INTERVIEW: Directors Max Paschke and Maik Schuster of I AM HERE

As filmmaking continues to evolve, we’ve seen several waves of young filmmakers find new ways to shape the art form.

The last ten years have been especially interesting, bringing many innovative artists to the forefront.

Today, we’ll take a look at two of them.

Max Paschke and Maik Schuster are a filmmaking duo originally from Germany, where they met at film school. They later helped form the I AM HERE directors collective.

Their breakthrough short WALLS garnered both critical and commercial success upon its release and led to the two being hired to create a Nike promo.

These days, Schuster and Paschke continue to create transmedia experiences that examine contemporary sociopolitical trends and how they affect populations around the globe.

We had the chance to interview Schuster about how he and Paschke have created their own unique artistic voice, one that keeps finding new ways to analyze human problems.

What led to both of you becoming involved in film when you were growing up?

“Max got into filming through shooting ski videos in the Alps, the region he grew up in. For me, it was skateboarding videos. I got obsessed with them, started skating myself, and just wanted to capture myself and my friends doing tricks. I still remember the day I drove to buy this second hand Mini DV camera with my dad. From then on, the camera was always part of our skate trips and I still make skate videos with my friends today.”

Tell us a bit about the initial creative spark behind WALLS.

“One of those skateboarding trips back in 2015 led me to Palestine. I was visiting a friend in the Westbank who worked as a volunteer teaching kids how to skate. When I got confronted with the political situation and saw the struggle and pain the Palestinians have to deal with on a daily basis, I was shocked.

The mere presence of the wall separating Palestine and Israel had a major impact on me. Unfortunately, I never finished the skate documentary I shot during that trip, but I knew I wanted to create more awareness around how walls, both literal and metaphorical, can harm people. That was the initial spark for WALLS and from then on we researched a lot to paint the bigger picture, showing three different stories about physical and mental walls worldwide.”

What was it like to work on a Nike promo? How were you able to live up to the reputation of such an iconic brand?

“It was crazy! When we released WALLS some people came up to us saying that some of it, especially the soccer story, looked like a Nike commercial. We were laughing about it at the time. Four months later, Iconoclast reached out to us to shoot a major Nike campaign and we couldn’t believe it.

We didn’t know much about commercial campaigns back then, we just shot it how we always shot our stuff, lo-fi and DIY. Most of the running scenes I shot from a skateboard while Max pulled me on a scooter. For us it was normal, but for the people on set it was like, what’s going on?

But they liked our approach and how agile and flexible we shot it in the streets of Berlin. The pace of the campaign really translated to our way of shooting and I think that’s what Nike enjoyed the most. They really gave us a lot of freedom and we felt honored to shoot for such a unique and iconic brand.”

Is there a single filmmaker who has had a huge impact on your pieces?

“I wouldn’t say there is one in particular for all of our films, but a major inspiration for WALLS and especially THE SEED was Kahlil Joseph. The videos he made for Flying Lotus and Sampha blew our minds. Timeless classics.”

When did you two first meet? What influenced your decision to work together?

“We met at film school in Dortmund, Germany. We actually sat in a room together for the application test, haha. At some point, I moved into Max’s shared apartment and from then on it was a continuous process. Max would edit films I shot during my studies and we we started to shoot more and more. It’s good to have someone to bounce ideas off of right from the beginning.”

In your opinion, what separates film from other artistic mediums?

“I don’t think it’s really separated from other mediums. It’s very much related to everything around it, be it visual arts, photography, poetry, etc.

Our approach to filmmaking is quite open and we don’t want to categorize creative output into genres that much. For us it’s more about creating a creative cosmos around a topic or vision. We do a lot of photo exhibitions, installations, and talks around our films, as well as try to give them a meaning beyond the medium of film.”

How often do you seek out films from young and upcoming filmmakers? Have you noticed any recent trends?

“We’re constantly browsing! The Vimeo and Instagram grind is real and there is so much great stuff out there. It’s so diverse as well, which makes it really hard to define trends, but what I really like is that tech hype has slowed down a little bit. Lo-fi over 8K, my friends!

Work on your narratives and new creative ways to capture them, rather than just trying to get value through the medium of 16mm. We love shooting on film as well, but it doesn’t make the film better at its core.”

by Giorgio Chang

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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