Filmmaker Interview: Sebastian Schipper (Victoria)


Victoria is a remarkable film, shot in real time in a single take on the streets of the German metropolis, Berlin.

Working from his own script, actor and director Sebastian Schipper tells the story of a breathless night on the streets of the capital of Germany. The camera seamlessly intertwines the passing of time and numerous locations, placing the audience right in the centre of the action. Alongside the audacious gang, we gaze out across the city from tower block roofs, saunter along deserted pavements and hide out in secluded courtyards as apparently random events coalesce into a dramatic tour de force.

Victoria, a young Spanish woman, dances through the Berlin scene with abandon. She meets four mates outside a club who introduce themselves as Sonne, Boxer, Blinker and Fuß. They quickly get chatting. Sonne and Victoria take a fancy to each other and slip away from the group at the first opportunity. But their tender flirting is rudely interrupted by the others because, for these pals, the night is far from over. To settle an old debt they have to pull off a dodgy deal. And because one of them is too drunk, they decide that Victoria, of all people, should take over the role of driver. What began as a game suddenly becomes deadly serious.

Victoria received the Silver Bear for Outstanding Artistic Contribution in Cinematography at the Berlinale 2015, the film will premiere in US theaters October 9th.

We sat down with Director Sebastian Schipper to talk about the main challenges of filming in one take, the casting process and more.

Find more information on Victoriahere

What was the biggest challenge in shooting the film in one take?
It was mostly for the actors to stay on, and not perform. To find a performance that is emotional and not just portraying the emotion. The main challenge was to realize how absolutely difficult it is for the actors. There are 3 aspects you know would be a challenge. The logistics of the whole enterprise of filming in one take, the camera work and the acting. People might say it’s like acting in theater. It’s very different from theater. In theater you perform on stage, in an artificial room. You can use all that, the room. space and the audience. In this kind of film, the camera many times was so close, we found out that the actors can’t just perform. They had to go all in. The way it was filmed, it would be very awkward, if they just perform and not be entirely in the moment.

How did you come across this specific story? Was it based on people you know, or was it entirely fictionalized?
The story is fiction. The starting point was the daytime fantasies about robbing a bank. I worked on the script for a long time and pictured something vividly. I thought even if the most boring robbery happened, it would still be very exciting! So I took the idea about an average bank robbery, be really close to that and take it seriously.

Another unique aspect of the film is that the dialogue was mostly improvised. It didn’t seem improvised at all.
The story was very precise, I worked a lot on story and it was an ongoing process while we filmed it.

How much prep time did the actors have for the dialogue?
I’m not sure if preparing is the right word for it. I think the best way to understand that it was improvised is probably from music improvisation. What you do is you make music together and you find the rules within the kind of music you make. Improvising does not mean there are no rules. I believe you have to be very precise if you want to improvise. One style of music that comes to mind, when you hear about improvised music, is street jazz. It’s a very intellectual way of making music, that has a lot of rules. It wasn’t really preparing but we did a lot of improve together and the process of rehearsing the film was also shooting at the same time. We split the film in 10 minute pieces. In the course of 10 days we filmed these 10 minutes in segments. So in a way rehearsing, or preparing, was already filming.

How did you come across the cast? Specially finding the lead Spanish actress Laia Costa?
I cast them. I had several meetings and called somebody in Spain. We wanted to have a Spanish casting director involved, but we didn’t have the budget for it. Not everything was outside the box with this project. The cast would’ve probably been the same, even if the project would have been edited.

You are also an actor. Where does your heart lie?
Yes, I do acting, and I love it. But I am definitely mostly a filmmaker and that’s what I am more comfortable with. I started off as an actor and do it in between. But, I have done mostly small parts. There might be big names on the list, like The English Patient or Run, Lola Run, but if you look at it, It’s a small part.

Some directors also act in their films. Since you are also an actor, did you consider directing and acting in it?
I think I am just better in directing.  I am happy to act, but on the side. I thought I could contribute more as a director on the film.

What are your future projects?
There are a couple of films lined up. I also produced Victoria so I am in a good spot. I just don’t know what will come first, but I do have 3 projects in mind.

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Interview conducted by Lia Fietz


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