The Hollywood Reporter’s Berlin Directors Roundtable
Despite the contrasts in their work, the directors at this year's roundtable found plenty of common ground in a lively discussion at Berlin hangout the SoHo House. From left, Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Felix van Groeningen, David Rosenthal, Jasmila Zbanic, and Fredrik Bond.
Former commercials helmer Fredrik Bond, 43, made his fast-paced feature debut with The Necessary Death of Charlie Countryman. The Swedish director says that he got into the craft because he, "was just obsessed with film … I went into editing and learned the craft of putting images together. And I was interested in commercials because in Sweden we didn’t have commercials. So when I was on Christmas holidays in England with my family, I recorded English commercials. I took those and put them into the editing machine and made my own short films with those commercials. I drifted into editing commercials and then to directing."
Felix van Groeningen
Belgian director Felix van Groeningen, 35, helms Broken Circle Breakdown, a film that focuses on the relationship between a romantic atheist and a religious realist. "I’ve done four features, and the shooting is usually fun from beginning to end," Van Groeningen said. "But with this last feature, for the first time I had, after two weeks of shooting, a kind of a breakdown, where I really freaked out a bit. Like, 'Is this going the right way?' I’ve never had this before; that was really scary. I really doubted whether I had made the right choices. I never had it before, and I really hope it never happens again."
Acclaimed Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic, 38, was the winner of Berlin’s Golden Bear for her 2006 debut, Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams. Since her films are often inspired by real Bosnian events, Zbanic says she feels a sense of responsibility. "I don’t know how it is to make movies in the U.S. or wherever. In my region it is somehow so connected with life and society; it’s much more than just entertainment … I don’t want to make activistic films necessarily, but somehow I see that they have more power than just going to James Bond movies."
Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein
Oscar-winning directing partners Jeffrey Friedman (left), 61, and Rob Epstein (right), 57, directed Lovelace, a biography of legendary porn star Linda Lovelace. Friedman says his directing bug was sparked by his desire to act. "I wanted to be an actor as a child, but I ended up as an assistant editor," he says. "And I just became fascinated with the whole process of how to tell a story with images." Epstein says that once you are a director, "you have to learn where you are willing to compromise and where you’re not. We all have our own boundaries. But filmmaking is about compromise. There is no way around it."
David Rosenthal, 43, is in Berlin with the backwoods noir A Single Shot. "This film I just made, we were up and running and two weeks away from shooting, and the producers took me into their office and they were like: “We lost a million dollars. We have to shut down!" Rosenthal said. "Usually those stories are, the movie just dies. Thankfully, the movie came back to life, but that whole process, it’s a slog. That can be a rough part." But while he seemed pretty calm about that process, he admits he has lost his temper on set: "Only with a producer once. He needed to be bitch-slapped. And I gave it to him. But no, I would never yell at an actor."