings at Victoria?

After the screening of “Plastic Planet” at the MEIFF in Abu Dhabi, two sheiks came to me and wanted to know more about plastics and what I have found out. One was the advisor of the Sheik. The other person was from the Ministry of environment and water. I enjoyed talking to them. In the end, one of them asked me: Please tell us how Abu Dhabi should start to act with this problem?

I was not prepared. Spontaneously I said, “Ban plastic bags! Many countries decided to ban them. France, Italy, .. Eritrea did it already many years ago.” He seemed to be satisfied and promised that he is going to take care about it. I thought I will never hear from him again. Ten days later they sent me what the made officially: “Abu Dhabi bans plastic bags in 2013.”

If you weren’t making movies, what other line or work do you feel you’d be in?

I would love to be an Astronaut! I would jump in a plastic-spacesuit and let them shoot me into space. I love to explore!

How important do you think the critical/media response is to film these days, be it a large production, independent film or festival title?

I think the critical/media response is one of the two important things for films and festivals. The second is word-of-mouth advertising.

If your film could play in any movie theatre in the world, which one would you choose?

I prefer to take them all.

If you could offer a nickel’s worth of free advice to someone who wanted to make movies, what nuggets of wisdom would you offer?

Tom Hanks once said that his biggest achievement was endurance. I learned that this is one of the important abilities in the film world.

What do you love the most about film and the filmmaking business?

I think that my job is one of the best jobs on earth because you are meeting great people, seeing fantastic places and learning about important issues.

A question that is easy for some but not for others and always gets a different response: what is your favourite film of all time?

I love those movies which I have seen in the past and still make me think about them today.

This is one of the many films playing at this year’s Victoria Film Festival. For showtimes and further information visit www.victoriafilmfestival.com.

Be sure to follow instant happenings of the festival and updates on my Twitter @jasonwhyte!

Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com



link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=2942
originally posted: 02/03/10 05:32:58
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