VIFF 2016 Interview: TIDE director Alexander von Hofmann
By Jason Whyte
Posted 10/10/16 18:42:29
"When a down on his luck lawyer, with a very sick daughter, can't pay his debts to some very bad people, he is thrown overboard and left to die at sea." Director Alexander von Hofmann from the short subject TIDE which is playing at the Vancouver International Film Festival.
I am thrilled you are at VIFF this year. Is this your first VIFF experience and will you be in Vancouver to attend your screenings?
TIDE is my third short film at VIFF. Last year my short film HARVEY'S DREAM screened here and in 2010 I had a short called TINGLEWOOD play at VIFF. I love the festival and the short blocks that Sandy and his team put together. I attended the festival in 2010 and packed my days watching all kinds of films and nights going to the networking events. Unfortunately I can't attend this year.
Tell me a bit about yourself and your background!
I am a writer and director based in Perth, Western Australia. We have a very small film industry here but is a talented and dedicated group of people. I have made 8 short films and I am about to start production on my next short, a horror film that takes place within a facetime conversation between a couple on different continents. I am also writing my fourth feature film screenplay which is also a horror film. I love smart genre films, particularly horror, thriller and suspense films that are surprising and genuinely scary.
So how did TIDE come together?
TIDE was a challenging film from the outset because we had no money to make it and it is set almost entirely at sea. This meant we had to think very creatively about how we would achieve each scene of the film. My main goal was to create something that felt harrowing and didn't let up. I wanted to place the audience in the ocean alongside the main character. And, knowing the limitations we had, make a film that transcended those limitations. To achieve this we worked very closely as a team; all very passionate like-minded filmmakers from Perth.
While you are working on a movie, what keeps you going? What drives you, creatively?
I want to see the story and the vision realized. Once the script is ready and the team is committed to making the film, I become very single-minded about getting it made and finished to a very high standard. I tend to shoot quickly and then spend a lot of time in post-production. The whole process always takes longer than I expect, but that is usually because I don't stop searching for the best version of the film until we have exhausted the options. And, of course, I am still learning. I like to take risks and see if they pay off. I think that is the beauty of short films, and if you aren't taking risks, you are missing an opportunity to learn.
What was your biggest challenge with this project, and how did you overcome it?
The reality of shooting in the ocean was our biggest challenge. We had to find locations that we could shoot from and control to a degree, that still feels like the middle of the ocean. We were shooting in very cold water with an actor and crew for hours at a time, so their safety was important. We had natural lighting, weather, varying water conditions all to contend with. It was really hard, but we persevered and adapted in a way that a small, agile crew can, and we got it done. Wrapping the shoot, in itself, was a huge achievement.
If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?
The final shot of the film is my favourite moment. It's a single long shot and it is very beautiful. The light, the water conditions and the camera movement all come together to make something very special that is the perfect way to end the film. In one take a stingray swam through the shot, right below our actor. I couldn't believe it. That was really special, but in the end it wasn't right for the film.
For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, I would love to know about the tech side of the film and your relation to the cinematographer.
TIDE is the second film I have made with cinematographer George Davis. He is very talented and usually understands what I am looking for straight away. He is very instinctive and creates beautiful images seemingly effortlessly. Because of the conditions and the need to shoot in and out of the water, we shot with a combination of 5D Mark III cameras and the Red Epic. The 5D were shooting RAW, using Magic Lantern, and they were usually handheld in a waterproof housing. We used the Red on a jib arm, off jetties and boats. Because of the unpredictable nature of the water and Magic Lantern, we were shooting with two or three cameras at all times. In the end, I was really impressed with how much of the footage was in focus and useable considering the conditions we were filming under. Magic Lantern is a bit buggy, but the RAW footage turned out to be really beautiful and well worth the effort.
Where is this movie going to show next?
At this time, I'm not sure. This is the beginning of the films festival run and we are still entering festivals and waiting for decisions. In terms of distribution, we need to look into that next. My previous two films were Stephen King dollar baby films, which meant I had the right to make the films but not to distribute them, so I have some research to do. But I would like to make the film available online when the time is right.
What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or being overall disruptive during a screening of your film?
Ha! I hate that, of course. But I am too polite to say anything. Lame, I know, but truthfully I would probably just glare at them for a bit and hope they got the message.
There are many aspiring filmmakers reading us for our articles and reviews on efilmcritic.com. If you could offer a nugget of advice to them on how to get their start, what would you say to them?
Plan your next project so that it is scalable. That way if you get money to make it that is great, but if you don't you can still go out and get it done. Likewise, work on building a crew of people who are creative with very little. It will go a long way.
And finally, what is the best movie you have ever seen at a film festival, and why?
My favourite short film that I have seen at a festival is a film called NEXT FLOOR by Denis Villeneuve. I saw it at Screamfest LA back in 2010. I loved the visual style and thought it was a perfectly realized concept piece. Years later I realized it was the same director who went on to make one of my favourite films of recent years, SICARIO. I was seeing that same visual mastery and excellent directing that I saw in the short years earlier.
Be sure to follow more about the film on the official Facebook page!
This is one of the many films screening at the 2016 Vancouver International Film Festival taking place in beautiful Vancouver from September 29th to October 14th. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to www.viff.org.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte