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LBB Film Club: A Part of You


Soldats director Matthäus Bussmann talks LBB’s Alex Reeves through his dark, experimental dancing-and-driving film, shot entirely in virtual production

LBB Film Club: A Part of You

Matthäus Bussmann is a Frankfurt-based director whose passion for portraying people and time has led him to become a sought-after filmmaker in the automotive, fashion and lifestyle commercials. 

His latest short film, ‘A Part of You’ began as a test of various new production technologies, but evolved into a pioneering conceptual dance film.

A woman is dying when another version of herself comes from the dark sky to pick up her soul and eventually drive her to hell. Shot as a technical experiment entirely in virtual production using Unreal content as backgrounds, it was a very collaborative project where the spoken poem accompanying the film was written by dancer Kibrea Carmichael after having seen the film's first edit. The music and sound was created as a reaction to the dance too, so it’s not that she is dancing to what we hear but her dance was edited and later sound design was added to fit her movements. 

LBB’s Alex Reeves spoke to Matthäus about the unique process behind this film.

LBB> Where did the first thought that ended up becoming this film begin?

Matthäus> It all started as an experiment. Initially another director was attached to this and it was a project meant to showcase the virtual production technology for creative storytelling. The original idea involved dancers and a car. So this was set from the get go. My goal was to add a deeper and darker story. Originally the project had two dancers but in the end it was only one dancer playing two parts simply because we had to save costs. But I decided to embrace this limitation and it became an actual inspiration for a more interesting approach. I was forced to tell a story with only one dancer on set. So this brought me to the idea of filming ‘two versions’ of the same person. 

I knew from the beginning that if I am doing something as a free passion project, I will want to use this freedom to go darker and more unexpected that I would be able to go for on a commercial. 

LBB> At the centre is a dance performance. What informed the choreography?

Matthäus> The specific dance style was created in a rehearsal session with Kibrea Carmichael the day before the shoot. I was reviewing with her some of her own improv sessions on her social media feeds and shared my notes on what I liked and where I would like to go with this project. For me it was key that the result is in a way unique and unexpected and that there is a real connection to the dark story ideas I had in mind. One note was that she should dance as if certain body parts are actually dead or dying while she is dancing.  

LBB> How did you cast Kibrea? What made her the right choice?

Matthäus> I knew Kibrea from a recent commercial shoot. There she was just part of a larger ensemble but I had the feeling that it would be great to give her more room. So when this new project came up I thought of her and we were able to bring her in. 

I knew from the past experience working with her that she is a very creative and collaborative person and a full actress parallel to her dancing skills. Since the project came with such short notice it was key to book talent that I already knew without having to go through the whole casting process. 

LBB> How did you choose the environments that your dancer is performing in?

Matthäus> The environments had partially been created by the team from HYPERBOWLl. The first room we see in the film was supposed to feel somewhat biblical / archaic. During the development I wasn’t sure if I wanted to create a birth or a death scene but I knew that I wanted something pure and organic for the beginning. 

Eventually I got fascinated by the idea of starting a film with a person dying right in front of the camera. Pure and simple. 

The mountain environment was already created and planned for this project even before I came on board. During the shoot however I was not 100% happy with the visual distance to these mountains. So the HYPER BOWL team started to show me alternative positions of the studio itself within the Unreal Engine-generated environment. In the end it was about elevating the studio position and by that transforming the view into something more like a Helipad which I was really happy with. It felt more epic, more dreamlike and thus better serving the story. 

LBB> What motivated the scene where she's in the car?

Matthäus> The car scenes came from the idea that we wanted to challenge what types of shots are possible to shoot with a static car and create the illusion that it is moving with lights and camera movements. So the motivation was very technical. But in the end, the way the storyline unfolds, I really like the fact that the protagonist dies in the beginning and her dark counterpart later drives her to hell. 

LBB> What were the biggest challenges in the whole project and how did you overcome them?

Matthäus> The shooting time was limited and we had a lot of shots that we wanted to capture within our short timeframe. Also it was my first time inside a virtual production studio. So I was learning and getting introduced to the technology as we worked and shot there. The solution was that I was surrounded by a team that really are super experienced with virtual production so I could trust them 100% on anything with the technology and I was just there to come up with challenging creative story ideas. The whole team really embraced the challenges and went for it. It was really a big team effort. And I am super thankful for the opportunity and the support I received from the whole team. 

But to be honest, for me personally the whole film really came together when the composer Michael Kadelbach eventually started to put his vision for the soundtrack to the edit. Only then I knew ‘it works’. In my opinion the sound of this film really was a key piece of the puzzle. The fact that we don’t show dance moves that go along with music but created sounds to go along with the dance… That was really fascinating to me. 

LBB> How would you like audiences to respond to the film? What do you want them to think or feel when they finish watching it?

Matthäus> I think that I really always want to surprise an audience and evoke emotions. In this case it was key for me to have a dance film that is different to what you normally expect from this category. I want to lean into a darker backstory, blending over almost to the horror genre. I think I really just wanted to make sure that this film really has an emotional impact on its viewer. I do think that the emotion I was aiming for was fear. I really wanted the dark angel to be scary and also wanted to create a dance that feels scary.

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Categories: Short films, Short Films and Music Videos

Soldats, Fri, 05 May 2023 14:52:19 GMT