realeyz.tv caught up with Timo Jacobs, the star and co-director of achtung berlin feature competition entry KLAPPE COWBOY! (Clapper Cowboy!) at Saturday's festival party. The extremely low budget labor of love (although not that low budget, says Jacobs, if everyone had been paid “humane wages” and not deferred their fees), produced over a period of two and a half years, pokes fun at the staid German cinema establishment and delusional indie auteurs in equal measure. Hamburg-born and Berlin-based Jacobs plays the eponymous Cowboy, a Hamburg-born director hoping to make it big in... you guessed it.
realeyz.tv: You've become a familiar face in front of the camera through roles in films by your acting mentor [German enfant terrible director] Klaus Lemke (pictured left, photo: WDR), in Thomas Arslan's IM SCHATTEN (In the Shadows) and CARLOS THE JACKAL. What inspired you to jump behind the camera?
Timo Jacobs: Mostly my strong playful streak. But I also wanted to stir things up a bit. I find it really annoying that many directors explain their movies to death. It makes films, especially German ones, really boring.
As for KLAPPE COWBOY! - first I came up with the totally cinemaniac main character. Together with screenwriter Federico Avino and [co-director] Ulf Behrens we bandied some ideas about, developed some other strong characters based upon people I know and out of that the basic story grew. Federico then wrote the treatment and I contributed.
realeyz.tv: How did you and co-director Ulf Behrens divide labor on the set?
Jacobs: Ulf was cinematographer, but basically we did most stuff together. Ulf took some production chores off my plate and held the reins when I was acting in a scene. We discussed the images and mood we wanted to create. He offered valuable advice when I was uncertain. We complemented each other quite well.
realeyz.tv: How did you manage to constantly switch back and forth, from actor to director?
Jacobs: There was no switching. I stayed in character for the entire shoot. So I was pretty tough on the guys, because Cowboy is really driven. (Dry, sly smile). I suffered and so did the others. But that made the process very authentic. Since there was no script, my persona, the sparks and friction it created were instrumental for the other actors to find their characters.
Jacobs: Cowboy is Cowboy. He's in this particular picture. But if a good idea comes along where Cowboy could fit in, I certainly could imagine reprising the role. But Cowboy just for Cowboy's sake... not going to happen. (Takes a swig of beer as he does after every answer.)
realeyz.tv: A lot of the film's humor derives from the contrast between chilly North German metropolis Hamburg and Berlin. What's it like for a “Digger” (Hamburg slang for “mate”) like you to live and work in Berlin's ”creative scene”?
Jacobs: Hamburg has a face; Berlin has many faces. At first it was difficult for me to find my bearings because Berlin is very rough. Here fun is spelled with a capital “f” and that was very exhausting for me. I know how to let it all hang out, but not always without guilt. Guess it's my Protestant upbringing. I try to overcome it so I can preach a certain lightheartedness.
This whole “Hipstertum” (too succinct to be translated German word for the “hipster state of being”)...When people move here from someplace else, like for example when Americans move to New York, it goes to their heads. They think they're really hot and pretend there's more than meets the eye. But in reality it's all talk and people mainly just party until the ambulance arrives. I included this in the film. Cowboy, too, is really big on talking, always putting on a show.
Jacobs: The process took place over two and a half years. First came the characters, but parallel to writing them we also figured out other things, including the locations. Many of them were in my hood, but I also drove around and scouted. I like using locations against the grain of what people expect. That creates interesting tension and a sense of adventure. I often asked myself questions like ”What would fit the least?” or “What would look really stupid?” I also aimed for a certain minimalism. I usually tried to find extremes and I think I succeeded.
realeyz.tv: Much of the film takes place on the city streets...
Jacobs: The film itself is really colorful, and I was striving to create a carnival atmosphere. I love color, carnival, the diversity of faces... Because this vibrancy is what the city is about. And it's what keeps Cowboy going, too, for better or worse. That's why I set the film in the middle of the city, as a life force.
realeyz.tv: What are your next plans?
Jacobs: KLAPPE COWBOY! will be playing at many festivals in Germany and abroad – Poland, Czech Republic, maybe the U.S.. We submitted it to the Nordische Filmtage in Hamburg and of course I would be really happy if it screened there. We're negotiating with various theatrical distributors. VOD distribution on realeyz.tv would be great after the film has finished the festival rounds. I think VOD is the future, and it offers great opportunities for individual filmmakers to carve a market niche.
My next project will be a realtime comedy about a race through Berlin. It will have lots of wacky characters and tell the backstories about how and why they joined the race - from the fat guy who reluctantly became involved to the superevil villain. Kind of like Lucky Luke...But I don't want to give away too much.
If you miss the screening, watch the film for free until Thursday, April 26, on realeyz.tv.