Victoria Film Festival Interview: SUNSHINE SUPERMAN director Marah Strauch
By Jason Whyte
Posted 02/08/15 04:41:48
"A heart racing documentary portrait of Carl Boenish, the father of the BASE jumping movement, whose early passion for skydiving led him to ever more spectacular, and dangerous, feats of foot-launched human flight. Experience his jaw-dropping journey in life and love, to the pinnacle of his achievements when he and wife Jean broke the BASE jumping Guinness World Record in 1984 on the Norwegian Troll Wall mountain range. Incredibly, within days, triumph was followed by disaster. Told through a stunning mix of Carl's 16mm archive footage, well crafted re-enactments and state-of-the-art aerial photography, Sunshine Superman will leave you breathless and inspired.” Director Marah Strauch on SUNSHINE SUPERMAN which screens at the 2015 Victoria Film Festival.
Is this your first movie in the Victoria Film Festival, and are you coming to Victoria for the screening?
Yes it is my first time with a film in the Victoria Film Festival.
Unfortunately no I cannot make it. I do love Victoria though as I spent a lot of time there when I was a child growing up in Oregon. I am super excited my film will play in Victoria.
Tell me a bit about your background and what led you into movies and film festivals.
I am from a visual art background. I studies film in art school. My early films played at film festivals and galleries. I later became a commercial film editor to pay the bills. I then discovered the story for Sunshine Superman and soon became a documentary maker because this is a story I had to tell.
How did this whole project come together from your perspective?
The project came together over many years and is not an overnight thing. Nothing had been written on the history of BASE jumping. I essentially wrote this history before engaging in the film-making parts. It was a slow process.
What was the biggest challenge in making the film? And the most rewarding moment?
The biggest challenge was working with a huge amount of footage in 16mm. This footage had not been transferred and because it was reversal could not be projected. So there were thousands and thousands of feet of footage that needed to be accounted for and woven into a story.
The most rewarding moment or moments were when something that was just an idea could be turned in the film that you are now watching. I was lucky to have worked with great cinematographers. Vasco Nunes, Nicolay Poulsen and there was also Peter Degerfeldt who worked as our aerial cinematographer. I was able to communicate really abstract ideas to my team and they understood what I meant and it worked out well. That was a very good feeling as a first time director especially to communicate my ideas into a cinematic documentary.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?
What keeps me making a movie changes over time. Sometimes the distributor is making demands that I finish it. Other times it is pure love. Other times it is just pure stubbornness.
I would love to know about the technical side of the film, your relationship to the director of photography, what the movie was shot on and why it was decided to be filmed this way.
We shot with the Arri Alexa for interviews, and re-enactments. We used very cinematic lighting an lenses; unusual for a documentary. The original archival is 16mm reversal and dirty VHS.
I had really 4 different directors of photography on the film Vasco and Nicolay were my main cinematographers on the film. Nico worked worked with me in Norway. We worked together a lot through very abstract language, and lots of pictures that I used as reference material. Vasco who I worked with in the US really worked with me to construct a consistent cinematic language also unusual for a doc. We had rules about how we would shoot for this doc.
In addition to my main cinematographers I also worked with the footage that was left by Carl Boenish who was a cinematographer. This footage is for the most park 16mm.
I worked with Peter as an aerial DP. He was an early BASE jumper and really contributed greatly to the large scale mountain scenes and the BASE jumping , wing suit scene at the end of the film.
I would love to hear about the journey this movie has had on the fest circuit, and the plans you have for the movie after it plays in Victoria.
The film has been to TIFF, NYFF, SBIFF and PSIFF. We plan to play some other regional festivals and then will out in theaters in the summer.
What would you say or do to someone who is talking or texting during a screening of your film in a cinema?
I hope they were tweeting about how awesome the film is.
There are a lot filmmakers, especially up-and-comers, reading our site. I was curious if you had any advice to aspiring filmmakers?
This is my first feature. I feel like I have so much to learn. My advice is that you will always have so much to learn. Always approach everything with a beginners mind. You are part of team.
And finally, what would you say is your favorite movie?
I cannot really pick just one. A movie I come back to again and again in my mind is the Les Blank film THE BURDEN OF DREAMS. This film is about really what it is to make films.
For additional information on the Victoria Film Festival including screening times, ticketing information and other events happening around the city in the next ten days, point your browser to www.victoriafilmfestival.com.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @jasonwhyte for live updates throughout the fest including Instagram updates, commentary and links to upcoming interviews and coverage. If you see me in line, please say hi!
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com