Hanna Maria Heidrich was the crowned queen of the Young Directors’ Award in Cannes last year, winning not one, not even two, but three top prizes including the Jury’s Special Award for her film We Miss You. And now London top production company Gorgeous – home to Chris Palmer, Frank Budgen, Peter Thwaites and other heavyweight directors – has signed Hanna, one month after she graduated from the Filmakademie Baden Wuerttemberg.
What was the impact of winning the Young Director Award in Cannes for you?
The Young Director Award is definitely internationally the most recognized Newcomer Award. So winning was not only a great honour, but brought me a lot of new contacts and signing to Gorgeous, Radical Media in Germany and ICM in USA.
Hanna, you’ve had a brilliant career thus far and only graduated from the Filmakademie Baden Wurttemburg last month. What has been your latest film?
My graduation film is a 45-minute TV pilot called Killing All The Flies. It’s still in postproduction and will come out at the end of 2012. I’ve always wanted to do a film in the thriller – sci-fi genre, so I’m really excited to bring this film to life.
How did your signing to one of London’s top production companies come about? Gorgeous must have seen something in your work that fits with its own roster and culture. What do you think that was?
Gorgeous is one of those production companies whose work I’ve always kept track of. The quality and creativity of their films is outstanding. Obviously I was thrilled when they contacted me.
Their choice of projects isn’t random – neither is mine. It was always important to me to choose my projects wisely and to engage on a project with 120% conviction. I’m attracted to films with a story to tell. Maybe that’s what we have in common and what they saw in my films.
We read that your YDA winning film, which follows a New York City cop as he unexpectedly reconnects with nature, was born out of a desire to create an environmental film with a new sensibility rather than calling for funds or a guilt inducing awareness spot. What were the key challenges of creating this spot?
My overiding goal for We Miss You was to create an emotional experience for the audience.
I didn’t want people to watch the film and just think ’That’s a clever idea’. I wanted to captivate and move them through a simple encounter between a man and a deer. So this was the biggest challenge.
Despite our limited budget [20,000 euros], we had a big crew and multiple cars and extras. When I’m shooting with actors, my priority is to set them at ease, only then can they can relax and bring their best performance. But given the situation that one of my actors was a deer, all I could do was to sit and pray that we might capture the right moment to make the story work! So till the end of postproduction I was fairly nervous. I wasn’t sure if people would be able to connect with the deer and the story.
There’s a certain serious, almost brooding, sensibility to a lot of your characters, however, your piece about the astronaut Neil Armstrong for Levis is completely off the wall.
My latest film Life is Calling came out of a desire to create a lighthearted film, that simply makes you smile. I thrive on creating and exploring diverse moods and tones in stories. I love films that explore all of human nature, whether they move me to cry or make me laugh out loud.Do you write your own scripts?
With the exception of my film What’s Your Secret?, I developed all scripts with my partner Alex Eslam. He is also a writer/director and we have a very creative and collaborative exchange. It’s great fun working together.
Do you do detailed treatments and storyboards or are you more of a shots list director?
I’m a visual thinker. So when I’m developing an idea, I collate images that describe the feeling of the idea best. I put them in order, rearrange them and listen to different kinds of music. I really enjoy this process!
To ensure I don’t forget the original feeling I had for the film, I put selected images and songs on my iPhone and review them during shooting breaks.
Alongside this playful approach, I plan and prep my films perfectly, so nothing is left to chance.
What are your challenges for the next months?
My plans for the future ahead are commercials and features. So that’s where I’m heading. I love the process of filmmaking, so that’s what I want to do!
I hope to be able to explore visually groundbreaking worlds as well as intriguing stories and above all, make commercials and films I would want to watch myself.
The challenge for the upcoming months will be to push these opportunities forward by developing new ideas and choosing the right projects to make this all happen.