Interview with Jana Pulkrabek (Producer)
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR THE CONCEPT OF FACTORY DROP?
In the beginning there was a call from Preslav Mantchev, asking if we would be interested in realizing a dance film project with him and his Freie Tanzkompanie Kiel. He had a very abstract idea of isolated dancers in individual cells, each following their own dance routines. Since I've had the opportunity to bring dance and theater together on stage several times, the desire to finally showcase dance on the big screen had been there for a while, and now a concrete opportunity arose.
Petja set out to develop a vision and wrote a first draft of the script. This first version was much influenced by the time of the pandemic. Dancers venture out of isolated cells and hiding places, dance through an empty city, and, attracted by music, come together on a rooftop and touch each other for the first time. In subsequent versions, the story became increasingly cinematic, and over time we were better able to identify which themes we wanted to convey and which images would tell them most powerfully.
The story and the original script are by Petja. As a producer and co-author, I react and comment on his ideas, which we then jointly revise and develop further. In between, I also rewrite his texts based on my suggestions and corrections, which in turn inspires Petja to write a new version that incorporates these impulses. We have also been guided by the feedback and ideas of the Freie Tanzkompanie Kiel, as it is essential for the dance to develop organically from the story. Even though our portrayal of a two-class society is highly dystopian, unfortunately we already find some of these dynamics today. Just this week, I had several conversations about how class-oriented our healthcare system is becoming. While publicly insured patients unfortunately often hardly get appointments for preventive checkups anymore, privately insured patients are often treated for unnecessary reasons. It's a similar scenario.
WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES FOR YOU AS A PRODUCER DURING THE SHOOTING?
Even though we had a fairly good budget for Factory Drop, thanks to our supporters, realizing the vision was very demanding. In that sense, the budget was still quite tight, and all departments worked miracles to implement their areas so excellently. It's quite a balancing act and always a challenge for everyone to work with limited sources. So it's all the more important to keep the atmosphere inspiring. If the elevator fails to work, while you have technical equipment to transport within a 13-story building with a tight schedule, this can easily throw things off balance.
On the very first day of shooting, we received an early morning call from our costume designer, who tested positive for Covid and therefore would be out for the entire shoot. Thankfully, no other infections occurred and once two-thirds of the film was shot, I could finally relax a bit. The night shoot on the rooftop of a high-rise building (silo) in freezing wind and rain was also quite challenging. Accidents can happen during film shoots, so I was relieved when we came back to the ground floor. Overall I have to say, there were quite a few challenges during the shoot, but also incredibly beautiful moments. The stuffed deer that didn't make it onto the set because it didn't fit in the elevator, and instead greeted us every morning at the silo entrance, became iconic.
THE SELECTION OF ACTORS IS CRUCIAL FOR THE SUCCESS OF A FILM. HOW DID YOU CAST FOR THE FILM, AND WHAT WAS IMPORTANT?
During script discussions, Petja suggested casting the two main roles, Mia and Juri, with the choreographers from the Freie Tanzkompanie Kiel, Anne-Marie Warburton and Preslav Mantchev. Visually, we thought it would work well, and it seemed like a good way to involve them as closely as possible in the project. Nevertheless, it's always a risk to cast unexperienced camera actors. Our trust paid off; their performances were mind-blowing. For the upper-class roles, I wanted personalities, not extras. Through our cross-disciplinary festival and cultural work, we have a great network of international artists. Everyone I approached was immediately enthusiastic about participating. Our cream of the crop even traveled from places like Hamburg, Copenhagen, and Malmö. Among them were Lars Junggreen, one of Denmark's most famous theater actors, and Mashti Mads Nordheim, a composer and DJ from Copenhagen with his colleague from Bremen, Peter Musebrink, also known as Deep Dive Corp. From Hamburg, we had international musicians like Anri Coza and Marshall Titus, and also someone like Prof. Peter Nebel, who was voted Hamburg's Press Spokesman of the Year three times in a row. As an actress, I was of course delighted to also be part of the cast. It was a special day, and I'm glad everyone made a brief appearance in our film.
WHAT REACTIONS ARE YOU HOPING FOR FROM THE AUDIENCE, AND WHAT DISCUSSIONS WOULD YOU LIKE TO ENCOURAGE?
Cinema, the big screen, stands for a sensual experience. The visuals and sound need to be expressive and ideally make the audience feel the world they are being transported into with all their senses. In my experience, after watching a great film, people have the need to talk about it.
I believe the most crucial question is where we see ourselves as a society in the future and how we want to deal with it. Factory Drop raises very timely questions: What does the outside world look like in the year 2118, how and where do people live and survive, what resources are left, what exactly is the physical state of humans, and what does society look like? Life in Factory Drop is not an unrealistic scenario: A small group of privileged individuals sustain their prosperity through the oppression and at the expense of a disadvantaged class, on a planet that has changed significantly. But even here, in the upper floors, the facade is crumbling, the illusion of luxury is eroding on all sides. Looking closely one notices that this upper class is just a caricature of its former self, and the inhabitants of the Factory are a species threatened by extinction.
Photo by: Filip Misiak Orestes