WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET - Production Design

Berlinale Talent Campus 2005

As part of the Berlinale Talent Campus, the European Film Academy presented this session consisting of excerpt screenings from LAND OF PLENTY and an open discussion between director Wim Wenders, production designer Nathan Amondson, editor Moritz Laube, and the audience. As Wim Wenders explained in the beginning, the film came together unexpectedly, he put the story together in three days and shot it in 18 days on a low budget, on Mini DV and with an average of 41 set ups a day.

Nathan had 20,000 US Dollars for the art direction and as he pointed out, “three weeks to put everything together for my first feature and very little money.” “As you can imagine,” he said, “I was very, very nervous.” They immediately started looking for props and locations. “We were driving around in the weeks before,” Nathan explained, “and every time I saw a shopping cart, we’d stop on the side of the road and an grab it, or a couch or anything else because we simply didn’t have the money to go out and buy these things.”

Wim Wenders explained that shooting at an actual mission was out of the question because after they visited the homeless missions in downtown LA they realised that they were all far too crowded to move in with a full crew and shoot a film there. “So we had to find our own place,” he said, “and the place that you see now, the mission, is actually an old fire station, used until the 20s or 30s.”

Naturally, being on a very tight schedule, such a location also created some problems, particularly for the sound since, as Wim Wenders pointed out, “the mission was a very noisy location, all tiled, with a lot of traffic outside.” So, eventually, in the post-production, they were missing some voices, some screams for a scene with a man who is killed on the street. And Moritz Laube told the audience that after a few drinks one night, “we got out there and after an hour I found myself lying on the floor, playing the dead man, and around me there were eight homeless screaming and yelling ‚Call the police!‘ and in the middle Walter, holding a microphone.” And, as he concluded, “that’s how we got the voices.”

Summing up the audience’s impression, one talent commented that the three men looked “like a perfect family with the father, the younger son and the older brother,” and continued to ask what the working atmosphere was like. As Nathan Amondson explained, for most crew members, this was their first full feature production. And so they “really went into it not knowing what to expect,” Nathan said, and continued by describing the atmosphere: “It was a very close family because we were all young and inexperienced but had a lot of passion.” That lead to a revealing statement and a lot of laughter and applause when Wim Wenders said “I couldn’t have done it without this crew. I knew a film like this could not be done. But this crew, it was their first feature film, they didn’t know it couldn’t be done.”

* * *

The session was realised with the support of Avid.