With my thesis film STRINGS OF HOPE, I took on a nearly impossible challenge. A story based on true events and deeply rooted in German culture and history, I would be walking on a very thin line. But the story of the puppeteer Walter Oehmichen was just too good not to tell.
Ironically, an American friend of mine made me aware of the story, when we were during research about marionettes for a short film project. Because the “Augsburger Puppenkiste” (en. Augsburg’s Puppet Box) marionette theater is so popular in Germany, you never ask for the story about how it came into being – it was just there. Through my childhood and my parent’s childhood, too. Wooden figures on strings were telling us stories about friendship, tolerance and kindness before every Christmas. Thanks to of the incredible artistry of the puppeteers, it is hard to believe that their facial expressions never moved. It’s true magic.
When I started researching about the “puppet father” Walter Oehmichen, I dug up a number of incredible stories and details from the war and post-war era. The more I found out, the closer the project got to my heart. After a year of research and many conversations with Walter’s family, friends, extended friends circle and ex-coworkers, I started developing a feature-length biopic. It is about his struggle to keep his credibility after World War II, because he had joined in the Nazi party in order to keep his job at the local theater. It is a very sensitive subject, but I think it’s worth telling the struggle of an unpolitical artist who just wanted to keep doing what he loves during times of warfare and destruction. Even more so, because he gave kids and adults alike a break from this every-day strain.
The feature film script is now in development, but in order to make this feature project happen, I would need to show that I am capable of making a historical film of epic proportions and have what it takes to tell the story in a captivating manner. That is why I decided to shoot a proof-of-concept short film to pitch the story idea to a wider audience. On occasion of my last class in the Directing Certificate program at UCLA Extension in Los Angeles, I decided to make this heartfelt project my thesis film. I was able to secure the funding from a very diverse audience from Germany who want to see this project happen and I am so grateful for everyone that has helped with this exceptional film.
The production span was five months from starting to write the short film script all the way to the finished film file – only 2 days were the shoot itself. That gave me a good estimate on how much preparation a historical film needs! The shooting part really consists of a very, very short time in relation to the overall project. But it is still the most fun and rewarding. Now that the project is finished, I want to give a shoot-out to our amazing cast and crew and thank all our sponsors again for making this happen.