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Peter Luisi • Director of Bon Schuur Ticino

“I have realised that a lot of decisions that fall to the producer are extremely important for the creative process”


- On the eve of the release of his newest opus, the director and producer discusses the process of making comedies on a reduced budget in Switzerland

Peter Luisi  • Director of Bon Schuur Ticino
(© Oliver Rust)

Peter Luisi has been producing a series of notable films destined for a wide audience but made on a reduced budget. His international breakthrough came with the endearing love story Der Sandmann [+see also:
film profile
, which, with its fantastical and romantic elements, recalls the works of German author ETA Hoffmann. His newest work, Bon Schuur Ticino [+see also:
interview: Peter Luisi
film profile
, is an adventurous comedy bringing into focus the political system in Switzerland and its peculiar characteristic of having four official languages. The film will be released in Swiss cinemas on 30 November, courtesy of DCM. We spoke to the director and producer about his idea for the film and the production conditions in his home country.

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Cineuropa: How did this project begin, and where did the idea come from?
Peter Luisi:
The idea of a popular initiative to abolish Switzerland's national languages and force everyone to speak French first came from Beat Schlatter, who plays the male lead. I couldn't let go of this idea and suggested making a film out of it. Beat and I had already worked together on my film Streaker [+see also:
film profile

Bon Schuur Ticino is the most Swiss of your films to date.
Because it's very Swiss, that's an advantage over the many Hollywood productions. It's difficult for Swiss films to keep up. The production of a film has to be much faster; the budget doesn't allow for a long development process or production time. I think you can see that in the films. That's why I also believe that it doesn't make sense to want to make an action film, for example. You have to leave that to Hollywood; they do it better. But comedies don't necessarily have to be big productions. It's a genre that allows us to tell stories that are closer to our own culture. In addition, the experiment particularly appealed to me personally because I don't speak French or Italian.

How did you and Beat work together?
As with Streaker, we met, exchanged ideas and developed the story. Then, I wrote the script on my own. Beat gave me feedback. He is completely underestimated as a writer. I'm very happy to have a partner with whom I can discuss the development of the story in this way. I always have the last word because I'm the author and director of the film.

You are also one of the producers. It's not the first feature you've produced yourself. How did that come about?
It started when I didn't get any money for my first film. No production company wanted to make it. I had been doing adverts with my own company up until then. But it was actually always my goal to make films. And so, I decided to produce them myself. That was the case with my first movie, and then with the next ones, too. From my fourth film onwards, I thought I was actually doing well. I also realised that a lot of decisions that fall to the producer are extremely important for the creative process. With Princess, for example, I was able to decide that I would allocate a much larger part of the budget than usual to the actors and actresses. Another producer would probably have said that was too expensive and that I had to use cheaper actors. On one hand, it's a burden because it's more work, but it's also an advantage on a creative level.

Why did you choose the region of Ticino as the setting for Bon Schuur Ticino? What was the collaboration with the Ticino Film Commission like?
We really wanted to make a film that would include all language regions. We chose French to become the only national language because it allowed the smaller language region to assert itself against the larger Swiss-German one, for once. And we thought it would be funny to choose Ticino as the outsider in the story, which also has a peripheral position in reality. When I approached the Ticino Film Commission with the idea, they liked it. They helped us find locations and obtain filming permits. They didn't have much money, though; we got about 10,000 Swiss francs. There was also some other filming taking place in Ticino at the same time, so unfortunately, we couldn't work with many people on location.

Did you think about the international audience when you were developing the script?
When writing it, I always assumed that it would also have to work for someone who doesn't know Switzerland. That's what the introduction at the beginning was supposed to do. We haven't really started sending it to festivals abroad yet, but we already have an invitation from Palm Springs, where it will have its US premiere. I also think that, although it's a Swiss topic, the issue is also understood beyond Switzerland.

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