Berlin-based director Moritz Michl spent his childhood with a camera in one hand and a skateboard in the other. Delving into his imagination, he grappled with which one of his passions should take priority over the other. “I've always loved to get friends excited about something and actually managed to convince them to shoot our first James Bond films on my parents' camcorders when I was just nine years old,” he says. With that in mind, it’s safe to say that he may have had an inclination of what he’d wind up doing as a career one day.
Moritz’s passion for skating, however, ‘took over’ at one point. Spending his time “skating with friends almost every day,” he explains that the culture of the community is what kept him interested. “You meet many super people and the DIY attitude you get is a huge and beautiful influence,” but he was convinced he could merge his two loves, “you can combine the two hobbies very well and so at some point it became mainly skate films.”
As he continued to create films, it became apparent that he was striving to continually improve with each piece of work he made. “I like to observe first and form a picture,” Moritz explains, “As soon as I see desire and meaning in something, I'm extremely ambitious and want to realise it as best I can.” Often, it was this perfectionism - combined with his introverted nature - that posed challenges for him, especially at school. Eventually, he took a year away from education and became a sushi delivery drive for a time, before finding an apprenticeship.
He says, “I did a few passion projects and smaller projects as an assistant director, and now I also work as a production assistant.” Part of Moritz’s apprenticeship accounted for a six month internship, which led him to Soup Films. “I applied for an internship as a production assistant and that's how I got into the industry for the first time.”
Now that he’s in the creative space, he does “as many freelance projects as possible” to hone his skills and gain experience as he goes. “With every project, no matter how small, you learn an enormous amount,” he says, “and by working as a production assistant with a wide variety of directors, you can pick up a lot of tricks and apply them yourself.” But he always remembers a lesson that he learnt early on, “I don’t take the industry too seriously. Making compromises is important but it’s also important not to lose one's vision.”
The first professional project he worked on was a music video for Felix Jaehn in 2020. Working in a small team of creatives, he says, “I was able to work with a good friend as a DP and it was the first real paid job for both of us. We only had one day of shooting and not too much budget, so we had to go run-and-gun style. It was definitely a learning experience in retrospect.” From there, Moritz has seen many of his ideas and creative visions come to life, which is undoubtedly his favourite aspect of the job.
Working on his first fashion shoot in 2021, it was this piece with Sobo Design that he felt changed his career in an impactful way. He explains that he was heavily involved in the concepting for the project, which was a vital element of the process. “I had a lot of creative freedom and hardly any guidelines,” he says. “It showed that I am not only limited to music videos but also able to shoot fashion and still tell a story.” As he came to this realisation, it allowed Moritz to broaden his horizons and push his role further than before.
There’s also another aspect that excites him, “The atmosphere on set when you have a good crew and cast – and of course the reaction of people to the finished film and when they realise what you wanted to say.” After grappling with when to ‘draw the line’ on his work, having a look at the finished project is always a relief. “Comparing your storyboard with the finished film is always a nice moment,” he says, reflecting on finished projects.
With a passion for feeling stories which are important to him, Moritz reflects on what he aspires to achieve within his career, “I always want to make films that in some way tell a message that I can stand for. Something that moves people and, in the best case, makes them think.” With time spent on Vimeo, combing through directors’ libraries, reading articles and keeping his references up to date, he says. “It’s a good way to get used to different ways of thinking and see what other creatives are doing and how.”
With all the love Moritz has for his work, there are also frustrations that come with the job. He explains, “It's hard to really get a foothold, especially in advertising. Clients or agencies usually want to see the exact film they want to shoot on your reel. Without having done a lot of advertising, it's hard to get selected.” As someone who’s interested in doing more work within the animated space, this is something he believes could be changed, to make it a smoother process for creatives who want to transition into different genres.
When he isn’t working or honing his skills in his spare time, you’ll find Moritz indulging in his lifelong passion for skateboarding while listening to music, “It's a world of its own that you can immerse yourself in, that motivates you and that makes you dream.” Motivated by a desire to evolve, Moritz leaves us with this:
“Always be on the lookout for new projects and experiences. Being stuck is one of the worst things. Always having things you are working towards or looking forward to motivates me extremely.”