Exclusive Interview with Otwin Biernat, Country: Austira

1. Hello Otwin, we appreciate you providing us with an exclusive interview regarding your project, "DeadEnd." Viewing your project has made us very happy. Would you kindly describe your experience working on this project?

Working on my film DeadEnd was very intense because I had the concept to make a narrative feature film on my own. So, there was nobody else involved, no camera, sound, set, costume design department, etc. It was only me who did everything. The shooting took place in a mountain cottage in the Austrian Alps over a period of three seasons: autumn, winter, and spring. Being alone in the mountains and shooting a film is not an easy task because you have to do every single step on your own. There is nobody else who can help you with the camera, light, focus, directing, acting, or sound. This was a very tough and intense time for me. Surprisingly, the sound compositions and sound effects with different instruments were quite easy for me. But the post-production was overwhelming too. If you have to do everything on your own, it feels like climbing a massive mountain without seeing the top. It took me 5 years to finish this film. So, I would not recommend doing a feature film on your own.

2. Why did you select this particular concept—an experiment—and why did you use a particular site, such as a tree with a hanging rope? Why did you decide on that?

I have always been fascinated by unconventional ways of telling a story. I love films like “The Celebration” by Vinterberg and I appreciate the concept of Dogma95. I enjoy simplifying things because it forces you to think differently and find creative solutions outside of the norm. You can’t hide a weak story behind flashy effects; it becomes evident whether your story or directing is strong or weak. This process helps you identify your weaknesses and strengths, ultimately making you a better filmmaker, even though it can be challenging.

3. Give us more information about yourself and your career path.

I studied drama in Vienna and come from the theatre background. When I moved to Berlin, I worked on music videos and short films. The short film “Codewort Mr. Bean” screened at the Berlinale in 2011. I then spent three years in Qatar working for Al Jazeera English. Upon returning to Hamburg, I resumed my acting career in theatre while also writing the screenplay for my first feature film, “Point of View.” This was a challenging project for the actors, sound team, and myself, as everything had to be executed flawlessly within 23-minute intervals. Despite facing personal hardship with the passing of my father during filming, I successfully completed the movie, which went on to receive awards at numerous festivals, including its world premiere at the Jagran Film Festival in Mumbai. Following a year of festival screenings, I embarked on a new experimental project, writing the screenplay for “DeadEnd.” This film was a personal challenge for me, as I aimed to create a feature entirely on my own. As far as my research shows, “DeadEnd” may be the first narrative feature film created by a single person. It took five years to complete, and the process was incredibly demanding. In addition to my film work, I have also directed music videos, short films, and served as a jury member for various film festivals such as the KinoDuel IFF, Fotofilm IFF, Pompei Film Festival, and Antakya International Film Festival. I have also been involved in organizing film festivals in Italy through our association C4C, including the Pompei Street Cinema Festival, Neapolis Persia Film Festival, and Casoria Film Festival. Currently, I am working on two feature films, one in Italy and another in Germany.

4. Would you mind giving us a sneak peek at some of your next projects in this field?

Kristina Böhm, the daughter of Karlheinz Böhm who is known for the Sissi films and the foundation “Menschen für Menschen” (People for People), wrote a book called “Splitter in unseren Herzen” (Splinters in Our Hearts) and asked me if we wanted to make a film out of it. Therefore, I will write the screenplay and direct it. The feature film will be set in Germany. Additionally, there are some other films in the planning phase, but it is too early to provide more details about them.

5. What have been some of the most challenging positions you have held in your professional life, and what challenges did you face along the way?

One of the most challenging moments was when I was shooting “Point of View” and received the message that my father had died. This happened during the shooting, and for a moment, I considered cancelling the shoot. However, I decided to continue. I directed the film and operated the camera as well. Holding a camera for 25 minutes without a break is physically challenging, but “Point of View” is an intense family drama. The actors also faced difficulties as they had to portray deep emotions in a drama about death while knowing that the director’s father had just passed away. Despite the challenges, they were very supportive and did a great job. Editing the film was also a challenge. I faced similar challenging moments while shooting my second feature film, “DeadEnd.” Working on an entire film alone is quite daunting. You have to handle every aspect by yourself, from camera positioning, focusing, lighting, sound recording, acting, reviewing footage, listening to sound recordings, and starting over repeatedly, to recording music. It’s a never-ending process but a valuable lesson in filmmaking and self-reliance. Being alone in a mountain cottage during winter for weeks, with freezing temperatures, while telling an intense story, presented its own set of challenges. I became so immersed in the project that I sometimes neglected my own safety. The film captures some risky moments, and if something had happened to me, there would have been no one around to help.

6. What is your opinion of the global entertainment industry as it stands today?

This is a difficult question. On the one hand, making movies has become much cheaper, and there are so many movies out there. We can easily watch almost everything online. We can choose between thousands of movies, and if we get bored after a few seconds, we can just change the film. On the other hand, I can remember when I had to go to the video rental store, where I picked two films on videotapes and took them home for a night. That felt quite special. I celebrated those nights. There used to be much more attention and appreciation for a single film. The overload of entertainment and mass consumption can destroy the appreciation of a single movie.

7. You are from Austria; how is the state of the film industry there right now? Which movie—the commercial or the art house—did you prefer?

There are some great Austrian movies. I love Austrian humor. I think, for such a small country, we are doing great. Everybody knows Haneke or Ulrich Seidl. They are great, but there are many more great filmmakers. I like the film “Indien” directed by Paul Harather with Josef Hader and Alfred Dorfer. “Hinterholz 8” by Sicheritz is great fun too. I love the black comedies with morbid dark humor. You can find it also in Scandinavian films and in my latest film “DeadEnd” too.

8. In terms of DeadEnd distribution, what do you anticipate—a theatrical release or other means(OTT)? Do you believe that the movie business is now more reliant on OTT platforms than on theatrical distribution?

I want a theatrical release for DeadEnd, at least in the German-speaking areas like Austria, Germany, and maybe Switzerland. There are some arthouse cinemas that also showed my film “Point of View,” and I am pretty sure I can screen “DeadEnd” there too. Those cinemas also have VOD online, and myfilm is available there as well. So, yes, OTT has become very important. Like I said before, you can watch everything online. Therefore, the priority is shifting more towards online streaming and online distribution.

9. What is your opinion on independent filmmakers, and how do they connect or market their films to the right distribution channels?

I consider myself an independent filmmaker and I have the utmost respect for the independent arthouse scene. There are such creative and talented people out there who deserve much more attention. I understand the struggles with financing, funding, and promoting your concept or film. Many of us creatives excel in filmmaking and storytelling but struggle with marketing and selling. However, selling and promoting your film is essential to reach your audience. Therefore, securing distribution is not always easy, but we must always try. It is crucial to research thoroughly before signing any agreements and to choose trustworthy partners because our film is our baby and should be treated with the utmost respect.

10. To conclude, once again, many thanks, and what message would you like to share with the next generation regarding your love of guidance?

To me, it seems that in modern times, everything has to happen faster and faster. There is no time anymore to grow and learn slowly. Patience gets lost. Too many people think they are already experts in any topic after investing a few months. There is such a rush that everyone is expected to be successful on social media immediately. If you are not instantly successful, you are considered a loser or a failure. My message is that failing is a part of success. When we fail, it is a chance for us to learn the most from it. Every great director has failed in their career. We have to fail to get better. You should not try to be better than others or compare yourself to them. This only creates stress and makes you unhappy. Try to be different in what you do because every human being is unique. Be yourself in your actions. We should strive to improve for ourselves, to enhance and grow our own skills. It is not a battle or a constant competition; it is about you having something to say. It is about telling your story. If there is a battle, the only battle should happen within you when you get creative. It is the battle between creativity and self-doubt. You should always overcome your insecurities. This is the only battle you have to fight. And believe me, this is hard enough.

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