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SxSW 2017 Interview: WIN BY FALL director Anna Koch

WIN BY FALL at SxSW 2017
by Jason Whyte

"WIN BY FALL follows the four teenage wrestlers Janny, Debby, Lisa and Michelle from the moment they leave home at the age of 12 over a period of four years. They enter an elite sports school, a place away from home ruled by discipline and strict guidelines, in which they each struggle to find their place. Wrestling becomes a metaphor for every girls path through this important time of their lives." Director Anna Koch on WIN BY FALL which screens at the 2017 South By Southwest Conference.

Congratulations on your film playing in Austin at SxSW this year! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?

Yes, this is my first time here and I am very excited about the opportunity to show our work at such an amazing festival! Unfortunately I was not able to finance the trip in time and heavy-heartened had to cancel my participation. So I will not be attending our screenings.

So how did you get into this movie business?

Growing up I had many possible careers in minds; florist, vampire or working at the zoo. But the older I got the more I got interested in movies which I recorded late at night in TV. Movies that I considered weird were my favorite like ALICE'S RESTAURANT by Arlo Guthrie or DROWNING BY NUMBERS by Peter Greenaway. I didn't get tired of watching them and my parents didn't stop me. I grew up in a very remote area and from teenage years on dreamed of an artist's big city life. So I moved to Berlin the moment it was possible. There I realized how hard it actually is to get into film-business, let alone film-school. A few years and a lot of trainee-jobs later I got accepted at DFFB (Berlin Film School). WIN BY FALL is my graduating work.

How did WIN BY FALL come together for you?

Honestly by coincidence. For a documentary camera seminar we were supposed to shoot a short film about an unusual profession. Julia, the cinematographer and I came up with the idea to portrait a female show wrestler. Searching for "Wrestling Berlin" online we found pictures of boys and girls in Berlin, USA in Greco-Roman wrestling gear and loved it right away. We learned that there are a few people wrestling in Berlin, too. So we shot our short film about the two little girls, Lisa and Janny, who later on became two of our protagonists for WIN BY FALL.

What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you?

I guess it is two things. For one, I don't like quitting. Hardly anything bothers me more than an unfinished task that I feel like I gave up on too early. And the other thing is my friends and family that help me get back on track when I feel like I cannot go on. And, of course, good, hot coffee. So, actually it is three things.

What was your biggest challenge with WIN BY FALL and when was it the most rewarding for you?

When we started shooting the film I had hardly any experience with a documentary work-style. I knew film-sets, lots of people, lots of technical equipment and and everybody on set knowing the drill. Shooting WIN BY FALL was something completely else and asked many different and sometimes difficult things from me. Most of the time it was just cinematographer Julia and me. The equipment was light, we carried it around all day. I had to approach people quickly that had nothing to do with film-making and convince them to trust us and be a part of our project. I had to take chance into account and learn to let it work to our favor. And accept when it didn't. And, I had to take moments when nothing, really nothing happened and let that be ok, too.

To enter the world of professional wrestling and teenagers was not easy. Many people were suspicious and gaining their trust took a lot of time and effort. So, one day, we again knocked on the girls' door in boarding school seeing what they were up to. They opened, said "Hey" and continued what they were doing. Everything was messy, they were in their pyjamas. We set up the camera, adjusted the light a little and started rolling. At the end of the take I said "clap" to Julia and one of the girls just clapped their hands. From then on, we always worked like that and let them handle the clapping. It was the most rewarding moment because I realized we had gained their trust.

Tell me about the the visual design of the movie and how the movie was photographed.

We worked with three different cameras. We started out on the SONY PDW 700, a camera hardly ever rented in our school. It's a bit old-school and bulky but the material turns out to have a great range in color-grading. We chose it because we needed access to a camera very often and for us it was great that hardly anyone was interested in working with it. The slow-motion scenes showing the girls wrestling were shot on the ALEXA. We only had a few days with it but of course, the possibilities are amazing and the material looks fantastic. The third camera was the CANON D5. We used it later on because it is so light and doesn't attract a lot of attention. We were very satisfied with the flexibility we gained. The downside was the small range in color-grading.

After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next?

The film will be touring festivals, nationally and internationally afterwards: Berlin and Buenes Aires and the other festivals are not yet official. We are still looking for a sale agent and local distribution and are talking with a few people about that. But what is for certain is that WIN BY FALL will be screened in German television 2018 on Rundfunk Berlin-Brandenburg.

If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?

I would like to screen at the biggest theatre in Frankfurt, the city our protagonists are living in, because I think it would mean a lot to them.

What would you say to someone who was being disruptive during a movie, even if it was your screening?

I don't mind people leaving a theatre if it is quietly. There's nothing wrong in realizing that this is not for me. But spoiling it for everybody else of course is stupid and I guess I have thrown a few pieces of popcorn at people or kicked their seats. But, in the end, it is a group experience and comes with all the ups and downs of that.

We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?

Wanting to make films is like looking at an beer-ad thirsty. It's pointless. You have to start doing it. That's how you get somewhere.

And finally, what is the greatest movie you have ever seen at a film festival?

I don't have a number one experience or an all time favorite. But one thing I enjoyed was watching "In the Realm of The Senses" by Nagisa Oshima at Berlin International Film Festival. It was an exciting and humbling experience to watch a film that artistic and yet so sensual with a huge group of people.

Mar 12, 2017 / 10:45am @ Alamo Ritz 2.
Mar 14, 2017 / 8:45pm @ Alamo Lamar C.
Mar 16, 2017 / 6:00pm @ Alamo Ritz 2.

Follow WIN BY FALL online at the official website!

We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview as part of our coverage of SxSW 2017. To see the entire series click on the Live Report sidebar on your right. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!

This is one of the many films screening at the 2017 SXSW in Austin, Texas taking place March 10-18. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.

Jason Whyte,
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte

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originally posted: 03/08/17 16:47:10
last updated: 03/11/17 02:20:21
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