THE JOURNEY: FROM SCRIPT TO SCREEN
On November 11, 2014 the shooting for "Wild Creatures", a short movie written by Rene Zhang in cooperation with actress Chara Valon, began. The movie was produced by Sebastian Sewczyk for Treehauz Media.
The first day of shooting took place in the idyllic woods of Villeforst, near Cologne (Germany) and was only a part of a journey which already began months ago with a simple quote:
Treehauz Media warmly welcomes you to discover the genesis of "Wild Creatures" and to be a part of our journey. We will give you an exclusive look behind the scenes; from a closer look at the performing artists, to our inspirations and technologies - all that contributing in making this film a very special experience.
The quote "Hearts are wild creatures, that's why our ribs are cages" not only inspired the title. The human heart depicted as a raging, aching wild creature became the guiding theme of the movie. Designed to be a strong audio-visual experience, director Rene Zhang and Chara Valon decided to leave out any form of spoken dialogue, and instead completely rely on the emotional connection and imagery between the actors.
What makes love turn into a heinous power struggle? What consequences are to be feared when affection bears greed and turns into obsession? What makes us cast off the innocence that made us vulnerable? And why do we loose our inner child? All of these questions were of tremendous importance while developing the script.
The concept of "Wild Creatures" was developed by actress Chara Valon, and came to life in Rene Zhangs writing and photography.
Soon, a three chapter structure became apparent: obsession, affection and its price.
"In an abstract movie like “Wild Creatures” the script only provides a rough guideline for organizing the story. The movie itself lives on the actresses abillity to improvize, and the editing." says Rene Zhang. "I have never worked on a movie that gave me so much freedom, on set and in the postproduction, to specifically react to unexpected impulses and intense emotions which developed while improvising the scenes."
Rene Zhang: "We wanted to visualize emotional circumstances of when an obsession takes over your life and begins to affect your world and the people around it. How far will this obsession push you? How much pain will you endure for these strong emotions."
THE WORLD OF WILD CREATURES
After finishing the script, we had to find a strong visual style. The goal was to create a captivating, dangerous world, which tantalizes the audience right away. We relied on our experience with shooting music videos to help us achieve these goals. The used effects were supposed have a classic look, much like the visual compositions of the 70's and 80's, rather than modern computer generated effects. To achieve this look we combined multiple film layers and animated 2D elements frame by frame. Even handmade effects, like for example a simulated beating heart in a body were used.
The cathedral and Earth in the universe belong to the most impressive motives of the "Wild Creatures"-Universe.
"Love has a lot of different faces. Like for example the love to people, money or possession, narcism or religions." That is one of the reasons why you can find religious aspects in the imagery of "Wild Creatures". "In the end it's always about that one secret we all carry with ourselves. Something big we built inside of us, like a cathedral for the own heart. And what happens when we have to give it up or someone takes it away. The universe symbolizes the perspective we must remove ourselves from to see things more clearly. The world doesn't only turn revolve around us.", thinks director Rene Zhang.
For creating the cathedral we used a technique, which made it possible for us to convert 2D images into 3D spaces. A digital camera made it possible to move dynamicly within this 2D frame.
Other elements were shot in front of a green screen copied onto the 2D layer.
Another strong theme in the imagery is the “inner child” portrayed by newcomer Jeffrey Pudel. At the young age of 14, he's already had the opportunity to gather some experience as a model. With "Wild Creatures" he gives his debut as an actor .
The decision to include him as the personified inner child, was inspired by a series of photographs taken by the photographer Ines Rehberger in collaboration with Chara Valon in 2014 .
This idea found its continuation in "Wild Creatures". The loss of innocence, and giving up a part of oneself for something you're desire is one of the various aspects you can discover in the movie.
With the visual style set in mind, the quest for gathering a team commenced. Director Rene Zhang was not only head of the creative department, but also took care of the visual and practical effects. He was also in charge of the camerawork and the editing. Using experiences made from his previous short film "Yellow", Rene was able to produce under severe time- and budget constrains.
Chara Valon is an actress and artist, her passion lives in poetry and strong imagery. It was a challenging performance, dealing with the circumstances of a script without dialogue. Being a co-writer, she was highly involved in many states of the production process, from designing her costume to the making of the effects. From shooting in a controled environment in front of a green screen, to unpredictable outdoor shoots in pooring rain, she met and exceeded every expectation.
"Wild Creatures is a very close project to Rene and me, digging up things we've buried, literally." mentioned actress Chara Valon.
"Working without any dialogue and an only vaguely structured script, the focus lay on improvising. Living in the moment, being suspended to the tone, you get vulnerable. It was challenging not to get lost in emotions. So in an abrannt way, the struggle was kind of real to me, on screen and behind."
"We wanted to have the full creative control over our project and we wanted to run with our vision." says producer Sebastian Sewczyk. "We from Treehauz Media have a fast paced and efficient work culture. That's why we were able to successfully produce this project in a short time frame and modest budget." The creative team of Rene Zhang and Sebastian Sewczyk have been working on producing short movies, music videos and image films for some time now.
"The artistic standards were set high", noticed Sebastian Sewczyk. "Many different factors had to interact. From extensive studio sessions to shooting in the woods, with generators as the only source of electricity, artificial lighting and special make up effects. And all that in inclement weather conditions."
The team was supported by experienced unit production manager Lika Nadiradze, who always kept the organisational priorities in mind. Despite the poor weather conditions, they managed to maintain their schedule. Production driver Chris Bergau and production assistant Inessa Mesic provided the extra set of hands every successful production needs. "Working on set is always a struggle against time, budget and every other unforeseen circumstances", says Rene Zhang. "It is important that the cast and crew comes to the set, that the equipment is ready on time and are everyones needs are fulfilled during long shoots . A great team like this is the key to a passionate and creative project like "Wild Creatures"."
Making of Gallery:
The music of wild creatures
Like in Rene Zhangs previous short film "Yellow", Julian Kantus brilliant compositions helped bringing "Wild Creatures" to life. Because of the lack of dialogue and strong audio-visual conception, this project offers an even bigger stage for Julians fantastic work.
A rough cut with different songs from various genres (from Pink Floyd to Mozart) was used to deliver a base for the mood and sound impressions that the director wanted to achieve. Based on this rough cut, Julian composed the score.
"Julians music has a strong emotional identity. In this case it almost becomes like a narrator, helping the audience to get a better emotional understanding for the film" says Rene Zhang. "It's hard to find a composer who is able to feel the emotion of a film, the way Julian does."
With "The Root" Frau Karo, threetime winner of the german rock & pop prize, contributes the official title song for "Wild Creatures".
“I grew up with James Bond. An official title song is a must for me and each of my movies." Rene Zhang was so far able to collaborate with at least one well known musician in each of his projects. "I am more than glad I got Frau Karo to contribute to this project. Her voice is just fantastic and with “The Root" we found that very special note to end the movie with.
Who ever wants a sample of her incredibly creative work is more than welcome to have a look at the official music video: