Prof. Thomas Schadt
Tel:+49 7141 969 82102
A few years ago, when I wanted to discuss experiences of human limits in documentary work with students using a scene filmed by myself from my film "Eiserne Engel", I was faced with the question from one of the discussion panel of "What does the world need to see?" She curtly added: "Certainly not this!" The scene in the film depicts an elderly man dying despite an emergency doctor's efforts to resuscitate him. I accompanied a rescue helicopter team for three weeks and wanted to pass on the experiences of challenging filming conditions to the students. In a world filled with medial over-stimulation, we were focused on the question of how we are able to or have to avoid such (daily) situations in our society in a narrative and aesthetic manner. This extremely aggressive and hostile question really touched a nerve. She could have even asked: What stories does the world need to see?
It was already clear to me that we can at least learn as much from the students as they do from us as lecturers. We simply have to listen to them and let their questions to affect us. The uncertainty that the initial question stirred in me still affects and warns me today. Notably, on the one hand, to always question your own (cinematic) actions and, on the other, to never tire of arguing with students with regards to content. Because talking is the only way for both parties to profit from the immense stress of film training together.
According to our understanding, film training is primarily an experience in spoken form here in Ludwigsburg. Of course, a basic understanding and even basic skills are essential, but the crucial element is and remains "learning by doing." This was rightly identified by the founding fathers of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. What is essential is finding the best practitioners in the film and media industry to bring to Ludwigsburg as teachers. Practical teaching alongside film projects; development in the team; total equality and the equal treatment of different genres and trades; initially studying in a completely protected space and later in a protected open (market) space; individual teaching with enough time as a valuable factor, which is essential in film making. I believe that these topics still remain unchanging pillars of a promising education, which, at its core, must concentrate on two things: On the narrative and technical quality of the narratives, and on the personal quality of the people presenting them.
After more than 20 years as a lecturer and a good 11 years as Director of the film academy, I have discovered fundamental theories for film training. I am therefore thoroughly convinced that this training must involve a great deal of freedom for the students, yet at the same time also provide them with a binding framework, without which neither the freedom nor training could work. I have also found that "artistic film" and "mainstream" are an unavoidable contradiction, but in an entirely incredible symbiosis; that the initial creative crisis is often the most important and educational for the students, that the essential learning effect is often far greater for the students in a lengthy "collapse" that in overly quick "success"; that quick success often makes you comfortable and tired; that creative inventions must always come before industrial production, and that the path to a (great) film is not just intertwined and full of surprises. In an absolutely vital debate with the students, we, the lecturers and colleagues, must remain motivating, challenging and precise for them. This debate must be steered along an analytical route and can never become faddish. Because, at the end of the day, the students should and must create their films and not "ours".
Film needs a mobile spirit just as much as a mobile body. It requires incredibly good organisation and a sufficient budget. Nevertheless, it will remain a balancing act on the abyss of reinventing the daily desire for constant catastrophe and the constant invitation themselves. Film and its market are constantly moving, developing and changing. For this purpose, we must remain open, pay attention with regards to content and structure, since a standstill would also be the greatest prevention against a further successful future for this academy. No simple task, neither for the students nor the lecturers and colleagues at the film academy, rather a daily overload. But it's worth it. The proof is in the 250 films emerging from the film academy year on year. And if I were to take the degree films from this current year; if I could experience how diverse they are in their narratives and styles yet still all extremely successful, artistic and commercial, then I would understand that we are make the right efforts here, despite all of the creative conflicts. For film is definitely an extremely suitable and significant medium for conveying socially-relevant topics, with all of their facets and all of their issues, enigmatically and in an entertaining manner to a large audience.
With this in mind, I want to learn more about the students and their film work. And I would hope that the wonderful, unique Ludwigsburg academy campus in Europe, with its endless creative opportunities, remains a place in which they feel happy, where they can have fun. Stay courageous, I would be love to support you on your course here in Ludwigsburg. Stay playful, open, show feelings, form groups, cause creative unrest, explore empty spaces, make mistakes, fail with passion, go through crises, communicate, listen to one another, learn to take criticism, assume responsibility, believe in your dreams, be willing to learn and consistently surprise us with something in your films. It's all about the preservation of utopias and, simultaneously, the ability to communicate, promoting talent according to the individual opportunities of each individual, finding one's own personality and strengthening it. It's about supporting system-resistant personalities who do not lose their dreams and are thereby best prepared to face the realities of the market. Who else in this thought-provoking world should co-decide which images and narratives it needs and which not?
(Thomas Schadt in May 2016)