And The Rest is History (... und der Rest ist Geschichte) (Germany / USA, 1hr 28mins)
Directed by: Niko Kuehnel
Written by: Niko Kuehnel
Cast: Michael Kinzer, Ulrich Jungblut, Heike Zwetz, Isabelle Stolzenburg.
Two shady guys in dark suits. A mysterious girl out of nowhere. A gloomy figure in a parking garage. All of them looking for the same thing: A black folder from New York. And all of them seem to think that it’s Tim who can lead them to it and help them understand its contents.
For a few days Tim thought, his girlfriend leaving him would be the most drastic event in his life for a while. But all of the sudden he has to discover, there is something very strange going on around him and he better figure out what it is. Or does he maybe already know more than he thinks?
Interview:CSB: Niko, thank you for joining me today.
NK: It’s my pleasure.
CSB: Your film …And the Rest is History will be shown at the 2015 New York City Independent Film Festival. First, I’d like to ask you to tell us a little about your background. Where are you from and how did you get into film?
NK: I’m from a city called Mainz, and I started out with filmmaking during my time at university where I did film studies. I actually ended up just getting together with a few friends, and we started making short films. We made our first short film back in 2004, and kind of just worked our way up from there. Once we graduated, we decided to try longer projects, and then we started making feature films. …And the Rest is History is the third feature film we’ve made so far.
CSB: Can you tell us a little about what the indie film scene is like in Germany? What is the biggest challenge for independent filmmakers?
NK: The thing about the indie film scene in Germany is that it is not as clear-cut as it would be in the US because we don’t have the big studio system that you guys have. Even a large project here would end up with a budget that is indie-standard in the USA. At the same time, starting out as a filmmaker, it’s still hard to find money and to find someone to finance your movies. So, basically, what we’ve done so far is that we just finance the films ourselves and we don’t really get any money from anywhere. We had the manpower, and we had enough people to do it, so we just started trying to make the movies and luckily, managed to make it happen. The three films that we have made so far are very, very independent, they don’t have anything to do with anyone who gave us money to make them.
The biggest challenges for aspiring filmmakers would be the same as in the US, with the difference that because there is not as much money over here to make films, funders and production companies who give you money are even more worried about the project. They are very distinct about the work, so it’s a very long process to find someone to finance a movie. And I think mostly, for young filmmakers, this happens through TV stations, more than it would be in the cinemas.
CSB: Where did you get the idea for the script of …And the Rest is History? Why did you choose to shoot part of it in the United States?
NK: The scene that we shot in New York was the very first scene we shot for the film. I happened to be traveling in New York, and a friend of mine, who is the actor in that scene, lived in New York at that time. And I decided, well, when I am in New York, I’d really like to shoot something, so I’ll bring my camera, and make something happen. Either, something for a short film, or as it turned out, a scene that I can work into a bigger project.
So my basic idea was, I’ll write a scene that I can later incorporate into a larger script, and this is exactly what I did. We shot the scene, I came back, edited it. We actually only then started working on the other scenes for the rest of the film over here, which kind of went awry a little bit, because I had an actor drop out and then some people didn’t have time who I actually wanted, so I had to re-write the script and take out some characters, because I didn’t have the actors for the characters anymore. The whole script somewhat changed around from beginning to the end. And then in the end, I’m pretty sure the film ended up being better than it would have originally been had we gone with the first draft of the script.
CSB: Well that was good luck! How did you find your main actors then?
NK: I’ve been friends with the main actors for years. Michael, who is the lead actor in the film, I’ve known him since 2003. We went to university together, and he’d already done a lot of stage acting before university, and then, because he liked acting, and I wanted to try my hand at filmmaking, he was the natural choice for being in the movie. So we have been making films together for more than a decade now. The lead actress in the film was his girlfriend at the time, that’s how I knew her. But she had been in a few of my films before. The other lead actor, Uli, who played the nerdy guy with the glasses on, he’s actually a good friend of mine, who I met through playing flag football at the university.
CSB: You already mentioned that your film kind of took on this mockumentary style. What led you to the decision to include little snippets of interviews with your characters throughout?
NK: I’ve always been a big fan of mockumentaries. I really got into it because I like the comedy aspect, as well as playing around with reality, or fake reality. We’ve done one short film, which is a mockumentary that talks about the history of our hometown. And I’ve kind of been influenced … because I’m working for a TV station here in Germany … as a news-cutter. And working in real-life events, while at the same time working in fictional films, kind of, made me feel like I wanted to put the two together.
If [the film] was a real story happening in real life, you could very well have an interesting documentary on it, because it’s something that would, in fact, make history. This film requires some bits of technical information, which is kind of boring to tell, but I still wanted to put it in there to make it realistic. I felt it was a good way to have people talk about it, to sit down and speak into the camera, as opposed to have two characters sit down and have them talk about it amongst themselves as part of the movie. It’s easier to have them talk into the camera, because they can quickly give a lot of details and facts in 30 seconds, less than a minute—instead of a scene that you would have to write, that you don’t want to be boring. In a way, it was the easy way out, combined with something I like to do anyway.
CSB: Will you be attending the 2015 NYC Independent Film Festival or the screening of your film?
NK: Yes, my director of photography and I actually booked our flight to New York. We thought, since it’s playing at a festival and it’s the first time one of our films is playing in the US, we should take the chance and come to New York. We’ll definitely go to our screening, and then try to catch a few other films, there’s quite a few in the program that look very interesting.
CSB: Thank you for taking the time Niko. We look forward to seeing you in New York with your film …And the Rest is History.
NK: We’re thrilled to be there. We are very much looking forward to it.
***Interview with Carolina Solms-Baruth, press representative for the 2015 NYC Independent Film Festival, and Niko Kühnel, writer, and director of …And the Rest is History.