TIFF 2018 Interview: Olivia Vieweg and
“Together we’ve created a special look that I can best describe as a baroque, almost romantic, horror film style.”
You may be of the mindset that you’ve seen enough zombie movies and that you don’t need to see any more. And to that I say: but you haven’t seen ENDZEIT — EVER AFFTER yet. This is a zombie film, yes, but also not at all. It’s about life and death and harmony with nature and it’s beautiful and lush to watch.
The set-up of ENDZEIT is typical enough (near future, post-apocalyptic, zombies bad, people fight for survival) but after that everything about ENDZEIT is thoughtful and fascinating—and felt totally unique and fresh. The visuals of the film (particularly the absolutely incredible zombie makeup spfx) are the most striking and give ENDZEIT the look of a classical painting. (But don’t worry, there’s still some delicious gore in there too.)
I only realized after watching the film that ENDZEIT was originally a graphic novel and I’m hoping I can find it somewhere in English so I can devour that like I devoured this film. Seriously, don’t sleep on this film.
ENDZEIT is the result of an all-woman creative team and if this is what genre films can be with women at the helm, I welcome it like I would welcome my inevitable death in a zombie apocalypse (I’m a slow runner).
Carolina Hellsgård was born in Sweden and is based in Berlin. She studied experimental media design at the Berlin University of Arts and film directing and screenwriting at the California Institute of the Arts in Los Angeles. She made her feature directorial debut with Wanja (2015). ENDZEIT (2018) is her latest film.
Olivia Vieweg is a German cartoonist and author. She was born in Jena, and now lives in Weimar with her family. In 2015 she won the Tankred Dorst Preis for Best Screenplay of the Year for ENDZEIT.
You can see ENDZEIT — EVER AFTER at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, screening as part of Discovery on September 9th at 7:30PM and September 14th at 3:15PM. GET YOUR TICKETS HERE.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Olivia Vieweg: I was drawing since the moment I could sit on a chair. When I was about 9 years old, I came up with the idea to invent characters for Disney— back then I didn’t know that “character designer” is actually a real job in that business. Later the manga and anime boom hit me and I was determined to become a manga artist. I had this dream until I began studying graphic design at the Bauhaus University in Weimar. I came in touch with new people and news styles which led me to the comics and illustrations I’m doing now. I always write the stories for my comic books but it is all autodidactic and I decided to learn a bit more about writing. Which brought me to the Drehbuchwerkstatt Munich, a training program for people who want to learn about writing screenplays. The rest is history, right after I finished the program I had several film companies who showed interest in my screenplay for ENDZEIT, which was amazing.
How did you get involved with the film?
Carolina Hellsgård: I read Olivia’s screenplay and was very excited about it. Then I met the producers and they thought we would be a good fit.
Tell us about ENDZEIT. Where did the idea come from?
OV: I love horror movies, I try to watch everything that’s new and terrifying. One day my train stopped in the middle of nowhere between Weimar and Jena and I was wondering: What would happen if a horde of zombies run over hill and we are trapped in this train?
ENDZEIT is a zombie film like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Was the look/feel built into the script or developed along the way?
OV: Since there was already my ENDZEIT graphic novel (the old one from 2012), it was quite clear what the film could be like—because the story takes place in summer and everything looks beautiful. But I talked to Carolina and GrownUp Films and I was glad that we shared the quite same vision. When I did the new version of my graphic novel in 2018 I tried to make the nature even more beautiful.
CH: There were some things built into the script, like the heat and the looming presence of nature. The director of photography Leah Striker and I developed the concept for the film over a year. We didn’t necessarily want the comic look, but a more elevated and slightly artificial style.
ENDZEIT is a mixture of different genres and conventions. It consists of action moments true to its the genre, as well as calmer and almost lyrical moments, where we follow the characters as they move through the lush and apocalyptic landscape. The work by set designer Jenny Roesler, as well as costume designer Theresa Grosser, influenced the imagery. Together we’ve created a special look that I can best describe as a baroque, almost romantic, horror film style.
The score by composer Franziska Henke, also underlines the romantic element in the film. The sound track is melancholic and at the same time captivating, and reflects nature as a powerful and invasive component.
The make-up design was made by Make up artist Kathrin Westerhausen, she developed a concept based on natural elements. She convinced me with her artistic vision and playful approach to zombies.
Can you tell us about some/all of the other amazing women who worked on this film?
OV: As a writer you tend to be a bit isolated from the rest of the crew. I mostly worked with Carolina, Inge and Claudia. But I’m very happy that we got so many talented women for this project. I met Franziska Henke, the composer, by accident and I was very flattered that she really wanted to be part of ENDZEIT.
CH: I was extremely fortunate to work with this team, they are all very talented and fit perfectly to this project.
Tell us about why you are a feminist and why it’s important to your filmmaking.
OV: I grew up in eastern Germany which was and still is a stronghold for emancipation cause in the former GDR almost all the woman had to work after many people left the country before the wall was built. So every kid I knew had working mothers and we never got the feeling that there are things woman can’t do. It was only later when when I realized that woman still have such bad positions all around the world. Sometimes I’m still in the state of: What the heck?? This can’t be true… After I learned about the Bechdel Test I was devastated how many films wont pass the test. I’d be happy to change that.
CH: I believe in equality between women and men. I find it anti-democratic not to believe in this idea.
I am for the quota — a 50 % split between female and male filmmakers when it comes to film financing based on tax money. This is a necessary step in order for more women to work in the industry, we need to change the very structures of the system.
What’s the best advice about filmmaking you’ve ever received?
OV: What’s the worst thing that could happen to your protagonist? Let it happen.
CH: To cast right, then half of the directing job is already done.
What are you working on now/next?
OV: I’m writing a concept for a feel-good teenage dance project — It would be to exciting if that could be my next project! But I have so many ideas right now, I’d also like to do another horror movie, or a romantic comedy, or a victorian tearjerker, or a wicked coming-of-age-time-travel story!!
CH: I’m preparing my third feature film, which we will shoot in Spain this fall. It is a story about a young girl, Claire, who is on vacation with her sister and mother in south of Spain. She feels marginalized in her own family and spends a lot of time alone on the beach. There she meets the 15-year old Amram from Senegal, whom she promises to help.
What mythical creature do you wish actually existed?
OV: I have two Persian cats and I wish they would be as big as a house. So I basically wish there was a Persian monster cat. I would ride on it to the supermarket.
CH: A centaur.
Finally, recommend one #MUFFApproved film for our blog readers!
OV: I love Ghost World which has two unique female leads, I watched it when I was about 18 and it had a huge impact on me. I was so in love with every detail!! And it’s a comic adaption, yay!!!
CH: Beau Travail (dir. Claire Denis).