German director Marc-Andreas Bochert discussed various aspects of his career in film. He displays a Student Academy Award (Oscar) in his office, among other film prizes, for his short film Small Change. He shares his initiation to the world of film directing, starting with his graduation project from film school.
KP: Tell me a little bit about the graduation film.
B: It’s a short film called Small Change. It is based on the theme from a play by Christopher Hampton, The Philanthropist. It is a story about a businessman and a beggar who meet every day on the same city street, who become involved in a strange relationship. The businessman wants to ignore the beggar and the beggar wants to be recognized by the businessman. The businessman then tries to find out what is really important in his life but at the expense of the beggar. That was the theme of my graduation film and it was 15 minutes long.
KP: So 15 minutes constitutes a short film?
B: Yes, it was a classic short film.
KP: What year did you make your graduation film?
KP: I heard that you were given some special awards for your film?
B: Yes, it has won a lot of awards but one of the most important was the Student Academy Award for the Best Foreign Student Film in 1999. The following year, it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action short film. It also won the Silver Bear for the German short film prize in 1999, as well as the Studio Hamburg Nachwuchs prize, which is a talent prize for students, not established filmmakers or professionals.
KP: Upon completion of your project for graduation, did you automatically sign up for various contests or did the contests come to you?
B: We were so lucky, because the first thing that happened was that the film won the Student Academy Prize. And people like to give awards to films that have already won awards. So, we had a big start and nobody dared ignore us; therefore, we were invited to every festival. We did not take home a prize all the time. But, we were so fortunate that early on we had become somewhat famous for producing something that was quality, as well as award-winning. Because of this fact, we had many calls asking us just to forego the application process and just send the video of the film for viewing. We had no problem to promote the film. I saved a lot of money on application fees because when you are an award winner, the costs often are free for your entrance film. I was very fortunate because my promotion skills are not one of my strong points. My film and its awards promoted itself.
KP: In reference to the contests or festivals, are they interested in you as a director as well as your film?
B: Oh, yes! Sometimes you get invited along with the film because they would like to announce that you, the winner of the student award, will be there along with the film. It is an advantage. However, you still have to enter regular competitions like everyone else and to already be a winner was very helpful in the beginning.
KP: Could receiving so many awards in the beginning be a disadvantage for you?
B: Oh, no! It definitely is an advantage. It opened some doors for amazing opportunities and contacts. The good thing was it was my final graduation film and not my first film at the film school. That also happened to others, and it is hard to come down off of this high and still have to study and continue working as a student after winning such awards. You really just want to go out and start working when a prize is given for your work. It was really good for me, because I was looking for jobs after film school, and I had this amazing resume right off the bat, as a prize winner and then coming fresh out of school. This was and probably always will be an impressive point in my resume. It was more and more of an advantage for me, but from a psychological point of view, it can also be a hindrance, if you get too much praise too quickly. But, I believe that the advantages really outweigh the disadvantages.