In 2007, I quit college in Iowa State University and went back from the U.S. to China. I made up my mind that I wanted to be a filmmaker, and said to myself that I will come back to the west as a filmmaker, and I will return with a film. Five years later, I fulfilled the promise I made to myself. Being invited and selected by the 2012 Filmfest Munchen (Munich International Festival of Film Schools) for my Diploma Film, Double Happiness in November this year was such honor. This also came with anxiety and caused me not sleep for a few nights. I was so excited as I was going to Europe for the first time. This is where most of the great film directors come from, and a place filled with art. A heaven for the arts!
After watching 6 Woody Allen films on the 13 hours flight, the moment we arrived at film festival center right in the heart of Munich city, I smelt film. Student volunteers from HFF Munchen (the Munich Film School) who were serving at the bar had a PhD in film theory, we were talking about Annie Hall and September when she was making a coffee for me, and asking me try a Munich speciality – weisswurst or better known as the white sausage. Suddenly I felt like I’m in the dream, the dream all filmmakers wanted to have. And of course, my pending dissertation woke me up from the dream… right after I finished my first weissbeer (it was 7 in the morning).
Since we were the first ones to arrive at festival center, I had to wait for other student directors. Usually I have a difficulty communicating with strangers, however, this time was different. Once I saw the other student filmmakers, I felt like we have known each other for a long time, there are just so many common things that we share.
There wasn’t even any awkward silent moment, since the first time we met each other we are able to connect just like old friends. No Korean pop music, no Hollywood superhero film, no cheap commercial junk movie, not even Obama. All we love are pretty much same, all the best films from around the world, all those films that usually nobody would have ever heard of. And the most important thing is, every director has a sense of humor – we all accepted that we did all those long shot just for the festival. I felt right at home!
The first day, after we checked in at the Euro Youth Hostel, we went to the Opening Ceremony held at the new campus of the Munich Film School, and I was impressed. The screening equipment, the sound speakers, the entire huge press section, all the reporters, journalist, professors were waiting there, waiting for all the student directors’ arrival. There was a film crew following us to document the moment we arrive the opening ceremony.
Four good films were screened as part of the opening ceremony and one of them was from my roommate, a Greek student, Elias Papastamatiou from Athens, his animation Man In The Box, took about 5000 pictures to make his stop-motion animation. Such as simple story, this was totally amazing. The other one I enjoyed was from Germany, Tear Drop by Damian John Harper from HFF Munchen was shot from protagonist’s point of view, and the acting and camera movement were absolutely brilliant.
I was selected to be interviewed after this screening, and because of my ‘sophisticated’ answer to the questions, I was one of the five film directors of the festival to be posted on the official Filmfest Munchen website. For a further read on this interview…. http://www.filmfest-muenchen.de/en/aktuelles/news-iffh/2012/11/doublehappiness.aspx
From the second day to sixth date, I was happily buried myself in the film center, watching all these well made films from other student directors, every single one is just great, there was not any film that makes me unhappy, every time I watched one, I learned a lot from them, and getting more inspirations from these talented directors and their works.
There were a few directors who had a good time with me, two from Serbia, the invited me to join a film festival in Serbia, hosted by famous director Kusturica, and jury president was Johnny Depp last year. Luckily, my film got selected again. I mean without them I wouldn’t even know such a good film festival. Both of them are very good film director, especially for the girl, Jelena, who directed her 11 min long film “Oh, boys where are you?”, a story of a philosophy PhD student who is still a virgin, then she invited a random guy come to her house, to having first sex with her. The way she uses off screen sound, and empty space is very amazing. And the lighting in the film is referenced by Fish Tank, which means they are very natural and it looks like no lighting at all in the screening.
However, the most important thing I’ve learned from this trip is details. Our production is actually way behind others, and I think it is all because of details, the way they treated film is more serious than ours. Such as, if one of us did a good job, focused on all the small details, the director might be considered as a perfectionist, but for them this is normal.
When I was watching the film I made (Double Happiness) in the cinema theatre, I was actually embarrassed by the mistake I’ve made, all the technical problems made me uncomfortable siting there. And there are so many things, details I didn’t pay attention to it. I wanted to throw up in the cinema.
After the first screening, many people said to me they liked my film, but I just couldn’t accept it, it should be much better than this. That night, I walked alone on Munich’s streets after the screening for about 2 hours. Thinking about what I can improve on for the next film (my upcoming Thesis Film), what we have not yet prepared, and how to improve the script with intricate details.
The festival has really pushed me to a new level of filmmaking, to notice where my position lies among young aspiring filmmakers, and what is my weakness, and how to address it to become a better filmmaker.
Wu Linfeng is a final year BA student at The Puttnam School of Film. Linfeng realizes that his ethnicity has been the driving force behind his strong desire to make films. In his pursuit for tertiary education, he chose Singapore, a multiracial society where he is able to converse in both Mandarin and English. His films have revolved around issues if identity and displacement.