Our next expat filmmaker in Berlin was only in town for 4 months before he headed back to his homeland of NZ, but the amount that Arthur Gay accomplished here in that time is inspiring.
After completing a Bachelor of performing and screen Arts, at Unitec Auckland, Switzerland born but New Zealand raised Arthur worked in the film industry in NZ before feeling deprived of creativity and needing some new inspiration. That's where Berlin comes in.
After arriving in Berlin, how did you make your way into the filmmaking scene here?
Arthur - I knew very few people in Berlin but a friend of mine, Michaela and her partner Falko gave me a place to stay and mentioned a small project I could get onto the very next day after arriving. Someone at the time mentioned The Film Ache as something I may be interested in. So I sent them an email and they were super friendly. I got involved with helping them out on a project they had going at the time. I just wanted to get involved in any project so I could start meeting some cool people. Although it was reasonably small it was really nice to meet enthusiastic and friendly creatives.
Through them, I heard about some filmmakers events, and meetups happening so I went along to a few of them and ended up forming some great connections with people there.
Someone else I had also met around that time gave me details to her friend who was involved with an independent feature film being shot there. So I was asked to help out with onset production. It was all for free of course but I wasn’t there to try to earn anything. I met some really cool people on that film and it was great to be working on a drama with some beautiful cinematography! It was quite awkward on occasion trying to speak to the public and ask them to not walk in the back of shot, all in English with a badly articulated opening sentence in German. So it all sort of just happened organically: I met one person and that led me to meet more people. I guess I made it a priority to try and be as out there as I could, more than I normally would be, just so I could try to meet people.
What was your goal when deciding to live and work in Berlin? Did you achieve it?
Arthur - I ultimately wanted to get a sense for what Berlin is like creatively and see if it was a place I could learn something from or try to emulate in my life.
I think I did achieve, in some way, what I was going there for. My plan was pretty vague, to be honest, but upon reflecting on my experience there I can really see how much of an impact those 4 months had on me creatively and emotionally. I should say that I did at times feel quite lonely in Berlin though. It’s a city with so many different and diverse people but everyone seemed to have their own close circle of friends and it was hard to get past simply ‘meeting’ people and into actually hanging out. I think that’s a feature of big cities and perhaps Berlin more so. People need to find their tribe otherwise its all too over saturating an experience to live in. I did really learn a tremendous amount about myself during my time there though and I met some amazing people. I really miss it there now actually.
How did you get to work on the music project?
Arthur - I had made a video for the band ‘Terrible Sons’ before for their song 'Neptune', and they later asked me if I wanted to make one for their new song ‘Darksong’. However, I was on my way to Berlin and I knew almost nobody there so I had serious reservations about being able to pull anything off. A good friend of mine. Konstantin is an amazing cinematographer living in Hamburg now, so I was hoping he was up for the challenge but for a while, I often questioned why I had thought this was a good idea.
I ended up meeting two producers there, Leo Schützsack and MoritzCarstens via the DFFB schwarzes brett . They were super enthusiastic after we talked over some ideas I had and a really basic treatment of sorts. I was actually somewhat perplexed as to why they were keen to get involved because they seemed so cool and I felt so uncool in Berlin. But they were serious and that kicked the whole thing into gear. It got real at that point and they made a whole lot of stuff happen. It was remarkable what they managed to organize. I feel unbelievably privileged and grateful to have had them involved. We ended up scouting dozens of locations and looking through so many headshots for the cast. I ended up moving into Moritz's’ flat later on which made it almost too easy to relinquish all energy on it.
What was the experience like?
Arthur - It was a really tumultuous experience, to be honest. It ended up being an integral part of my Berlin experience and really defined my time there. We spent months planning and problem-solving for that and if I wasn’t working with Leo or Moritz I often spent the nights visualizing, recrafting and ironing out the concept.
I think as I was going through some darker personal things myself at the time, the project felt like it had an added weight and intensity to it. It really did start to consume me and perhaps that influenced the finished piece a little, I don’t know.
Ultimately, it was a really intense and also humbling experience. I worked with so many talented creatives and learnt a lot from them all.
So many memorable experiences. From getting kicked off the roof (gorilla filmmaking has its difficulties) by a crazy serious woman. To filming in a ginormous and very eerie abandoned military complex and an old runway in the middle of nowhere. I mean pretty much every location we went to was something out of the ordinary for a little kiwi like me... Two very helpful friends and I ended up spending a whole day painting this huge room in the old military complex. It was such a cool space visually and architecturally but we needed to cover the graffiti. We really transformed the place but in the end, we had to cut that location because we ran out of time to shoot there. The alternative location ended up being really cool actually but I still feel terrible for all the hard work Leo and Natasha put into painting that place!
I should also say that working with the talented actors and dancers was a real honour. They all were so talented and looked amazing on screen!
It was a pretty international project, wasn't it? Were there any language/communication barriers?
Arthur - It really was international. Kiwi band. The DOP is a Kiwi/German who I go way back with. I ended up meeting an art director at Down Under Berlin Fest who is from NZ and she ended up getting involved. An amazingly talented director friend of mine from New Zealand called Lucia happened to be in Berlin at the time and she ended up doing the costume design and helped me a lot when I really needed it. Egle, who did makeup, is from Lithuania. Luka, who is an amazing editor is a Kiwi/Croatian. Even the Colourist, Summer actually now lives in Berlin and happened to be back in NZ for his own project. So it really did end up being an international crew with plenty of Berliners in the mix there!
What are you working on at the moment?
Arthur - I’ve got a couple of ideas I’m working on scripts for at the moment. They are still being worked over with a good friend of mine helping me out. I’m keen to get into another short film I think. I’d also like to explore working with images in a more abstracted form perhaps. Like an installation of some sorts. I also have a feature documentary in post-production, its been going for some time actually and I sort of want to focus on getting that complete as a priority.
Any plans to come back to Berlin, for work, or play?
Arthur - No detailed plans as of yet but I really do miss Berlin. As I said it was a tumultuous time there for many reasons but it also really made its mark on me. I met and lived with amazing human beings there and there's a part of me that would really like to just move there. And the nightlife… Maybe, well see. I’d like to at least visit sometime soon. Maybe at the end of the year.
Thank you, Arthur
All Images ©Arhur Gay
Charmaine Gorman is an Australian actress and writer living in Berlin with her family. As a content writer and editor, she works for many clients around the world, and along with her husband, is the founder and content manager of the online travel guide My Guide Berlin