A short Story
I grew up with my three sisters in a household without a television or a computer. Nevertheless I had a happy childhood and didn’t lack anything, at least not in my first six years until my school enrolment. Circumstances were such that my family lived at that time in Assuan in Egypt where my father led a development project. Plain and simply there was no television but instead a huge
garden with palms directly at the riverbank of the Nile, where we were allowed to do whatever we chose to without any obligations.
We also had the books by Michael Ende, which our mother read to us; when I look back at this period of my life I realize how much my memories of the fantasy worlds of “Momo”, “Jim Button and Luke the Engine Driver” and “The Neverending Story” mixed with my memories of the desert sands. I lived in these stories and my friends were stray cats and feral goats who fed off plastic bags and shards at the river bank.
As a child I wanted to become an engine driver or pilot. That was probably the reason why I was able to read my father’s pocket watch when I was only 4 years old: for my father had claimed that you could become an engine driver only if you were able to read the clock, otherwise the trains would come late and that would be the end of the career. (Today I am not so sure he was right about that.)
The return to Germany was in 1995 and a true reality shock. My father finished his work in Egypt just on time for my school enrolment. In the old homeland of my parents everything was different: different children, a daily routine, fences and school desks. Nonetheless, I was able to follow my former habits and wander through our and our neighbours’ gardens. On one such tour I met my neighbour Thilo Kienle who back than was in the first year at the newly founded Filmakademie Baden- Württemberg. Thilo told me that some of his fellow students had worked on the space craft model which back than was used on the promotional posters for “Independence Day” by Roland Emmerich, and that you could learn this kind of handcraftsmanship at his school, when you were old enough.
Back then of course I didn’t know what it meant to make a film, nevertheless, deep down I knew that this could be the right path for me. Perhaps it was my parents’ rejection and the lack of a TV in our household that surrounded the subject film and television with a sense of mystery and the forbidden. Of course my parents didn’t live completely under a rock and didn’t want to isolate their children from the rest of society: therefore there were small loopholes and exemptions. For example, after I lot of pleading, begging and crying I was allowed to watch “E.T” on the TV of my grandparents under the condition that I, as a first grader, would read the back – cover of the VHS loud and faultless in front of the whole library staff. Because my father set this condition two weeks earlier, I was able to prepare myself and master this task ‘well’.
My mother, whereas, took a different approach based on my fathers experiment. Her rule was that we kids were only allowed to watch films at our grandparents’ if they were based on a book and if we had already read the book (or in the case of my younger sister if the book was read to her). By this she wanted to prove that our own imagination was better than that what other people made out of it.
My enthusiasm for “E.T” eventually carried over to “Jurassic Park” and I hoped that I would be able to watch the film if I read the novel “Dino Park” by Michael Crichton. A big task for a nine year old as this book was not simply about dinosaurs, as I had expected, but about humanity’s claim to power over nature and a thing called Chaos Theory. In spite of all my efforts, and I truly experienced reading this book as hard work, my plan didn’t work out. Back then the age rating was printed in the programme and it became clear that a nine year old was not allowed to watch a film rated PG.
Nonetheless, it was probably this lucky circumstance which had a big impact on my life: It so happened that my grandfather, who used to record the evening films at 20:15 on VHS for us, also recorded the documentation “Making of Jurassic Park”. I watched it literally 100 times.
Thanks to this documentation I got a sense for what it really meant to make a film: push the boundaries, drive technology forwards and create something never seen before. This meant that during the pre-production all the stop- motion dinosaurs were replaced by 3D - assets and that to a period of time at which there was nothing comparable: financially and artistically an enormous risk. (The liquid metal of T1000 in “Terminator 2“ does not count, since T1000 is not a real being of flesh and blood.)
When I finally saw the actual film I had made up my mind to make films. The film was great and even better than I had imagined. It managed to compress a 564 pages novel into a film of 126 minutes, which not only contained the premise of the book but was also with audience appeal and full of suspense. Basically, this film combines almost all ingredients and tricks to learn about the contemporary three-act structure of film dramaturgy. It is a true masterpiece and to this day one of the most important films of my life. “Making of Jurassic Park” was crucial for all my further decisions