Whistler Film Festival 2018 Interview – 20 MINUTES TO LIFE director Veronika Kurz

“20 MINUTES TO LIFE is about Olivia, an elementary school “good kid” who has her very first detention. She imagines it as a prison, complete with guards, barred windows, and a prison warden. Once there, Olivia must befriend the “bad kids” and figure out how to solve 20,000 math problems in 20 minutes in order to escape.” Director Veronika Kurz on 20 MINUTES TO LIFE which screens in the Shortwork program at the Whistler Film Festival.

So happy to be talking to you once again! Tell me about your previous experience here at the festival and what you showed.

I am thrilled to be back at Whistler Film Festival! In 2014, we had the world premiere of my short student film “Narrow Lines”. The festival and the audience were wonderful, and I am so excited to be premiering here again!

What is it about Whistler, either the festival or the town itself, that excites you the most?

This might sound silly, but I absolutely love how beautiful and cozy Christmas lights are. This festival, taking place in December, is prime Christmas light time and makes me feel like I’m in a winter wonderland.

How did you first hear about Kristyn Stilling’s Shortwork Showcase and wishing to send your film into the Whistler Film Festival?

I first heard about it through one of my teachers at Capilano University. After I finished NARROW LINES they recommended I send it to Whistler. And so my love of this festival began!

Tell me about the idea behind your project and getting it made!

20 MINUTES TO LIFE was inspired by my own first detention. When I was in grade two, I was the straight-A good kid. One fateful day, I accidentally spilt grape juice on a girl in my class and she told on me, saying I did it on purpose. I was so upset that I couldn’t explain what happened to my teacher or defend myself in any way. So I was sentenced to my first detention.

I was DEVASTATED. I thought that my life was over: my family would hate me, I’d flunk out of school, and my future career would be over before I even left primary school.

Turns out, when you’re in grade two, detention means that at recess you go down to the library and put your head down on the desk for 20 minutes. It’s not bad. At all.

With this film, I decided to take this experience to the next level by making detention a literal prison.

This film was such a blast to make. We had 60+ crew members, 30+ cast, and a grape juice shootout. It was a dream come true making this film, and I can’t wait to work with my amazing team again soon!

Who are some of your main creative inspirations for this project?

For this project, I was hugely inspired by my amazing cast and crew. They all brought so much of themselves to this film and were so much fun to work with.

I’d like to specifically mention my cinematographer, Alfonso Chin. He is a huge creative inspiration to me and is the type of person that makes me want to make films for the rest of your life. From prep to post, diving deep into the characters and story, and creating a visual language with him for the film was such an incredible experience. I can’t wait for our next collaboration!

How did you put the short together from a technical viewpoint? What sort of cameras/lenses did you use, and any creative challenges in making it?

We shot “20 Minutes to Life” on two Alexas, with Master Primes and an Angenieux zoom lense for B Cam. For the first three days we ran both A and B cam, and on the fourth day of shooting B cam went and did a second unit day.

The main challenge in making this film was that we only had a short amount of time with our child actors which is most of the cast. Although it was a challenge, if anything, I felt that it made me a better director because I had to make decisions that much more quickly and be that much more prepared and creative in how we shot in order to get everything we needed.

After your short screens here, where is it going next? Anywhere you would love to show it?

Currently submitting for festivals, so we’ll see. But I would love it to play in Germany, because I was there last year on vacation for a month and loved it so much. I’m basically just looking for a great excuse to go back and enjoy more cake, pretzels, and schnitzel…not necessarily all at once.

What would you suggest to theatres or even film festivals as a way to show more short films theatrically or make them more accessible to audiences across the country?

I would love to see a return of shorts before feature films. It would be great for the filmmakers and fun for the audiences to see films that they wouldn’t normally get to see.

If you know of anyone around you wanting to become a filmmaker, or even put together shorts, what would you suggest to get their start?

Watch a lot of shorts, and films in general! Come to festivals like this one and see the films that are being programmed. Stay for Q&A’s, meet the filmmakers, make connections.

And finally, what is your favourite short film of all time?

My absolute favourite short of all time is MARO LILY. It’s about a couple determined to plant a tree in the middle of winter following the loss of their child. It’s beautiful, simple, and makes me cry every time I watch it.

20 MINUTES TO LIFE screens as part of ShortWork 3: Saturday December 1st, 1:30PM at the Maury Young Arts Centre as part of the Whistler Film Festival shorts program. For more information, point your browser to www.whistlerfilmfestival.com!

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