Accidental Filmmaker

I was able to sublet my first apartment in Berlin from a film producer who was working out of town. She suggested that I visit the Berlin Film Festival. The international selection of un-Hollywood-like movies I viewed, was life-changing. I was flabbergasted by the variety of stories told from all over the world. One film, I especially remember was about how a tribe in African (sorry I do not remember the country), used “voodoo” on an oil executive. These tactics saved their sacred lands from being exploited by the oil company.

It does not take much to get my ‘ideas factory’ going. My new carefree life in Berlin, made me realize how affected I was by being stared at in Stuttgart. I wanted to turn the tables around, and so the idea for the film was a tourist, ‘armed’ with a camera, taking invasive photos of people staring at her.

One cold and icy day, on my way to the darkroom in Zehlendorf, I slipped, and because my first reflex was to protect my Leica camera, I did not break the fall with my hands, which caused a double fracture of my right ankle. This accident was just what was needed to slow me down for a period long enough to write a short film treatment for my idea. It was good comic therapy for me as well. A friend of a friend, who was a film student in Hamburg loved the idea, so we submitted the film treatment to Hamburger Filmbüro and were eventually granted 17,000 Deutsch Marks in funding to make the 16mm short film, I named it “Sightseeing.”

I say ‘eventually,’ because we almost lost the grant, thanks to me signing during a Mercury retrograde period. The production team also changed to being a small group of friends and a friend from high school, who was travelling around Europe conveniently for me, at the time. Two years later the film was in a distribution showcase at the Berlin Film Festival in 1987. A velvet cap that I had sewn by hand during Christmas of 1986 was admired at various parties during this Berlinale because I could change the form of this hat every time I wore it, people became intrigued that it was the same design, and they wanted to buy it. The girlfriend of a friend, with a brilliant Cologne accent, was a patternmaker and made a profession pattern from that only cap that I draped and hand-sewn together. Elvira Bach, a well-known German artist with an extravagant personality and my previous employer, introduced me to an up and coming avant-garde German fashion designer, who asked me to make hats for her fashion show. That was my first commission as a hat designer, Thank goodness I was working with a pattern maker by then!