Every day through the end of the Sundance Film Festival, including weekends, indieWIRE will be publishing two interviews with Sundance ’06 competition filmmakers. Sixty filmmakers were given the opportunity to participate in an email interview and each was sent the same questions.
Swiss filmmaker Luc Schaedler directed “Angry Monk,” screening in the World Cinema Competition: Documentary section. An academic and a visual anthropologist, Schaedler has traveled throughout Tibet, India and China. His journeys influenced him to make this doc about Tibetan Buddhist Monk Gendun Choephel, who brazenly labored to dispel Tibet’s perceived distaste for modernity and engagement. Schaedler currently lives in Zurich.
What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?
Besides coincidence [and] a long term interest in film, [it started] with my involvement in an idependent and political “off-cinema” in Zurich (Cinema Xenix). This involvement with film, first as cinema-programmer, operator and barkeeper, led me to make my first documentary “Made in Hong Kong” (1997) as my masters thesis in visual anthropology. [By] making documentaries I found my personal way of expressing political, social and aesthetic ideas — although by less stating “my [own] ideas”, as opposed to being part of an on-going discussion.
Did you go to film school? Or how did you learn about filmmaking?
I did not go to film school, but life and my studies in visual anthropology as a teacher as well as watching many films [influenced my filmmaking].
How did you finance your own film?
As for the financing, my first film “Made in Hong Kong” I financed myself. The film was part of my studies in visual anthropology at the University of Zurich (1993-1998). For my second film “Angry Monk,” I went the “normal” way an independent producer in Switzerland has to go. I applied for grants, donations and financial support from several cultural institutions including Swiss television, as well as many organizations related to Tibet and/or issues related to the third world.
Where did you get the initial idea for your film?
Extended travels to Asia, especially Tibet, China and India [inspired me]. Many idealized ways Tibet is perceived in the West (mainly spiritual and esoteric), has always gotten on my nerves. I found contemporary Tibet (and its recent past) to be more complex and complicated, than most often perceived.
What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in either developing the project or making the movie?
Keeping my motivation, [and] not losing hope. Editing a documentary is often like going through a dark tunnel and you don’t see the light on the other side. You know it’s going to be there, but you have no idea when it will show up. All the more rewarding is the moment, when you start seeing your own film coming to an end. Without the help of the people you work with and without the moral support and love of your best friends, this wouldn’t be possible.
What are your biggest creative influences?
Robert Flaherty, one of the first documentary filmmakers (“Nanook of the North”), Chris Marker (“Sunless”), Alain Resnais (“Night and Fog”), Martin Scorsese, Sidney Lumet (“The Pawnbroker”), Francis Ford Coppola, Buster Keaton, Ernst Lubitsch (“To Be or Not to Be”) are among the influences… Frankly, any film that I liked – and there are so many.
Describe the moment you found out that you were accepted into Sundance.
I opened my email one day and downloaded messages entitled, “Angry Monk”, “Sundance” and “Congratulations” that briefly popped up. But only when I read the full mail was I certain that Sundance had invited my film to the world documentary competition. Well, what to say – I went berserk! I phoned all my friends. It made me happy and proud, and I’m still very excited about it.
What do you hope to get out of the festival and what are your own goals for the experience?
As a second thought (which came much later after the initial excitement of being accepted), I also hoped that participating in Sundance would help me to promote my film both on a commercial as well as a cultural and political level. What does anyone hope for as a filmmaker? You hope to be able to live off what you are doing. Therefore, you hope to be able to sell your film [and] get some kind of recognition. [Also] you certainly hope that people — audience and professionals — like the film and appreciate your efforts.
What is your definition of “independent film”?
To have full control over your product, in the development, the making and the promotion of your film.
Who are a few people that you would you most like to meet at Sundance?
I would like to meet the programmers who invited “Angry Monk” and the Sundance staff to thank them for their efforts. I’d also like to meet a great and openminded audience [as well as] film professionals (distributors, sales companies, TV stations) in order to sell my film. And, if I met Robert Redford or Sharone Stone, I wouldn’t mind either. And obviously, other interesting filmmakers to share ideas with…
If you were given $10 million to be used for moviemaking, how would you spend it?
Well, I would try to make some movies with it — probably documentaries. And I might invest in my production company a bit to help other people do their movies.
What is your top ten list for 2005?
“Shiza,” a film from Kazakhstan. “Darwin’s Nightmare” an Austrian documentary film, and probably many more, but I don’t remember.
What are one or two of your New Years resolutions?
One — to keep on coping with life. Two — selling my film. And three — taking a brake.
If you took President Bush’s job, who would you hire/fire and why?
I would NOT want his job. Power corrupts, but I would fire all of them, anyway.