Children’s film – children can no longer be trusted to watch real film

Director Veit Helmer about his new film "Nonsense and the coati"

Veit Helmer in conversation with Susanne Burg

He had to overcome some hurdles before he finished his children’s film "Nonsense and the coati" had financed. It is not based on an already successful book, nor is it animated. But he succeeded and in an interview Veit Helmer explains why his film has become one for children and one for adults.

Susanne Burg: You hear "full screen", the film magazine in Deutschlandradio Kultur. The "Southgerman newspaper" did a review of the children’s film earlier this year "Five friends 3" Written the following: "The good thing about a frozen pizza: It is thawed quickly, always tastes the same, after which everyone is satisfied. The situation is similar with the German children’s film: it can be consumed quickly, the ingredients are always the same, only the proportions of play, fun, adventure and friendship vary." So far that "Southgerman newspaper", not a good testimony, which the author gave to the genre. And there is now a director in the studio, a children’s film of which is currently playing in German cinemas, "Nonsense and the coati". Hello, Veit Helmer!

Veit Helmer: Good day!

Castle: The author speaks to you from the heart?

Helmer: Yes, there is more that bothered me. When I wanted to go to the cinema with my son, there were only animated films for small children. So you can no longer trust young children to watch real films. And then most of what you see in the cinema is a film adaptation of success books. I noticed that very quickly when I was looking for funding with my script that I was really told clearly in the face, i.e. from the distributor side: We only want to bring films to the cinema that are based on a successful book. Films that are supposed to be made on an original screenplay are very difficult to get to the cinema today.

"The cinema is no longer innovative"

Castle: Why is that?

Helmer: Well, of course that’s an economic risk. There is of course something true: parents prefer to go with theirs children to the cinema when they already know what to expect. So the risk of getting involved in something new is perhaps greater for adults than if the adults take their children with them.

Castle: On the other hand, the films also work for adults, because they are often based on book templates, when I think of films from recent years, "The Great Gatsby", "Medicus", "Night Train to Lisbon" – all film adaptations.

Helmer: Well, there is actually not only criticism of the children’s film, but overall that one says: The cinema is no longer innovative, the cinema only reproduces itself with sequels, prequels, spin-offs. Since putting something new on the market is always a risk, and then finding partners for it, I realized then, is really an adventure.

Castle: Your film "Nonsense and the coati", You make six kindergarten children the main characters who live in the idyllic Bollersdorf, which consumer researchers then choose as the most average place on earth. The product testers are approaching, using the residents as guinea pigs, and this then calls up the gang, the coati. It does everything it can to liberate the home village and the parents from the uniform porridge. The whole thing is very anarchic. You just said that it was quite difficult to find money for it. How did you do it then??

"You really have to be very persistent"

Helmer: So to contradict myself: I think it is possible for any director to get funding when he is passionate about his project, and I think that is a kind of persistence that you need to get through this nowadays Funding jungle to penetrate through the editorial offices. I think that books are simply put aside and you only deal with the projects where someone comes up with the plan again and calls and calls again. Before – phew, it may be that he is not really burning for his project. If you are really very persistent, I think it is possible to get funding, but you are also warned: No one will watch this, or children’s films, they need this and that, and if that is the children’s film didn’t have, then. So there are clichés or pre-made patterns that you have to match, and if you don’t want to match them, it’s just a bit more difficult to tackle.

Castle: Did you then free yourself from them??

Helmer: Oh until the end. So this discussion was still there in the editing room. Oh god, can’t we take that out? The children climb on a crane – afterwards the protection of minors comes, and this and that. And then I said: No, the film as it is, it comes to the cinema. I didn’t climb on the locomotive when I saw Pippi Longstocking. So I have the feeling that children are less trusted today than 30, 40 years ago, in my childhood.

Castle: What did you want to do differently, what did you want differently? tell?

Helmer: Well, the first risk was to say: I want four-year-old actors. They showed me a bird and said that you couldn’t finish your filming with four-year-old actors. After a few weeks, they don’t feel like there are these strict working conditions, they are only allowed to shoot two hours a day, that’s all not possible, they can’t speak dialogues, look for older children. And that was the first point where I jumped on the ceiling because I had – my son was four at the time – this vision: I want to make a film at exactly this age because these are really great people, with four, they are so unreflected, they run and then something falls over and that doesn’t matter. You set it up again. Something else breaks, and something is always invented. And maybe then, I say now, on my part it was a generation portrait, because I love this young generation. And it would not have been possible with children who are six or seven years old.

Castle: If we are now with the performers, there are still really practical challenges. You can’t just give them scripts to memorize now. Michael Haniker is on the shoot "The White band" always worked with prompters. How did you manage that??

"It was a big game"

Helmer: I also talked to the children about the dialogue and they repeated it like parrots, and when it was too quiet I auditioned it louder, when it was too sad I made it more happy when it was too happy for me I made it sad So that’s the most vivid thing. The moment the children memorize dialogue, it only sounds spoken. And otherwise it was a big game. I think some of the kids have never been to the cinema before they made the film. So some of them didn’t even know what we were doing. For them it was a big adventure playground.

Castle: You also included your then four-year-old son when it came to the ideas for the film. How important did you find his perspective and where did you say no, that works Not?

Helmer: Well, I actually had it in my head all the time: what would he say? He wasn’t always on location, he was living in Paris at the time, so he couldn’t play along, but with his eyes so to speak – that was my corrective. So if I imagined that he would like it, it was the take, so to speak. So that’s the look that guided me when I wrote screenplays, that very special kind of humor and these associations that children sometimes have that actually speak totally against the screenplay craft. A script – one thing must always be based on the other. Children think associatively and jump from one topic to another. And that’s exactly what I wanted to follow and do something, so to speak, that is based on a child’s mind structure, so to speak.

Castle: Your films for adults, which you made before, if you put them in this way, for example "Absurdistan" or "tuvalu", they are also very bizarre, very playful, sometimes absurd. To what extent it was only logical that you have now made a film for children?

Helmer: Well, as a director you always want to do something completely new, or you actually think that you are always breaking new ground with every project, that you are opening a completely new construction site, and later you can see your own own handwriting. Of course that’s nice too, so when people say wow, this is a Veit Helmer film, it makes me proud of course because I want to do something that I recognize myself in.

Castle: Do you see that as a film for children, the new one?

"Grandparents are the children’s partners"

Helmer: I see this as a film for children from 4 to 144 years old. So the nice thing is to really see that adults have fun and also grandparents, grandparents are an important topic because the grandparents are, so to speak, the beginning of the story that the children want to free the grandparents from the retirement home because the parents want them Pack into the retirement home to maintain the average age already mentioned, which is actually to be found in Haßloch. Products are tested there in Germany. That’s the other crazy thing that many say: Wow, but you made up a crazy story. And then I say, no, no, no, this story is based on a lot of facts. So in Haßloch, colorful products are put in the supermarket and you see how people react to them, and for that they get a TV magazine for free, and even the commercials are exchanged there. Then everyone thinks nonsense, that sounds worse than the NSA, and it’s worse, and people put a credit card through the scanner, and then the GFK knows exactly who is buying what. And the people there do it voluntarily, actually what the world defends against, makes Hassloch voluntary. And of course it’s bizarre. So there are things in my film that are actually only understandable for adults, and the children see their own film there. There are many dance scenes, then there are scenes that are made for the children, which the adults do not understand. But at least everyone has a lot of fun.

Castle: And the grandparents are basically allies of the children, because they are the only ones who allow creativity and different thinking.

Helmer: The grandparents, I also saw that with my son, they are the children’s partners. They have time. I hurry around the world, have many appointments and drag my son after. My mother has time, slowly walks with him through the street, watching every little animal that uses up the sidewalk. And of course that’s great for children, so it’s the same pace, and we run, adults, we don’t see anything anymore. We’re so fast these days that we don’t notice anything anymore.

Castle: So if you want to watch another children’s film and also an adult film, you now have the opportunity to do so: "Nonsense and the coati" he says, Veit Helmer is the director. Veit Helmer, thank you for your visit!

Helmer: Thank you!!

Comments from our interlocutors reflect their own opinions. Deutschlandradio Kultur does not adopt statements made by its interlocutors in interviews and discussions.


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