Filmmaker Spotlight

Irene Schueller:In Step for a Bright Future in Film

  FAME: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Irene: I was a school teacher before I started diving into the art world. While I was studying painting and worked on installations I got more and more interested in videos. So I worked on those as well. Even more than into art I have been into dance, always. I guess I didn’t trust my body enough to become professional. I thought visual art might be a good substitute.

I was a gymnast as a child, later, I started contemporary dance, learned Salsa, Contact Improvisation and Tango. The Tango scene for me was very ambivalent. On the one hand, I always had somewhere to go, knew what to do in the evenings, even when I was a stranger in China and also in Berlin (I usually live in the Black Forest), on the other hand, it was almost impossible to make friends. Everybody in Tango is interested in looking good and dancing with the 'right' people. You need to stick to strict rules, and it’s a lot about your own capacity of dancing (am I using the right word?). Tango is quite difficult. So you need to train a lot and of course, you don’t want to dance with anybody who makes you look like a fool or with whom it physically just doesn’t feel good or with whom you get bored. Being a perpetrator and victim is very close together.

FAME: What was your inspiration for your Documentary, "Tango on a Visit"?

Irene: All the films I had seen didn’t cover those topics. They were all about the passion and about tango-stars. I wanted to portrait the emotions of the average dancer. Besides I had a scholarship for video-artwork. My mind was so full of the dance those days that I wouldn’t have been interested in doing other art work than this one.

The protagonists where all people I knew quite well. If something like a Tango friend existed those days, they where Tango friends. I had observed them for a long time and found them all very special, very much dedicated to the dance and the scene in a beautiful way. They trusted me completely. Especially Christian, who appears a bit vulnerable in the film. I am very happy that he was that open and I could use the material. For me, he is the most important person in the film. Joscha was working on his career and already then behaving like a VIP, which I found very irritating.
The scene with is beauty and brutality. I felt amazing, when I was dancing with a good dancer. Energetic, beautiful, connected, high!  At the same time I could see, that the scene is very narrow. All people seem to be addicts. Lonely together.

  FAME: What was the biggest challeges you faced and most rewarding experiences in creating your film?

Irene: At some milongas we couldn’t film as much as I wanted, because people felt disturbed. Especially the observations of how people find their dance partners and how they part, would have been interesting to capture.

“Tango on a Visit” is my debut. Although the topic, “Tango', lets people very often yawn, is was super easy for me to find remarkable producers (I’m talking about plural!), BUT: Wim Wenders had just started his co-produciton on “The last Tango”, so it was impossible for us to get the support from a TV broadcast. In Germany it’s like this: no TV, no money from anybody.

I was very obstinate and decided to produce myself. As I didn’t have any knowledge, I needed to learn a lot. I edited the research material I already had. Two producers in Switzerland and a Russian editor supported me technically and dramatically. With a rough cut I got post production funding from the MFG ;THE film funding for my area. So I was very lucky, happy, proud.

It is not the film I originally wanted, as I wanted to dive deep into the souls of my protagonists. Join them home to their parents to examine where the decision for this lonely lifestyle has it’s origin.  “Tango on a Visit” now, is a more lighthearted film, made of research footage. It’s not a long term observation. As you can see, I always get back to the same interview situation. Fortunately the interviews were so dense and rich, that bringing their words into a certain order feels like a development of the character.

FAME: What do you want people do take away from watching 'Tango on a Visit?'

Irene:I hope the audience can identify with one of the protagonists and get in touch with themselves.  It’s a bit like a fairy-tale. You can dive into a parallel world, see if you like it, and after it, draw your conclusion.  It’s about obsession in general. About the question how much obsession is good for you, and at which point it might keep you from moving forward.  It’s about personal development, different ideas of how things should be seen and done.  All in all, I hope the film with all it’s music, beauty and humor is entertaining.

FAME:What have you learned from making "Tango on a Visit" that might be of value to aspiring filmmakers?

It sounds a bit pathetic, but I guess becoming a documentary film maker has made me a better person. Respect your protagonists! – on set and in the editing room. And I guess respect even makes the story better.

FAME: Any other films of yours our readers can check out? What about upcoming projects?

At the moment I am working on a concept for a show, that includes painting, video and performance. The video displays people  (very touchy people, inspired by contact improvisation dance) in the opening of the show, so the guests of the show can watch the film like looking into a mirror. They decide, if they like what they see or if they are happy about being different. It’s about the questions what art shows are good for, what makes people happy… very rough description!

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