Patrycia is confronted with her mother’s dementia diagnosis. Her teenage daughter Lena doesn’t accept that there’s nothing you can do. Together, Patrycia and her daughter explore ways to help their grandmother access her memories. But, unaware of their many attempts, grandmother Magdalena stays graciously unpredictable.
Interview with Victoria Koberstein:
Name and what you did in the film? Victoria Koberstein, writer, director, producer and editor.
What inspired you, or attracted you, to work on this film?
I was confronted with care dependency within our family when I was a teenager. Three close relatives needed daily care because of medical conditions and I observed how this would change the dynamics between all family members, especially the relationships between mothers and daughters, intergenerational.
I wrote the script for this film because it is one of the main aspects of life that shaped who I am today. I’ve lived and dealt with it, like many people do day-to-day, so I had the urge to bring it up, to make it visible, a large part of society that is still rarely discussed and largely overlooked in public, and to share grief as well as hope.
What do you like most about the story? Rather spontaneously, right before shooting, we decided to cast my grandmother, who was 89 at the time, to star in the film as herself. I let go of the dialogue I’d written beforehand and we shot the scenes with her by letting her improvise, letting her tell her own story. Looking back, these scenes are what I like most about the film, because there is a particular truth to them and her performance.
How did you get involved in filmmaking?
I started writing stories at an early age, and the older I got, the more these stories developed into films within my head. When I’d finished school, I felt so drawn to making films that I applied to study film at the School of Arts and Design Kassel.
On my very first day on set, I was reassured that this was what I wanted to do – and I haven’t stopped since.
Tell us about your process? Where do you start?
Usually, I see particular scenes in my mind before I start writing a script. This is very dependent on daily moods, sometimes there’s a lot there, thoughts and ideas, sometimes there isn’t. Then I discuss the script with a selected few and work on the dramatic composition. Simultaneously, I get into pre-production, casting, location scouting, financials, set-design, and I work closely with my Director of Photography. Once there’s a storyboard, I focus on directing. I figure out how to guide the actors through certain scenes, try out different approaches during rehearsals and specify what needs to be seen and told in every particular image.
While shooting, I oftentimes drop the script more or less entirely to be able to see clearly, to really understand what’s happening in front of me and not be distracted by what I imagined to see. Though the description of this process might seem quite linear, it is always a back-and-forth, a juggling of ideas on the spot to really get it right. The same goes for the editing process. It’s a challenge to let go of the script as well as the shoot and to watch the material through the eyes of someone who’s never heard about the story.
Tell us some difficulties during the process or a unique story that happened? It was a two-edged decision to work with family members as actresses. Working with my mother, who plays Patrycia, and my grandmother, both new to the film set experience, was a bold shot for a first-time narrative short film. Starring as oneself in a film is very difficult, but I knew that if we managed to let them forget the camera, they’d be the most authentic cast for this story, since they have lived through the experiences they depict on screen. Of course there was frustration when things didn’t work out, take after take after take, but there were just as many beautiful moments. Seeing my grandmother laugh as herself, not as the character she was portraying, and seeing my mother cry as herself (a scene that wasn’t planned or scripted), capturing these moments that weren’t acted but felt, was an incredible experience.
Tell us how important independent filmmaking is to you? Independent filmmaking means diversity. It lets us dive into realities of life that we might otherwise never get in touch with. It brings us stories that the box office wouldn’t. It broadens our minds and our capability to feel empathy.
What are you currently working on or plan to work on in the future? I’m currently in pre-production for another narrative short film dealing with family structures, focussing on the relationship between siblings, with production starting in April. Meanwhile, I’m editing my third music video and writing the script for my graduation film.
What are some filmmakers, directors, writers that inspire you? I first fell in love with film when I watched “The Departed“ by Martin Scorsese. During my studies, I especially dove into the works of Alfred Hitchcock, David Lynch and Michael Haneke. Lately, I’ve been inspired by Miranda July and Maria Schrader.
Any advice to filmmakers just starting out? Shoot as much as you can. It takes a lot of energy, negotiation, compromise, persistence and courage – and there’s a lot to gain by watching and analyzing films, but much more to gain by making them. It’s worth all the energy.
Facebook: Victoria Koberstein
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