Blog: UK

Cat on the wall (blog)

Interview with Richard Wilhelmer

Cat On The Wall is very excited to present our first ever film feature. After viewing the trailer for “The Golden Foretaste of Heaven” on Alec Empire’s blog Eat Your Heart Out we decided to contact film maker Richard Wilhelmer and request an interview. Luckily for us Richard was more than happy to answer our questions! We talked to him via e mail about the film, his life and current projects…

Cat On The Wall: After searching on the internet we could only find small bites of information about you. Can you tell us a little about your history? Where did you grow up? Where are you now? How did you get there?

Richard Wilhelmer: I grew up in a rural town in Austria, and left home at the age of 14 to visit the “Ortwein School of Art/Design” in Graz. Then, I moved to Berlin. For whatever reason, I missed the application deadline for the University of the Arts Berlin, but it was fortunate because I got involved in several art projects and finally co-directed my first short film. There was no a specific person that influenced my artistic development but I think I was lucky to get involved in projects with a bunch of great minds and appreciate to still collaborate with most of them. After a while, I finally managed to apply for the University of the Arts in time and attended the Experimental Media Department. Currently, I am attending the Film Directing Program at CalArts (California Institute of the Arts) in the suburbs of L.A. as an exchange scholarship for one year.

COTW: “The Golden Foretaste of Heaven” is your latest project. How did this come about? Why did you choose to incorporate animation via 2D images?

RW: The idea originally came up when Alec Empire and I wanted to produce something like an elaborate overlengh music video… All of the sudden it became this apocalyptical short film script, that was still inspired by the album, but not a simple music video any more. In the end, Alec composed an entire soundtrack for the film together with Nic Endo. The experiment was, to create a somehow realistic world made of animated photo-collages combined with real actors that staged against a blue screen. I think that most of the computer generated images in film tend to be… somehow “clinically clean,” so my idea was to play with people‘s visual conditions. As I am more attracted to proper photos with defined structures, I combined real actors with real photographs… One of the most difficult tasks was to recreate the original light situations in the studio, but in the end it worked out quite well.

COTW: Technology seems to play a big part in your work. We found the public installation group project Stimmungs – Gasometer particularly fascinating! Is your embrace of technology because of a long time personal interest or is it something that you gradually became aware of during your artistic development?

RW: The concept for Stimmungs gasometer came up together with my close friend and colleague Julius von Bismarck who also did the camera work for most of my films. I am always very inspired by his work with technology and so I became interested to play around with these tools as well. Also, I think that certain topics need to be communicated in the most appropriate way. The knowledge about technology provides us with the possibility to subversively manipulate, but also makes people aware of creepy inventions, like for instance this software, that analyses your emotions without you even realizing it.

COTW: What or who inspired you to become a film director/artist?

RW: I think that it is always a matter of certain circumstances that encourages one to getting started with one project or another. There was no person in particular that ever pushed me to do something.
Speaking about film, compared to classical art forms like painting, sculpture, or music, it is a very young culture that developed enormously fast and became a very powerful tool. Nowadays, people are highly conditioned on all different formats or different narrative forms. I like to play with these conditions.

COTW: What role does music play when you are creating a film? What is your creative process?

RW: As I said previously, “The Golden Foretaste of Heaven” was heavily inspired by music and it is highly involved in the drama. Because of the somewhat complex production of the film, I had to have certain thoughts about it beforehand. However, I was thrilled about the ideas that Alec Empire and Nic Endo came up with when we finally worked on the soundtrack. Although it was kind of tricky at first, I adapted some of the edits to fit better with their compositions later on. There are certain general ideas about music in film, but for me it depends on the specific needs of the project. For instance, I’m currently working on a feature psycho thriller that tries to get away with hardly any music.

COTW: Do you have a favourite genre of film? Perhaps more than one even! Please tell us! Is there a particular genre that you’d like to focus on in your own work?

RW: I think my interests in genres are very spread out. Quentin Tarantino once said: “I like it when movies pay respect to their genre, and then rip its ass off!” I kind of go with him but think that certain genres like musicals should just get ripped off! No, seriously. I think that there are great films in almost every genre. I pay great respect to directors that are able to filter out the most meaning and powerful tools of a genre, exaggerate it and work with it precisely. I mean…for instance with “Sweeney Todd”, Tim Burton even made a musical somehow interesting to me! (And not just because Johnny Depp was acting in it)

COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?

RW: Trying to find an air conditioned editing suite.

Interview by Jo Whitby