“The idea to make a documentary about Conny emerged while I was clearing out the recording studio after the death of my mother. It occurred to me that I knew my father but I could not understand the producer Conny Plank. So I started a research project into the work of my father. And wow did I find a lot! I realized that there needs to be a documentary about my father and his work. Together with co-director Reto Caduff we found a couple of aspects around the work of Conny which we tried to magnify for the audience and myself. How did he produce? How did he decide with whom to work? And were there any special circumstances which led him to produce in his unique way? The list of people to speak to was filled effortlessly. The challenge was to find the right ones to get a complete-as-possible picture about Conny. It was amazing how many songs we found continuously. We had a good time selecting songs for the score of the film with the right feel and emotion for a scene. It was all there – in the music that Conny touched. No need to compose extra music for the film. Through the interviews with friends and artists a clear image of my father started to emerge. I learned how he approached every production differently yet with a clear desire of helping a band or an artist to go beyond what they thought they were capable of. I also discovered that my father in the end gave his life for his passion: music. It is amazing to me how many connections and re-connections were established by making this film. What really touched me: how everyone who knew my father wanted to contribute to telling this story. And now is amazing to see the audience react to the film and how many different points of view emerge in the discussion with the viewers.” Director Stephan Plank on THE POTENTIAL OF NOISE – CONNY PLANK which screens at SxSW 2018 Film. Also joining us on this interview is producer Bilena Fessman.
That is a great pitch to the movie, Stephan. Milena, could you also add in your involvement to the movie?
Milena Fessman: Konrad “Conny” Plank (1940-1987) was one of the most innovative sound designers and music producers of his time. The recordings he made at his storied studio in Wolperath, in the environs of Cologne, revolutionized the music world. He was a pioneer of krautrock and a trailblazer of electronic pop music. Bands and artists such as NEU!, Brian Eno, David Bowie, Ultravox, and the Eurythmics recorded with him; even now they stress the influence he had on their music. Without Plank, Gianna Nannini probably would have always sung in English. And if he’d had a greater affinity for a certain Bono, U2’s “Joshua Tree” would sound very different today.
When Conny died at the age of 47, his son Stephan was only 13. Twenty-five years later, Stephan, along with co-director Reto Caduff, went in search of the man whom as a boy he had often seen only behind the mixing console. At the same time, it became the search for his father’s artistic legacy. He met up with Conny’s old friends and companions: Annette Humpe and the Scorpions, Gianna Nannini, Devo, Ultravox, and many more. Private and for the most part never-before-seen archival footage is interspersed with personal interviews in which musicians provide insight into Conny’s meticulous and highly sensitive manner of working. The emotional portrait of the legendary Conny Plank thus also becomes a fascinating journey through the history of German and international pop music in the 1970s ad 1980s.
So big congratulations on your film playing in Austin at SxSW this year! Is your first time here and are you planning to attend your screenings?
Milena: Yes it is and we are coming, both Stephan and myself!
So how did you both get into this business? Talk to me a bit about how you got your start and what you have worked on in the past.
Milena: I started and still work as a music supervisor with over 200 movies so far for directors such as Wim Wenders and wanted to be more involved so I started Sugar Town Filmproduction.
Stephan: i grew up in a creative household and since I was about 17 I knew I had to make this film. So it took me some time but now it is here to see for everybody.
So for both of you, how did this project come together for you? Give me a rundown from the preparation, to shooting, to post-production to now!
Stephan: it was quite a challenge to find the right collaborators. But first I would have to mention Ziska Rieman as she gave me a lot of help in writing the first rough outline of this film. Then Milena Fessemann; without her there would be no Film she has so much experience with music rights it is amazing. My co director Reto Caduff he managed to be my perfect partner in crime. And Maxine Goedicke she is the most amazing editor I have ever met she was able to read our thoughts an vison for this film and make it reality.
Milena: I was introduced to Stephan and loved the project as being pretty involved in music – I also have a weekly radio show at Radio Eins, Berlin and worked as a DJ for a long time – so i went for fundings, put the team together incl my wonderful co producer Paul Zischler of Zischlermann Filmproduction and we started. getting and filming the different interviews. we had a post production lasting almost eight months, clearing 35 songs for the movie and doing everything to make it a good music documentary.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much coffee/sugar/tea (or insert poison here)?
Stephan: I am a coffee guy and coffee and good music was our enabler for this film
Milena: Passion and coffee!
What was your biggest challenge with this project, and the moment that was the most rewarding to you?
Milena: Getting all the people involved for interviews and these interviews and meetings with the people in the movie!
Stephan: The biggest challenge was to find the right team for this production and it took me seven years to find them. The most rewarding was the moment when I first saw the final movie and I knew that now it is done and the film is in the world.
I’m about to get technical, but I would love to know about the the visual design of the movie; what camera did you film with, your relationship to the director of photography and how the movie was photographed.
Stephan: Frank Griebe was our DP and he used an Arri Amira. And working with Frank was a great pleasure he was able to give Pictures to our vision of this film. But in our film there is a mad mix of materials, so Maxime Goedicke our editor had maybe an equal amount of influence on the visual design of the film.
Milena: Arri Alexa was the camera and we had two main DP’s, Frank Griebe who does all the Tom Tykwer Movies and Roman Schauerte – both were wonderful and had a deep impact on the looks. Filmed interviews can be really boring but I hope we did it differently!
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie here in Austin?
Stephan: I have been following the SXSW Festival for a couple of years now online and in my mind it was always the ideal festival for the North America premiere.
After the film screens at SxSW, where is the film going to show next? Theatrical, online, more festivals?
Stephan: The film will be shown next in New York on the 24.3.18 at the MoMa. And Milena and me are hoping to meet an distributor who is interested in releasing the Film in America.
If you could show your movie in any theater outside of Austin, where would you screen it and why?
Stephan: I think I am more interested in the audience then the location I would love the film to inspire musicians to focus on their identity.
We have a lot of readers on our site looking to make movies or get into the industry somehow. What is the ONE THING you would say to someone who is wanting to get into the filmmaking business?
Stephan: Try to be as authentic as possible!
Milena: And be brave!
And final question: what is the greatest movie you have ever seen?
Milena: Les Aventuries by Robert Enrico, 1965 Alain Delon, Lino Ventura
Stephan: To be honest the greatest film of all time changes for me a lot at the moment I would have to say HUMAN FLOW by Ai Weiwei!
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CONNY PLANK screens at SxSW 2018 throughout the festival. For more information visit www.sxsw.com/film!