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Meet the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers #43: A Corporate Headhunter Comes Apart in ‘Houston’

Meet the 2013 Sundance Filmmakers #43: A Corporate Headhunter Comes Apart in 'Houston'

Berlin and Austin-based filmmaker Bastian Günther had a big festival hit with his film “Autopilots,” which premiered at the Berlinale.  He’s come to the Sundance for the first time with his World Dramatic title “Houston.”

What It’s About: Clemens Trunschka is a corporate headhunter and an alcoholic. Drinking increasingly isolates him from his life and leads him away from reality. On the hunt for a top CEO in Houston, Texas, his addiction takes him on a haunting journey into his own darkness.

And so it’s really about: It’s about how we live today and about how we get wrapped up and lost in systems of our own creation that are organized around short-term goals and short-term satisfactions. On the individual level, this comes in the form of rampant consumerism or addiction, and on the societal level, in extreme capitalism and global corporations. These systems do not offer enduring solutions or meaning. They divide and conquer. So the film shows the isolation that comes with our modern way of life.

What was your path to filmmaking? Before I moved to Berlin in 2000, I went to university in Cologne. But I was born and raised in a small town in former west Germany, a town so small that you need to escape as soon as possible. No public transportation, one cinema, one traffic light, two churches and nothing much to do. The next bigger city was 50 miles away. This makes cars very important. Maybe that’s why almost all my films take place largely in cars.

What was the biggest challenge? I see the whole film as one big challenge. Certainly the fact that we shot in two countries, which means having two productions and two pre-productions was challenging. Also it was a new territory for me, since this was my first feature film in the US.

Besides that we have a scene in the film that I would describe as a “Herzog moment.”This surreal shot was produced without any digital help. Creating this moment from a skyscraper in Downtown Houston was a crazy, fun challenge.

What do you expect of Sundance audiences? I hope that, like a good short story, the film lives on in the viewer’s imagination after leaving the theatre. It gives no answers and is certainly not didactic, but I hope it provokes some critical thoughts about how we live today. If so then the film achieved a lot beyond being 107 minutes of entertainment.

What’s up next? I’m developing another Texas project called “300 HP” (working title). I’m also working on a film set in the German forest. I want to continue making films in both countries.

Also this spring/summer, I am doing the final stretch of shooting for an essay-documentary film set in California.

Indiewire invited Sundance Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2013 festival.

Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch of the festival on January 17 for the latest profiles.

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