Anna Justice • Director
by Simon Kingsley - German Films
- German filmmaker Anna Justice (Remembrance) talks about her career in filmmaking and the making of her latest film
Anna Justice is not slow to blame her family for her becoming a filmmaker! It’s in a good way, however, because “I grew up in a large, close family and really like being around and living with people! Filmmaking is about teamwork, getting to know people, forming and making relationships.” There it is: she puts things up front and centre, no dissembling here.
Some directors are driven by style over character, with her it is the reverse and Anna Justice is not about to let something like genre hamper her style: “My previous films have all been very different,” she explains. “Right now I’m doing a political thriller. There’s no title at present but it’s a French-German co-production, a TV-movie, about nuclear energy. I’m directing it, not rewriting it!” she adds.
She recently worked on a fairytale, Pinocchio, which was “a double feature, giving me more time to tell the story.” Definitely not the Disney version, hers combines 3D animation and live action, something she would “love to do again. I thought it wasn’t my material but once I got started I realized there is a lot of creative freedom here. As difficult as it was technically, it was extremely interesting.”
Anna Justice makes no bones, no complaints, about being “a gun for hire. People see my work and hire me, which is great. My agent, Mechtild Holter from Players, has given me the opportunity to do very different films, which is great, without getting typecast. I’d love to do another fairytale and also a historical drama.”
She has done one already, of course, Remembrance [+see also:
interview: Anna Justice
film profile], a WWII drama. Here she set herself “the challenge of not making just another concentration camp film. It’s really about what occurred in Poland in 1944.” Once again she undertook research she describes as “immense” but then “condensed everything into very few scenes.”
Because it is also a true story, she went for “authenticity by having all the characters played by nationals of whichever country, Germans, Poles, Americans, speaking their original language.” She even undertook Polish lessons, describing directing “all-Polish actors in all-Polish scenes” as “interesting. I had to trust them and also work with the translator, working off their expressions and body language.”
“You give away a great deal of control in these circumstances and it was great! I really enjoyed just listening to the sound of voice and watching their gestures and deciding whether it worked for the scene. It was actually very enjoyable to trust them. I invite them to change the text if they want to, I want creative input from the whole team. Someone has to say yes or no, of course, that’s my job, but I like it to be a team effort.” When working with children (this lady clearly knows no fear!) “you have to do it playfully, figuring out the problem without them feeling they have to serve a rigid system of scenes and text.”
Like other directors, she uses music, not when writing but “when I need to think about things. Or not about them! Just to get a feeling. It captures the mood. I play it to the DoP for example, sometimes to the actors. For my upcoming film I’m look ing at French pop songs, partly because a lot of the action takes place in France.” She continues: “Whether it captures the mood of the whole film or just a scene or sequence, music is an essential part of inspiration.” She is also a converted and now convinced fan of the value of storyboarding: “it helps all departments.”