A walk down the RATLINE with Eric Stanze: Independent filmmaking and surviving cinema | Interview (english version)

05. November 2011

Eric Stanze | Interview

For a period of over fifteen years, director / writer / producer / editor / cinematographer and sometimes actor Eric Stanze is making movies that clearly deserve the label „uncompromising“. Having founded his production company Wicked Pixel Cinema in 1995, it was not before the release of the controversially discussed and heavily censored „Scrapbook“ that Stanze become a household name for gritty out-of-the-box independent films with an edge hardly to be found anywhere else. His latest effort „Ratline“ adds a highly complex and constantly jaw-dropping contribution to the subgenre of Nazi-horror and might best be described as „Inglourious Basterds on Acid“. A good reason for us to sit down with the filmmaker and avowed workaholic to talk about his career and aspirations, investors and censors, Romero, Raimi and a college screening that basically went through the roof.

screen/read: Let’s start out talking „Ratline“ which is pretty much the type of movie that would most likely never happen to be made in Germany. What was the inital idea behind the whole Nazi story on items like the blood flag, the SS paranormal division and other related material?

Eric Stanze: I am something of a Word War II buff. On a very serious level I had been interested for quite some time in the state of mind the average German people were in during the Nazi reign. And when I was thinking about what to come up with for our next horror movie, I knew that I wanted to do something that was very paranormal based. I had this idea of some kind of a very adult and aggressive „X-Files“-episode. Of course I knew about all these probably mostly fictional tales on the Nazis exploring paranormal avenues. And so I thought why not combine those two concepts by adding the Nazi aspect to the paranormal route? And so what I had learned from history influenced the screenplay although I mostly focused on the more fantastic elements. I wanted to treat the Nazi subject matter in a unique way. „Ratline“ is not a straight drama, nor is it some silly Nazi-exploitation movie. It’s somewhere between the two.

screen/read: There is an interesting tradition, if you will, of paranormal Nazi activities appearing in movies, with „Raiders of the lost Ark“ or „Hellboy“ only being the most popular examples. And there of course are lots of exploitation movies about it. In your film one of the many remarkable elements in that respect is a fake historic documentary that runs in its total length without being interrupted by the primary storyline. It works like a short film in itself.

Eric Stanze: There were basically two reasons for that. On the one hand we were trying to be somewhat fresh and innovative in terms of how to present a certain background information that is important for the story. But also, as we were dealing with a very low budget, I wanted to find a way of doing a flashback that wasn’t really one. And I figured if we did it like a military documentary film, it would give me the opportunity to basically get around and not show the stuff we couldn’t afford to put on screen. So it was both a way of trying to do things in a more inventive way than we’ve seen before and also it was a creative decision that was influenced by budgetary restrictions.

Ratline

Ratline

screen/read: You’ve been used to working within a very tight frame and shooting movies on a shoestring budget pretty much all through your filmmaking career. In this case you had some really tough decisions to make even during shooting when all of a sudden money that should be there wasn’t available anymore. With that in mind, how long did it take you to make the film and how much did the result differ from what you originally had in mind?

Eric Stanze: We started shooting back in 2008 and actually the entire movie was conceived almost as a plan B project. The very fact that „Ratline“ even exists was born of budgetary setbacks. I guess that’s the best way to put it. We had been developing a completely different feature called „Seizure“ but then the financing just crumbled and we realized that we eventually were not going to make this film. So we launched into „Ratline“ as an alternative, something that we could do more economically. The shoot actually went very very quickly. It was one of the faster ones that we’d ever done. We spent only about a month and a half really working on it full time, followed by little reshoots and pickup-shots that we did in the coming month after that. The real sluggishness that occurred due to the financial problems came in post-production where I would have to keep shutting down the editing and go off and work on something else to bring in some cash and then come back to continue working on the movie. Generally speaking, on a low budget you always have to use your team’s creativity, your own experience, you have to navigate around problems, you don’t have the cash to throw at them and make them disappear. A lot of rewriting happening while we were shooting to make the script fit because the money just wasn’t there. But I’m in the frame of mind that every movie just is a product of the circumstances that it was produced under. So if we had 20 milion dollars we might have wished we had 50 milion. You never quite have exactly what you want when you make a movie, so no matter what budget you’re at you have to approach it with both your creative intentions and also with a lot of plan B and plan C scenarios in your head so that when problems come up you can work around them efficiently.

screen/read: It seems to be a constantly reappearing issue in the history of Wicked Pixel Cinema. You’re doing this for quite some time now and still remain true to this very difficult indie approach despite quite a number of throwbacks, restarts, scripts that couldn’t be filmed and stuff like that. And while others would most likely have given up already, you and your team stay put and solid. What is it that keeps you on track instead of joining the industry and doing multi-milion dollar mainstream?

Eric Stanze: Well, a lot of the line that we’re on is not the line that we’ve chosen. We would all prefer to not have to suffer and starve as much as we do to get each movie made. I feel like we’ve made enough movies that have gotten enough positive attention to have us move up in the industry. We should be getting bigger budgets and we should be better connected and have budgets that allow us to put on screen what we want to put on screen. Going into each project with your creative aspirations and then having to compromise by putting something on screen that isn’t quite what you wanted because the money and the resources aren’t there, can be very depressing and more than anything is the cause of a lot of heartbreak. We’ve had many people comment to us that we should be getting bigger budgets, that we’ve proven ourselves, that we should be moving up the ladder so to speak, but we’ve just kind of hit lots of road blocks along the way. A lot of people hit those road blocks and they just stopped and quit filmmaking. Speaking for me and my team though, I always had this kind of stubbornness. I don’t like to sit still for long, I don’t like to go a long period of time between projects. Call it tenacity or call it stupidity, but my attitude has always been like if somebody isn’t going to assist us in making a bigger movie then we’re just going to make another one on our own anyway. So either you’re on board with us or we’ll see you on the other side [laughs].

Ratline

screen/read: Let’s travel a little back in time to a period when you started making your first films and then founded Wicked Pixel with many of the people that are still part of it today. What would you say was the initial experience that made you realise and decide that you wanted to do movies?

Eric Stanze: I was still a teenager when I developed an intense interest in making films. I was very much influenced by George A. Romero and Sam Raimi and I knew they had been able to make really interesting movies without huge Hollywood budgets. That was very inspiring and I started making my own little student films but didn’t really think about it in terms of a career. I kind of thought that this was just not anything that I would ever be able to even get anywhere close to. In senior year in highschool then I made a feature-length student film called „The Scare Game“. It was a terrible amateur student movie but it ended up falling into the hands of a distributor who liked it and ended up releasing it. It came out in North America and probably maybe another dozen territories around the world and I thought, well, if my crappy little student film can make that kind of headway, then maybe I should be looking at this more like a career and less like a hobby. So I launched into it one-hundred percent and haven’t slowed down since, learning from each film and trying to make the next one better. I guess that just attracted certain people like Tommy Biondo, Jeremy Wallace and Jason Christ. So we all kind of teamed up and together had everything moving forward little bit by little bit. And even if we didn’t have the bigger budgets coming our way, which we’re still fighting for, I at least had a really solid team around, and I had their creativity and their talents and their problem-solving abilities that helped each new movie getting made and kept us progressing on to the next.

screen/read: There’s a funny and remarkable story about a screening of „The Scare Game“ at Jefferson College where people were shut out and not allowed to watch it below the age of seventeen. How did that come about?

Eric Stanze: Well, I was attending that college at the time and somebody just brought up the idea of screening my film for the other students and the public. I guess they did it because the movie was getting attention and not because they had actually watched it. However, a few days before the screening somebody at the college decided they would have a look at the movie and I don’t know what exactly upset them, but all of a sudden there were posters up everywhere, saying „no-one under seventeen admitted“ and that you have to show ID at the door. So while otherwise the audience would probably have consisted of about eight people, due to those posters all of a sudden the place was packed and we had a crowd around the entrance. It’s been such a ridiculous situation especially because the movie is just so awful [laughs]. So the fact that the college made a big deal out of it was both amusing and embarrassing.

Scrapbook

screen/read: It wasn’t the last time one of your films caused controversial reactions. Probably the most profound example is „Scrapbook“which despite raving reviews is still not available in various countries. When you started working on this film back in 2000, did you expect to any degree that it was going to become such a divisive case?

Eric Stanze: We didn’t expect it at all. That was a period in the progression of what we were doing when I still felt like we were very very much under the radar. The first two ‘professional films’ that I had done were „Savage Harvest“ and „Ice from the Sun“, and I pretty much went into „Scrapbook“ with this feeling like nobody’s paying attention to us, nobody’s really seeing our movies, and so we can do whatever we want but in the end it probably won’t matter because nobody will ever see it. So because the shoot was very grueling and emotionally taxing, I actually said to the cast and crew at one point, you know, we’re not in the position where a lot of people are going to see these movies that we’re making yet, and there’s a strong likelihood that „Scrapbook“ could be released and only ten people on the planet will watch it and then it will just vanish and never be seen again. And I asked everybody if they were all comfortable moving forward and completing this project which is obviously very rough on the actors, especially for Emily Haack. But the immediate reaction was, yes, let’s keep moving forward, let’s do this, no matter how many people are going to watch it because at least we’ve been part of the work that’s been done. And so we finished the movie and it ended up making way bigger splash than any one of us ever thought that it would. It was probably the film that finally transitioned me up a few notches in terms of recognizability, and obviously the one that did get a lot of great reviews and gave us a lot of positive attention. So I’m really glad that we went ahead and finished it. But we didn’t anticipate that kind of glowing response to the film and therefor we didn’t anticipate any of the controversy that would come with it.

screen/read: I guess if this movie had gotten in the hands of an interested arthouse distributor it would probably have found its way into theatres alongside films like „Irreversible“ or „Antichrist“ or „Intimacy“. Because it’s less horror in a stricter sense, but more a theatrical, very tough and intense two-persons-drama. Hence it still might not really have reached its core audience so far. Do you think that is due to the fact that you’ve been rather identified with horror back then and still are?

Eric Stanze: That’s a tough question. I don’t know. When going into it, those kinds of thoughts were pretty far from our mind. We weren’t really planning out how we wanted the movie to be perceived. We were just so focused on the idea that we had and tryed to make the best movie that we could make. I don’t know if it had been perceived differently when being released ten years later or handled by a distribution company that could have put that kind of a spin on it. I’ve had some people talk to me about how they feel confident that „Scrapbook“ is a movie that could get a bigger budget if it were to be remade and that it could be viewed as this extremely tough arthouse movie, but I don’t know about that personally. I think if somebody did get hold of it with that kind of intentions and remade it, the movie would lose some of its edge. The fact that it has that edge and the fact that it’s not playing to the cheesy B-movie horror audience is what gave it it’s strength. I think people who watched movies at that budget level back then were simply not used to seeing movies that were handled with such a serious tone. And handled like a drama instead of a horror movie. And if you look at Emily Haack’s performance, I really don’t know if there’s another actress working out there who could have brought such bravery to that part.

screen/read: It’s visible that most of what makes this movie what it is pretty much happened on set and at the very moment when it was shot. It has an improvised feel to it, and that is what makes it so believable and so shocking at the same time. Which might be a reason why you had quite some trouble getting it distributed in various countries. The BBFC demanded to cut about seventeen minutes I think.

Eric Stanze: Well, they didn’t ask us or make us cut them out. It was just seventeen minutes that they wanted to be taken out and then it just happened. It wasn’t us who cut those sequences out. Whoever was the first distributor in Europe, they handled it and did the re-edit of the movie. It was done without our blessing and it was done without our participation. I’ve never seen that version in its entirety. Out of curiousity I watched about halfway through it and then decided that was enough.

screen/read: If you had the chance to participate in the re-edit, would you have done that or refused to do it?

Eric Stanze: That’s a good question. I prefer to be hands on with that sort of thing. I like to do it myself because then I know it’s done the way I want it. But before I saw the shortened European version I was sent a list of the cuts that they were demanding. And the cuts were extremely specific. There was not a whole lot of opportunity to be creative with the whole issue. It was a list that very much specified it’s got to go away from this moment to this moment. So even if I had been involved in the editing I don’t think the shortened version would have been much different than it is now.

screen/read: It destroys the whole picture.

Eric Stanze: Yes, it does.

screen/read: Did you have other experiences where you were meant to re-edit movies or cut stuff out, not for budgetary reasons but for distributor’s wishes or censorship or whatever?

Eric Stanze: I think as far as I’m aware the only trouble that we’ve ever had along those lines was with „Scrapbook“. I’ve had a couple of siuations where distributors would talk to me during post-production and tell me, well, you need to cut this out and you need to not include that kind of material. And basically their reasoning was, if you don’t eliminate these controversial elements, you’re never going to achieve wide distribution. And I always looked at them like, well, I’m not going to achieve wide distribution anyway so why make those cuts? So I would just ignore the advice and do it the way I wanted to.

Ratline

screen/read: Do you think that the new channels of distribution via VOD and the web in general can help especially filmmakers like yourself who produce rather difficult and uncompromising material to gain broader attention?

Eric Stanze: I think we saw that kind of change happening right around the time that the DVD boom began around 1999. A lot of people grew up with horror movies on VHS, knowing that these releases were cut, and now these guys were old enough to get into the distribution game themselves and started their own small DVD companies. And so with DVD becoming a big deal, all of a sudden you got to see all these movies uncut for the first time delivered to your home and you could throw away the VHS and the terribly looking uncut bootleg version that you had acquired under the table somewhere. I think that mentality continues to this day. More and more people enter the industry of both filmmaking and distribution. And the internet is able to push this product all around the planet much easier. I think the days of material being cut out of movies are starting to see an end and people are a little more open-minded and able to embrace a movie for what it is. So I do see it improving.

screen/read: You were part of this revolution to some degree with „Ice from the Sun“ by being among of the first ones to put an indie film on DVD and produce the authoring yourself. What was the reason for that decision back then?

Eric Stanze: At the very beginning of the DVD boom I recognised that this was the direction that we needed to go in, and that the sooner we connected with that part of the industry the better. And as I felt like it wasn’t something that I wanted to wait around, I decided to dive in head first as quickly as I could. The downside of it was that producing the authoring was still in its infancy. There were a lot of people who tried to figure it out and didn’t do a very good job at it. First we dealt with outside companies to get our first DVDs released but it was an absolute desaster. So I decided if I wanted it to be done right, I needed to do it by myself. And that’s actually how I got into the DVD authoring game, partly out of foresight that this was a direction we had to go, partly out of frustration due to dealing with incompetent people and having to take my movie away from them and then do it myself.

screen/read: With „Ratline“ you decided to first distribute the film by means of VOD before putting it out on DVD. Did you already get an idea how that worked and if the strategy was right or needs more elaboration?

Eric Stanze: We’re still figuring that out. Just about everybody, from the indies all the way to the major studios, hasn’t quite figured out how this kind of rebirth of the film distribution machine works and how to maximaze its potential. We’re all navigating those waters for the first time. It’s a different ball game than it was only five years ago. So I’d say it’s too early to know if we’re doing it exactly right or if we’re screwing something up. It’s an experience that I’m interested in learning from at this point.

screen/read: So it’s a trail you plan to be following in the future?

Eric Stanze: I would assume so, although this is on many many levels a very transitional period, not only in terms of the direction that distribution is going, but also concerning the direction that my career specifically is going. I don’t know what my next feature project is going to be, I don’t know how it’s going to be financed, I don’t know how it’s going to be distributed. It’s all kind of up in the air at this point and I’m genuinely excited about seeing what people come to me and offer their expertise and their ressources. I’m very interested in taking this learning experience and applying it in some way to whatever our next project is.

Ratline

screen/read: Another new development for indie film production is the whole area of crowdfunding that many small and micro budget filmmakers are turning to. Is that an option for your projects, something that you considered trying in the future as well? Especially as there is quite a solid fanbase of yours that might be willing to participate financially.

Eric Stanze: It’s something that I’ve definitely looked into but it’s more in the research base at this point. It’s not something that I’m completely sold on because there are so many differing opinions about it. There are people telling me that the track record and the fanbase that I’ve accumulated over twenty years get me an edge over some guys that are trying to do the crowdfunding thing and make their first feature. So there’s that positive aspect of that. But then there are a lot of other people that I’ve talked to who say that crowdfunding basically just accumulates enough money to put something on the screen but everybody still has to suffer and starve to get through the production of the movie, and it still doesn’t give you all the ressources and better ressources than what we’ve had in the past. So the other part of me thinks, why would I go through the process of crowdfunding if it’s just going to put us back at the same level that we had when we were making „Ratline“? And then I’ve talked to other filmmakers who seem to have a quasi ethical problem with trying to raise money through donations from people who are probably fighthing themselves to keep their lights on. And then there are the people that swear by it and think that’s the way independent movies are going to be financed eventually. So there’s a whole strange swirl of opinions around about the crowdfunding thing. It’s just a very new way of getting independent films funded but it still has to go to a lot of trials before we figure out how to maximize its potential.

screen/read: You already mentioned that this is a transitional phase in your career, and you did a few interesting things on the side. You shot second unit on „Stakeland“ for instance, a horror movie that is sold quite well, and also made a documentary on that one. What was the experience like, especially as the budgetary frame probably differed decisively from what you usually have? And is that where you’d say Wicked Pixel should move up to pretty soon?

Eric Stanze: Absolutely. I think that’s not even were we should be but even more where we’re already moving to. And I hope there won’t be any more setbacks that will knock us off that course. It’s where I feel things are gravitating towards. Working on the set of „Stakeland“ was a completely positive experience, being able to have enough money to pay professionals that come in and do all these different tasks and also are really great people to work with. That’s definitely a state that I want us to progress into and that I think we are progressing into.

screen/read: But would a bigger budget also mean compromising here and there or do you think that you could work the way you always did?

Eric Stanze: Well, while „Stakeland“ had a significantly bigger budget than what my movies are produced on, I didn’t see anything in those filmmakers that seemed like they were being forced to compromise. It’s an issue of carefully selecting the people that you’re partner with. That goes with your crew, that goes with your cast, that goes with the producers, that goes with the people that are financing the movie. Instead of just jumping at anybody who is willing to write a big cheque, I think you do have to be careful and just select the people that you want to work with and make sure that they’re willing to support what you want to do creatively. The movie has to be as good as it can possibly be and everybody is working for that goal. So if anybody is interested in doing something that’s on to corrode the quality of the project or the artistic aspirations of the creative people involved, then you just shouldn’t work with them.

Deadwood Park

screen/read: As a thought experiment, imagining „Deadwood Park“, a less controversial film of yours, had been made with a bigger budget, it could have certainly been sold to a bigger audience. And up to a certain point it might have even worked as a PG-13 ghost movie. So would that be a direction you could imagine moving into with more money around?

Eric Stanze: I don’t know, I tend to look at those controversial elements in terms of what works best for a particular movie. I mean, you’re right „Deadwood Park“ borders on that PG-13 level of more mainstream acceptability, but that wasn’t something I intended to do. I went into it actually being very much inspired by the films of Mario Bava and certain more atmospheric films of the sixties and seventies, and I wanted just to make that kind of a movie. The marketability aspect of it or the mainstream aspect of it wasn’t really in the forefront of my thoughts. I’m of the opinion that if any of these movies that I made had a bigger budget, it would be better and be able to find more traction in the marketplace and be able to reach more people. If „Ratline“ had a bigger budget, then I would have been able to achieve more of what I wanted to do and I would have been able to reach a wider audience but I also think I would have been able to keep the more aggressive and more controversial aspects and not give them up just because I had a bigger budget to work with.

screen/read: Despite budgetary restrictions, „Ratline“ pretty much feels to me like being designed for not just being a standalone movie but also happening on various platforms afterwards, thinking comic books, spin-offs and sequels centering around the mythology behind the story. Is that a trail you’d be interested in following, like establishing a horror franchise of a certain kind?

Eric Stanze: I think that maybe one of the reasons why you kind of get that sense is this idea of having a lot of misdirection in the movie and kind of putting things in the forefront for a brief period of time and then pulling them way back and eventually discarding them entirely as the narrative progresses. That was something Jason [Christ] and myself were interested in doing. We did that partly because this type of misdirection is not something that you usually get to see in movies and I thought that it added an interesting texture. The result of it is that that you do have all of these various plot threads that could be exploited for exactly what you’re talking about. There is definitely more material in „Ratline“ that could fuel sequels or comic book adaptations. That would be very interesting and I certainly wouldn’t turn down the opportunity if somebody came to us pitching those kinds of ideas, but that wasn’t at the forefront of our minds when we were writing. I think that the movie will pretty much remain a standalone thing, but you never know. Maybe in the future we might dig back into some of the storylines again.

screen/read: The fact that the movie is constantly leading the viewer astray is one of the decisive elements that makes it so interesting and refreshing. But „Ratline“ is not the only movie of yours that has a more complex narration. Is that something you’re especially attracted to when conceiving a movie?

Eric Stanze: Oh absolutely, that’s exactly where I tend to gravitate towards. If you asked me what is the single mosts important thing that I would like to see in a movie, and my answer would always be: the unexpected, something in that successfully catches the audience off-guard. That’s when you’ve done something remarkable. But I don’t think a lot of filmmakers agree with that these days, or maybe it’s rather the people financing movies. When you present them with a concept that is off the beaten path and isn’t necessarily going to make an immediate giant pile of cash, people interested in financing and distributing your movies get very scared. If it’s not easily being packaged and sold, they’re not interested. But to me it’s exactly what makes a movie most interesting. And I prefer to come up with stuff that people probably don’t know how to feel about when the end credits roll, but sticks with you and maybe the next day or maybe the next year you still are thinking about. It puts more flaws into the project if you experiment but at least my track record shows that people do continue thinking about the movies. It’s really fulfilling to have people still approach me about „Scapbook“, and that movie is out for over ten years now. And that’s the kind of filmmaker that I am trying to be, who has a little bit more of a shelf life, even if that means exploring and improvising and making a movie that isn’t immediately satisfying but grows to you over a longer period of time. But I guess the attitude of people who are investing is all about making as much money as quickly as possible. It’s kind of fueled by the Hollywood mentality that opening weekend box-office is the most important thing to determine whether a movie is succesful or not. I’ve always been of the opinion that if you’re going to put money in something, you’re better off with a long-term investment, something that might pay out over many many years. I see that with older movies that I am a huge fan of and that have become classics and were made maybe fifteen years ago. I look at those movies and think, well, that was a good investment because ten or twenty years later they get re-released and that’s another chunk of money coming to the investors. And I would think that most people would want to have that, but typically they don’t.

screen/read: One of the reasons for that might be that most people investing in movies today rather approach them from a pure business side are not really film lovers and don’t understand the nature of art and entertainment that evolves over the years, especially in the independent sector.

Eric Stanze: Yeah, I agree, that is part of the problem. There are a lot of people that control the business side of it but don’t really care about the art side of it. I’m not one of these people who think that movies are just art and doesn’t care if they make money. I’m totally aware of and I completely embrace the fact that motion pictures are a blend of commerce and art. And you have to pay attention to both sides of it. But the investment part of the industry is probably rather irrational than anything else.

Ratline

Ratline

screen/read: Let’s talk a little bit about artistic influences What would you say are the movies or filmmakers that sort of shaped you into who you are today?

Eric Stanze: When I was very young I think probably the filmmaker that had the biggest influence on me was George Romero. The darker, more dramatic, more bleak tone in his zombie movies, I think that shaped the tone of my films as well. Also I was very influenced by Sam Raimi’s „Evil Dead“ which is a little more boisterous but what it sparked in me was to keep things visually interesting, especially in terms of camera placement and just having a very fearless attitude about creating visuals for movies. As I grew older I tried to watch a lot of different kinds of movies and never restricted myself to certain genres or types of films. I like the idea that I can be a fan of both Joe D’Amato and Terrence Malick. I like the idea that all of these influences have been slowly entering my brain basically my entire life. So when it comes time to make a movie I have all of them to draw on.

screen/read: Wouldn’t it be fantastic to see Terrence Malick shooting a Joe D’Amato script?

Eric Stanze: [laughs] That would be amazing!

screen/read: You also wrote two science-fiction scripts that have not been shot yet, with „Tempest of the Dawn“ being one of them. Is that still a project you’d like to follow today?

Eric Stanze: Well, generally speaking, one of the things that I’d like to explore in the future is the science-fiction area because I haven’t done that yet and I think that that would be fun. What I value most about those unproduced screenplays is just the practice that they gave me. None of them I would put into production today. They all have decent things in them but they all would need to have major re-writing on them because I advanced beyond where I was when I wrote them. So I wouldn’t pick „Tempest of the Dawn“ and make it right now unless I have the opportunity to give it a really thorough re-write. But it made me a better writer. I think writing is both the easiest and the hardest part of filmmaking because you don’t need the money to do it while on the other hand, to write something that’s good is probably the hardest part of filmmaking. Some people are really lucky and they can just bust out of the gate at the age of twenty and write a screenplay that’s brilliant. I was not that fortunate, I had to work very hard at it and write and write and still write some more. Today I think that I’m a pretty good writer, but when I say that it doesn’t mean that I was born with some amazing talent or that I’m something special. I think I am a pretty good writer today because I’ve written so many bad scripts in the past.

screen/read: Apart from the films and filmmakers you mentioned, there has also been an important influence on a more personal level, which was your grandfather who helped you a lot with making your first movies and even acted in them and thus became a local celebrity in a certain way. It’s quite unusual because you’re making movies where you’d rather say, I’m not sure if I can show them to my parents, and here it’s even your gandfather who helped and supported you. That must have been a pretty close relationship.

Eric Stanze: Growing up, he was probably the strongest positive influence in my life. And it wasn’t so much like we buddied around a lot and had long, deep, heartfelt conversations and things like that. It was more that I just admired him. He was a very intelligent and get-the-job-done-kind-of-guy. He would look at what I was trying to do as a filmmaker no matter what was in the script or what kind of movie it was. He just supported what I was trying to do because he recognized that filmmaking made me happy and that it was something that I was trying to learn a lot about. I guess he admired that this teenager was more focused on trying to learn this craft than going out and party and getting drunk all the time or do whatever normal teens would do. I think he just recognized the positive qualities of it and then supported me unconditionally. And to have somebody that I admired so much show me so much support, I think that had just an immense impact on me growing up. He passed away a while ago and still his influence is felt and it still provides a lot of fuel for what I do today.

screen/read: That’s a very cool thing to say and having someone like that when you grow up probably helps you to become a strong person in life. And maybe that’s why you’re as stubborn as you are.

Eric Stanze: [laughs] It might be. Those of us who have a support like that are extremely lucky.

Eric Stanze

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