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An Interview with Joachim H. Böttcher


Can you introduce yourself and your project as well as tell us how it all came together? A while ago, I met Mx Pipa Bunce from London at an event in Zurich. When Pipa spoke about, how it is for them to be a person living openly as a gender fluid person, I was deeply impressed. Pipa goes to work either as a man or as a woman, whatever he or she feels up to and whatever suits them best at the very moment. When I was looking for a new topic after my work on feature film “Avaritia”, I first wanted to do something about transgender people. Then I read an article about intersexuality, conducted research, met with an intersex person in Berlin and combined elements from both worlds. Finally, I came across the Indigenous model of so called “two spirits” an umbrella term used by some Indigenous North Americans to describe people with a third gender in their communities. This term broadens the Western binary implications, such as implying that such people are both, male and female. Namida, one character in my script, a partially native Indigenous lady, actually is a sort of an homage to that. The rest was easy (laughs). It was just having many, many drowsy moments and some good nights of sleep, with extremely inspiring dreams, which needed to be written down.

How did you get involved in script writing?

Key triggers where a Tuesday evening club, I, my brother and two of my cousins attended regularly when I was a teenager. Money was extremely tight. But Tuesday was cinema day at a cinema nearby and it was affordable for us to go there. I virtually sucked in all these wonderful stories and pictures. At this time I also became publisher of my school’s magazine “Le Papillon”. My co-publisher and good friend Harald Dobmayer and I made a trip to High School for Film and Cinema Ludwigsburg (Germany) to interview Roland Emmerich, who had just released “Moon 44” and interviewed him and his sister. Roland Emmerich was just about to move to Hollywood by this time. A few weeks later we visited German actor Armin Müller-Stahl at his home on Northern Germany and did the same. I think those were the initial sparks, the moments when it started. I even suggested to my parents to go to High School for Film and Cinema in Germany – but they clearly were against it. Today I know, that I should have followed this dream right from the start. Before I started writing screenplays I wrote crime novels. Volker Pleil, still my closest brother in crime, suggested that I should consider turning them into scripts for movies.

Reflecting now, I have to admit, that I always had this hidden talent for writing and telling stories. But somehow I lost track for a couple of years – I think, I am not alone with that. And I sincerely hope that my story someday will inspire others to get back on track again as well. But hopefully even a bit earlier than me.

Just before “Alex*” I worked on “Lisa-Marie” a 90-minutes X-Mas-family movie with some funny mystic elements in it. I am still looking for a production company to realize that. Prior to that, I supported “Avaritia”, a 100 minutes film by German director Patrick Roy Beckert as a script doctor. The film is ready to see the screens. But its publishing date was postponed due to Covid 19 pandemic situation.

So I went to Felix Meinhardt’s film making seminars in Munich and decided that my focus always had been and still is on writing. Consequently, I focused on writing screenplays. For my formal education I went through Urs Bühler’s screenplay writing seminars in Zürich (Switzerland). Urs worked in Hollywood for many years. He is a truly gifted writer and – most importantly – a phantastic teacher and coach, when it comes to the question, how to write good and dramatic scripts.

Describe how you would ensure that writing is on schedule. What steps would you take? Wow, that’s a difficult one. But let me give it a try. I know so many writers who are actually way more gifted than me. They are packed with ideas, but fail to turn those into pages. It has a lot to do with discipline and with finding a set-up that works for you. You need to get into a sort of consistent writing routine. Turn writing into a regular habit. And yes, I know from personal experience, it is tough, especially for scrip writers with a full-time job. However, it is possible, though, to create a schedule that gets you on track to finish your script. Find one or more days and then a certain day time that works best for you. Set the same writing time every day—or every other day if that’s more realistic. Before you know it, your daily writing sessions will become part of your routine. But don’t step into the trap to follow to many projects at the same time! Many writers have more than one idea in their head. Write a list of your ideas and prioritize them. Be prepared for a writer’s block (trust me – it is bound to happen, but if you’re prepared, this isn’t so scary anymore). But the overarching goal to success really is: Start and do it. Your biggest enemy really is: “I’ll write that tomorrow.”

What, in your opinion, is the most important quality of a script writer? To me the two most important qualities of a script writer are creativity paired with a can-do-attitude. These are the most important parts of the process to finish a project. Many of my ideas, even the ones for my cruel horror books, are dreams or nightmares, I have at night. When dreaming or being a little drowsy, I seem to be most creative. It’s always been like that. And then it requires discipline to start and get going. The initial spark always is the story, followed by directing, acting, editing, adding music and sound. This is, what inspires me and keeps me going. And then it is so fascinating to see these pictures in your head as the very first person on this planet – way ahead before others see them on screen.

What were your key challenges in writing? Conducting and organizing a sound and robust research always will remain challenging to me. It is all about learning about the many nuances and facets of a baseline topic. Why is that? Maybe the research work around “Alex*” can serve as an example here. One may be thinking that distinguishing biological maleness from biological femaleness surely is a simple matter. You just need to conduct some hormonal or DNA testing, throw in a physical examination - and you’ll have the answer. Most people simply don’t know that there are many cases, when it is simply not that easy. Understanding and then simplifying the academic speech around such a topic made the work on ”Alex*" extremely difficult. To me this truly was challenging my own perceptions and assumptions. But finally I finished my script. And love wins – as always!

What is the role of film festivals? Without getting political here, film festivals, be it regional or international are important. They contribute to the cultural landscape, open the eyes for something new really. They are highly motivational and usually an excellent platform for networking with industry players. To me they are an essential link in the film industry chain, as they offer outreach for films, distribution deals opportunities, reviews in the press and audience attention. And last but not least, attending is great fun as well! Can’t wait to attend some again after this COVID 19 thing is done.

Describe a time when you made a mistake in your duties. How did you rectify it? Well, everyone makes mistakes. And mistakes are always a challenging situation. In essence, I’m the kind of person who tries to personally learn and grow from every mistake I make. When I first used FinalDraft for instance, I was so thrilled, that I didn’t bother to invest sufficient time to familiarize with the software. It really backfired. While writing a script I even somewhat distracted myself and spent much of my writing time learning how to use the software properly. I reflected and decided to stop writing for a few days to really learn how to use it. And I made a mental note, that I will ensure that such a mistake should never happen again. In short, I always try to turn something I struggled with into something good. If you constantly do so, even new strengths emerge out of that.

What is the future of film scripts? Such a forecast is quite difficult to make. But let me give it a try. During my work as a consultant with ACCENTURE we were reading the mantra that technology is key to everything. So, I tend to say, that we will see a lot more technological tools, such as apps and technical equipment, to support and even enhance the screenwriting process. But until now I dare doubt that this hold true for writing film scripts yet. This process has changed only very little in the last one hundred years or so. You start a concept and treatment and, if hopefully someone likes it, write the script, which then serves as a blueprint for production. The director, the cast, and crew take the script and bring it to life. This all is done in a forma streamlined over the last few decades or so. Even camera directions and stipulations as to where and how the film should cut have disappeared - unless the script is written by Quentin Tarantino (laughs).

What has the reader reaction been like? A few day ago at International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Interphobia and Transphobia I was giving a presentation at a Zoom-even, kindly hosted by LGBTQ+ & Ally Network of CREDIT SUISSE. I was supported by some actors and actresses and presented the concept of the script. The team read some of its key scenes. And we received tremendously positive feedback by the event’s participants. This one hand-side made me really proud and convinced me even more that I am on the right way with this topic that think is of high social relevance. Let’s hope that a production company thinks the same way too soon and commits to turn “Alex*” into reality.

Is there any way to read your script?

Yes, sure. My script “Alex*” is publicly accessible in my FilmFreeway project file (https://filmfreeway.com/projects/1989725). And if that does not work, people interested in it or in anything else can reach out to me via joachim@joachimboettcher.com.



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