Monday, October 19, 2015

Schmiede - or, ‘Smithy’.

Stupid Enough, the results of our first foray into film-making, was shown at Schmiede in Hallein, Austria in September.

Schmiede translates literally as ‘Smithy’, and refers to the idea behind this still-new annual event: the idea of creative and excited people coming together for 10 days, to join forces, experiment, and collaborate on projects of their choosing, allowing the outcomes to forge themselves, steered by the net results of the participants’ contributions. A sort of sculpting, a new thing having been hewn from raw materials at the end.

Or to put it simply, to play!

We’d never been before, but our long-term colleague and original Myspace chum Lilo Krebernik
aka Dead Lemming (for whom I drew the ‘Atomic’ snowboard a few years ago, big inky skull face) invited us to show the film there after watching the little trailer we’d put together. It’d not yet been shown anywhere in full, so yeah, we thought, an audience of 200 international creatives, professional and amateur, keen and raring to go - why NOT chuck ourselves in right at the deep end eh? So having decided to drive there and back (all 2,000+ miles), we ran various index fingers along various European map pages, booked a ferry and the first couple of hotels, sent some little business cards to print, and started counting down.

(oh and I gel-glittered my nails, of course).

Held in a truly impressive abandoned salt mine on an island in the centre of Hallein, people are invited to apply to Schmiede once a year, and can be from any discipline. With no idea what to expect - we’re not that accustomed to just ‘joining in’ on a casual basis - we decided to hang around for a few days to chat and observe, since time was limited and we had no idea which, if any, of our skills would even be useful to the Schmieders (one of them definitely proved to be, but more of that later).

Introductions had taken place earlier that day, and our film was to be the opening event to kick off the ten days. Organiser Rüdiger and Lilo felt that the subject matter - talks with real creative successful people who’d done it their own way, and intended to offer reassurance, encouragement and inspiration - fitted Schmiede's raison d’être, and would provide an undemanding but stimulating thing for participants to do together before getting down to work the next day.

So our film was to be shown in the StadtKino across the bridge, where on the day a keen cinema manager was waiting to load the film into his pro cinema gear. If we’d arrived with a huge can of film, the setup would have taken minutes, but we’d come armed (four copies of) digital files and a DVD, which proved a bit of a hassle for the patient cinema fella, who battled with unseen subtitles and belligerent DVD chapters before eventually getting the film to play in all its glory on the large screen. Seeing the faces of our interviewees ten feet high was something else, and suddenly made the whole thing Real.

As the humans filed in, the smell of popcorn permeated the building:

And soon enough, as casual as we tried to be, checking Facebook in the moments before, the nerves eventually bit. Would they laugh (at least where they were meant to)? Would they wander out? Would they resort to checking phones and napping? Months and months of work was about to be put to the acid test.

Here we are battling bad lighting and unflattering camera angles to introduce our film (that’s red-shoed Rüdiger on the left, Leigh with the serious look, and me with the Heidi plaits):

In the end, the film’s reception was everything we hoped it would be. The audience laughed at the right bits, watched all the way to the end (one or two left early, but they later explained that English wasn't their first language), you could hear a pin drop, and the question-and-answer session afterwards demonstrated that it held the viewers’ attention. The content was felt to be not only relevant, but highly useful, and moreover, really helpful.

And usefully for us, thanks to the input of one or two of the technical bods in the audience, the premiere also highlighted some technical improvements that could still be made, making the film just that little bit smoother to watch before it goes off into the wild.

The rest of our time at Schmiede was spent volunteering in the kitchen where vegan breakfast and lunch is prepared every day for the participants - the hungry ‘Smiths'! - and we discovered we run a mean wash-up between us; ‘well oiled machine’ doesn’t even come close, as these ‘official’ Schmiede photographs attest:

Knackered (that’s Chloe, who did the cooking with Walter)

And when we took off our gloves, wandering the rooms and rock-hard salty floors proved a fascinating way to spend the time, utterly baffled about what people were making and doing, but fascinated nonetheless at the mysterious, pixelly, LED-ed bread-boardy things being made by this satisfyingly varied collection of friendly humans from all over Europe:

(what does that even MEAN?)

Despite harbouring concerns that we're not the most natural movers’n’shakers, we met some lovely people, namely Andi who tweaked the Stupid Enough sound for us at a moment’s notice, Marie the festival organiser, Nick and Helen from London who shared late-night sillies and pizza bought in a thunderstorm, new musical discoveries Nicole Jaey and The Unused Word who dominated the stage at a post-Schmiede gig (where people could still smoke!) and dancer Livia, who was the first to take us to task on one or two of the issues raised in Stupid Enough in one of the six languages she spoke, and who was last seen seen dancing spontaneously at midnight to live music played in the cold electrical rooms of the building, where remnants of its previous life still wait:

Thank you to Rüdiger and Lilo for inviting us to be part of what turned out to be a brilliant and surprising event, and we definitely hope to be part of it in the future.

In the meantime, if you would like to book a showing of Stupid Enough, you know where we are!

Lilo Krebernik // Twitter

Schmiede // Twitter

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