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Film and the Arts

We Are The Night

A provocative gang of female vampires is living by their own rules and leaving a merciless trail of blood throughout Europe. They return to Berlin where 20-year-old Lena (Karoline Herfurth) survives as a petty thief.

On her nightly run through an underground club, she meets 250-year-old Louise (Nina Hoss), a vampire vixen, who is not only the owner of the club, but also leads this all-female vampire trio -- the other two members are the wild Nora (Anna Fischer) and elegant Charlotte (Jennifer Ulrich).

Louise falls head over heels in love with the scruffy Lena and bites her during their first night together. Lena quickly discovers the curse and the blessing of her new, eternal life. She revels in the glamour, parties and infinite freedom.

Nevertheless, she discovers that the endless blood lust she shares with her new girlfriends comes at a steep price. When she resolves to turn her back on the bloodsucking band of sisters, Louise's temper explodes in a blood fury.

When Detective Tom Serner (Max Riemelt) begins investigating a series of grisly murders, it is just a matter of time before the blood trail leads him to Lena and the other vampires in an out-of-control showdown between the undead and the police.

Dennis Gansel was born in Hannover, Germany on October 4th, 1973. He began experimenting with a video camera at the age of 17, in the footsteps of his directing idols Orson Welles, David Fincher, Sydney Pollack and Hal Ashby.

He attended Munich Film School HFF from 1994 to 2000, where he met Christian Becker and they made their first short, The Wrong Trip (1995). Their second short, Living Dead (1996), won the Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau short film prize.

After graduating from film school, Dennis shot his first feature film, The Phantom, also produced by Becker, won Cinema magazine's Jupiter award as Best TV Movie 2000, the Adolf Grimme Prize and the 3sat Audience Award.

In 2001 he made his theatrical debut with hit teen comedy Girls on Top. Together with co-author Maggie Peren, Gansel then wrote the script to Before the Fall, a story set inside the elite Nazi training schools for promising young Aryan boys. In 2007, Dennis Gansel and producer Christian Becker continued their collaboration with The Wave, which took home the German Film Prize in Bronze 2008 and screened around the world.

FEARS: From all the literature to the films, what would you say was the biggest influence on We Are the Night?

Dennis Gansel: When I started this story, back in 1997, I read a lot about vampires and I discovered the novel that was actually the first vampire novel ever written: Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. The novel dealt with a female vampire duchess traveling through Austria, in the region of Styria. She falls in love with the daughter of a landlord and she bites her and makes her a companion.

This novel was actually the biggest influence on Bram Stoker's Dracula, so much so that he actually wanted Styria to be his setting too, but his editor said he couldn't do it. They were frantically searching for another location and that's when they came up with Transylvania.

I thought if female lesbian vampires who don't bite men is in the very beginnings of vampires' history, it could be very nice for us. And that's where the idea came from.

FEARS: What do you feel is the attraction of vampires for the audience and for you?

DG: The vampire movie is one of the oldest movies genres there is. They've got a lot in them. You've got the classic horror shocker, plus the sex appeal, the interdependent characters and the drive to change oneself.

Looking back, of course, the good vampire films were always also a reflection of their era. The vampire film is part of the German cinema history with Murnau’s Nosferatu, which was unofficially based on Stoker’s Dracula and set in Germany.

FEARS: And there is the sex appeal!

DG: It is interesting.If you read Carmilla or Dracula, there is the Victorian sexual repression that leaps out at you, and this sexual tone is in all the vampire movies They pick[ed] up on that tradition and ran with it, playing with the lure of carnal desires. The fact we can tell the story of We Are the Night with exciting, modern women in today's Berlin, makes it all the more suspenseful.

FEARS: One of the lures of becoming a vampire is being immortal, never growing old, etc., but why are your vampires so melancholy?

DG: They just don't know what to do with themselves. They're devoted to total luxury and excess, partying and consuming like crazy. The result is an inner void.

That's what the film is about. If Louise were to withdraw to a quiet country estate somewhere in Ireland, ration her blood baggies, and do something for her mind, for instance, everything would be fine. But she's not like that.

The vampiresses create a glam-glitter world for themselves which sucks Lena in at first, as well. But then she starts seeing behind the veneer: These women, who seem so unimaginably strong and beautiful, are ultimately very lonely, and long for love, tenderness, a home and family.

FEARS: I understand that We Are the Night is a 15 year labor of love. Why did it take so long?

DG: I told Christian Becker my idea for a vampire movie set in the Berlin club scene, centered on a love story, in 1996 when we were film students and roommates together.

Soon thereafter, I had the exposé for The Dawn done and was sure I'd be able to start shooting it soon. But I guess the time just wasn't right. I think The Dawn is one of the most-rejected screenplays in movie history (laughs). There's hardly an agency or distributor we didn't offer it to.

But Christian and I always believed in it and would always joke and say: We'll make this damn movie by the time we're 50. The film was actually released in Germany just after my 37th birthday.

FEARS: The Dawn has become We Are the Night. How has it changed since then?

DG: The characters are the same, but the story has changed. My original script was too much like Twilight. That was a blow for me, of course, that Stephenie Meyer could land a global hit with an idea a lot like the one I'd had much earlier and got rejected everywhere.

Jan Berger told me the story at the center was great. All we had to do was change the point of view, telling the story of someone's initiation into the vampire world. I loved that approach.

FEARS: In working with screenwriter Jan Berger, what vampire elements did you decide to keep?

DG: We were making decisions while we were writing. Actually, the one thing we talked about a lot was the fact that they are all female vampires, which raises the question "But what about the male vampires?"

And we thought "Okay, if we were female vampires, we would instantly kill every male vampire because they would obviously be much stronger than we are." We though that the survival rate for female vampires would be much higher because they were less likely to reveal themselves and they wouldn't kill as many people.

And ironically, that is what our female vampires do after Lena joins the group; the body count rises because they want to impress her. Ultimately these male aspects may lead to the extinction of our vampires. We thought that was an interesting side effect.

Still, we didn't actually sit down and make a list, but we just asked ourselves what's cool about vampire movies, and what sucks? Fangs, blood and no reflection -- those were definitely cool. Bats, garlic and crucifixes I thought suck.

Too much mushy romance sucks, too. We wanted to have action. When I watch a movie of this genre, I want to be on the edge of my seat.

FEARS: Given the different periods each of the vampires come from, why did you decide to set the story in modern day Berlin?

DG: Well, being set among the ultra-hip Berlin club scene, naturally it reflects the zeitgeist of our modern society. We're all obsessed with youth culture, living out our hedonistic desires, giving in to consumerism and partying all night. All we think about is ourselves and our own fun, no one wants to take responsibility.

Society has become apolitical like never before, at least in Germany. In a way, We Are the Night also evokes casting shows like The X Factor or Germany’s Next Topmodel, a phenomenon we didn't have ten years ago.

We Are the Night [is] life as an ultra-hedonistic vampire. We Are the Night is a modern coming-of-age story. Lena is whisked away on a whirlwind journey against her will at first, then finds enjoyment in her new life, but grows and matures as well, finding herself again at the end.

FEARS: How did you pick those eras for the characters?

DG: Louise was a lady-in-waiting at the court of Frederick the Great. That epoch of German history has always fascinated me, and Jan Berger as well. So we felt that had to be in a German vampire film.

The Roaring 20s were the Golden Age of German movies, with silent films like Nosferatu and Dr. Mabuse, so we definitely wanted those in there too, through the figure of Charlotte.

Then there's Nora, hailing from the early-90s techno era. That was an extremely formative time for me, because for the first time I felt that things were changing in Germany, that it was actually cool to be German, with the Love Parade in Berlin becoming world-famous -- which was easily as cool as anything happening in Barcelona or New York City.

I've been living in Berlin again for years now, and find the changes this city has gone through amazing and exciting. So I wanted that in the movie, too.

FEARS: There have been several critically acclaimed genre films to come out of Europe in the past few years. Why did it take so long to make We Are the Night?

DG: We tried it in 2000 and 2004, and I had all the cast in 2006. Everybody said, 'No, we won't do it.'

I said, "Look, there's a new book coming out in the U.S. and it's called Twilight. It's not really my kind of genre, but it's vampires with a love story. Let's do it now." I prepared the movie, but the whole financial issue was too hard for us.

A lot of genre movies were invented in Europe, like Metropolis and Nosferatu. We have such a great tradition of genre movies in Germany that everybody in Germany, especially in the younger generation of directors, wants to make them.

But the financiers always say 'Do comedies,' because the only one who is making money is Til Schweiger, which is true. We want to elevate it a little bit and do different kinds of films.

FEARS: Given the mythology only has female vampires, giving it this Wonder Woman and the Amazons feel, did working with largely a female cast present any unique challenges?

DG: It was rough, yeah. (laughs) I've never shot with that many women, especially so many strong women who want to contribute to crafting their roles themselves.

But at the same time that's a wonderful opportunity, and I'd be stupid not to listen to the input of such a dynamite cast of actresses. After this movie, I think I'm the total ladies' man, and very sensitive to female issues.

FEARS: Given that all your films have a similar tone, they are each very different. Do you enjoy the horror genre?

DG: I think drama and thrillers are the most fun. I was deeply influenced by the New Hollywood cinema and the fun and highly entertaining worlds of Zemeckis and Spielberg. The Super 8 trailer looks amazing, as does the one for Haywire. Something like this would be fun to work on.

FEARS: What can you tell us about your next film, Year of the Dog?

DG: It is my first English language feature and I‛m in the process of editing it right now.

It's about terrorism. It's starring Moritz Bleibtreu as a journalist who comes to Moscow, who wants to have fun and enjoy his life in Moscow. He's working for a magazine, but he's confronting terrorism in Russia and he's caught between terrorists and the government.

Actually, it's about state terrorism and how the government uses terrorism to influence politics. It's a classic political thriller, very entertaining, very much in the same vein as 1970s Hollywood political thriller.

I wrote the original draft more than 10 years ago, and it also took me a long time to do it because thrillers, they have a big tradition in Germany, but, same with other genres, it's tough to get the money.

Terrorism changed the world we are living in right now, so fundamentally, I was really wondering, for the last 10 years, where are all the movies about terrorism? I don't need any more movies about Iraq or Afghanistan.

I really want a big movie like Three Days of the Condor and all this great stuff from the 70s, which really reflect how the CIA and Watergate changed the American society. I always wondered where these movies are right now. Politics can still be very entertaining, and this is my try to make such a movie.

Nebula Awards Weekend 2011

The Nebula Awards Weekend are being held May 19 - May 22, 2011 at the Washington neb-logoHilton Hotel in Washington, D.C.

This year the Toastmaster is Michael Swanwick, a prolific science fiction and fantasy writer who has been awarded the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, the Theodore Sturgeon Award and the World Fantasy Award, all in one lifetime.

Events during this weekend include:

  • Workshops
  • Program
  • Tours
  • SFWA Business Meeting
  • Mass Autographing Session
  • Friday Evening Reception to Honor the Nominees
  • Nebula Awards Banquet and Presentations

The Workshops are:

Warfare for Writers – The basics for writing characters in battle, conducted by Timons Esaias. This workshop tackles three elements of this very vast subject:

  • A Catechism for the Semi-Clueless – the fundamentals of military science:
    • What is War?
    • Why are there units?
    • Why officers?
    • What are strategy, tactics, logistics and camp-followers?

Other basic definitions will be addressed, and most importantly, for each element the question will be raised: "What Does This Mean for My Writing?"

  • Fortifications 101 – a slide show discussing defenses through history. Hosts name the major parts of defenses, with the focus on the nine essential elements that tend to be missing when one visits castles, forts and bastions today.
  • Getting Combat on the Page – a series of writing exercises to put theory into practice. The "battle" will be broken down into modular parts. Attendees learn to consider what to show the reader, and what to spare them. Remember also that battle is the writer‛s opportunity to stress one‛s fictional characters in a nicely extreme environment.

Cooking Up a Book Launch: Recipe, Essentials and Icing, conducted by Janice Shoults, EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishingneb-MSbook

  • Creating Your Recipe
    • Why have a plan
    • What are your goals?
    • What is your plan?
  • The Essentials
    • Back to the 5 w’s
    • Promotions plans
  • The Icing
    • Brainstorming creative ideas around making a book launch unique to your book
    • Joint venturing
    • Online launch parties

Bonus Workshop: Cooking in a Test Kitchen – the chance for each participant to practice. Each group will be given the photo of a book cover, and a case study with details, and have an opportunity to work through the steps of creating a book launch and then presenting it back to the group.

TV Without Terror – Approaching a television interview without fear. Conducted by Mike Zipser and Tom Schaad of Fast Forward, a monthly half-hour cable TV show about the genres of SF, Fantasy & Horror, at the Arlington Independent Media studio.

This on-location practical workshop will give a taste of how television studios work, and what to expect.

In studio: See the workings of a small studio (and you would be surprised how small many studios really are).

Live experience: participants will take part in a mock interview and offer critiques of the mock interviews with peers. All participants will receive a DVD copy of the interview.

Practical tips related to little details that can make or break an interview:

  • What to wear
  • Makeup
  • Interview length
  • Do you look at the camera?
  • Other issues
  • Practical checklist

Improving Your Website – Evaluating and planning websites, conducted by Gayle Surrette and Paul Haggerty of SFRevu/Amperzen Design Studio
"Evaluating current sites" is the main focus of this workshop and will revolve around evaluating current author websites. This section also focuses on workshop attendee websites. Participates should provide a link to their current site so that the site can be easily accessed during the workshop.

Purpose of websites – Websites are an easy way to connect authors and fans, but do you need one? This section focuses on the importance and purpose of websites:
Is a website necessary for you?

  • What should be included on your website?
  • What should not be included on your website?
  • Pro/Con of having a blog be your main website?
  • Do you need to allow comments and reply?

There should also be time for a section related to Website Fundamentals to discuss the nuts and bolts of websites, if needed. There are numerous items that need to be included in website design plans. These are some of the main items the workshop will discuss:

  • DNS & hosting
  • Software
  • Design
  • Content
  • HTML
  • How often do you need to update?

Reading Aloud 201 – A Critique Workshop including Techniques of Voice Acting, conducted by Mary Robinette Kowal
(Attending the Saturday morning program item “Reading Aloud 101” on Saturday 11:00 a.m. is a pre-requisite to attending this workshop; different material will be covered in these two items)

People may audit this workshop, but auditors cannot ask questions or speak (people who wish to audit Reading Aloud 201 need to attend the program item Reading Aloud 101).

Other events include:

Visits to:

  • National Museum of the American Indian
  • Library of Congress
  • Smithsonian’s Air & Space Museum Tour
  • Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum

Presentations include:

  • Using Science in Science Fiction: A Presentation and Conversation
  • Writers Incorporating
  • Putting Your Backlist to Work
  • Collecting Over a Writer’s Lifetime to Supplement Retirement Income
  • Hints 4 Graceful & Subtle Self Promotion

Mass Book Signing – These authors will be present for autographs:

  • John Joseph Adams
  • Catherine Asaro
  • Paolo Bacigalupi
  • Christopher Barzak
  • J. Kathleen Cheney
  • Chris Claremont
  • Brenda W. Clough
  • Aliette de Bodard
  • Scott Edelman
  • Timons Esaias
  • Cynthia Felice
  • Andrew Fox
  • Laura Anne Gilman
  • Anne Groell
  • Joe Haldeman
  • Peter Heck
  • M.K. (Mary) Hobson
  • Vylar Kaftan
  • David Keck
  • John Kessel
  • Alethea Kontis
  • Mary Robinette Kowal
  • Geoffrey A. Landis
  • Lee Martindale
  • James Morrow
  • John Scalzi
  • Lawrence Schoen
  • Stanley Schmidt
  • Bud Sparhawk
  • Allen Steele
  • Eric James Stone
  • Michael J. Sullivan
  • Michael Swanwick
  • Darrell Schweitzer
  • Judith Tarr
  • Brandie Tarvin
  • Mary Turzillo
  • Michael Whelan
  • Connie Willis

The Nebula Awards Banquet will be held Saturday evening, May 21, 2011 in the International Ballroom.

In addition to the Nebula Award nominees, announcement will be made for the 2011 Grand Master. The title Damon Knight Memorial Grand Master is bestowed upon a living author for a lifetime’s achievement in science fiction and/or fantasy.

James Tiptree Jr. Bake Sale

The Tiptree Award honors works of speculative fiction that "explore and expand gender." This year‛s award winner will be announced.

James Tiptree, Jr./Alice B. Sheldon will receive SFWA’s Solstice Award, posthumously, at this year’s Nebula Awards Weekend. To further highlight her work, a Tiptree Bake Sale will be held during the weekend.

For more information go to www.sfwa.org/nebula-weekend.

Nebula Awards Weekend
May 19 - May 22, 2011

Washington Hilton
1919 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C.
202-483-3000

Music Preview: The Real 'Royal' Kate

Royal_lesson

Soprano Kate Royal performs A Lesson in Love
Friday, May 20, 2011

Forget about the former Kate Middleton. The real “Royal Kate” is British soprano Kate Royal, who winds up a busy season in New York on May 20 with her long-awaited Carnegie Hall recital debut in the intimate Weill Recital Hall. This comes on the heels of her Carnegie performance with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra last December and her Metropolitan Opera debut in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice last month.

Royal’s recital (part of her first North American tour which also includes stops in Montreal, San Francisco, Atlanta, Vancouver and Vermont) will be taken up by the entirety of her latest EMI Classics CD release, A Lesson in Love, in which she and pianist Malcolm Martineau perform a selection of 29 songs to tell the story of one woman’s journey from youth to maturity via love and betrayal. The composers, which include Schumann, Faure, Wolf, Liszt, Debussy, Ravel, Strauss, Brahms, Britten and Schubert, were personally chosen by Royal, whose acute musical intelligence ranks with her lovely singing voice and poised stage presence.

For those who want even more Kate, EMI Classics has released a DVD of last summer’s production of Mozart’s Don Giovanni from England’s Glyndebourne Festival, in which a luminous Royal sings Donna Elvira. The soprano spoke by phone from Montreal before her recital there about her appearances in New York, how A Lesson in Love originated and how it feels being eclipsed in Google searches for her name by the new Duchess of Cambridge.

Kevin Filipski: How does it feel that, when someone Googles “Kate Royal,” they now get information on a Kate who married into the Royal Family a few weeks ago?
Kate Royal: Well, I seemed to have been bumped down a bit, haven’t I? (laughs) I was in New York for the wedding, but I still woke up at 5:30 in the morning and watched the whole thing. I actually became far more patriotic watching it from so far away from home than I actually was before. I felt very proud while watching, it looked absolutely beautiful and I think most people got the sense that they are genuinely a happy couple.

KF: How was it making your Metropolitan Opera debut singing in Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice this past month?
KR: It went great! It was a great role to start off with at the Met, since it’s not too long or strenuous. It’s an amazing place and an amazing “barn” of a hall to perform in. I was happy to be singing Gluck to start, even though it’s quite difficult and quite a stretch to be doing baroque music at the Met, since there’s a lightness to baroque that’s tough to put across in a big place, but I think we pulled it off. It was lovely to work with dancers, from my point of view, since it’s mainly a ballet, not that I have to dance. It was lovely to watch and to combine that with singing. I’m very interested to sing something else there, and I’m slated to return next season.

KF: When we spoke last fall, you were preparing to sing Britten’s Les Illuminations at Carnegie Hall with Orpheus, the conductor-less chamber group. How was that experience?
KR: Actually, I thoroughly enjoyed the process. In terms of doing that again (working without a conductor), it would take a lot of trust with the musicians, so I would  certainly do it again but not all the time. It takes a lot to create a full democracy in music-making, but with that piece in that situation, it worked beautifully.

KF: Your current recital tour comprises a program you devised, A Lesson In Love. How did it come about?
KR: I wanted something to reflect what I do, what I love. I enjoy singing in recital, and it’s almost a separate career from singing operas. I wanted to try a concept of combining songs to create something that’s very personal to me. Obviously, the theme of love is an easy one to pick, and I wanted to create one character to sing. You usually have to create 20 separate mini-characters in a recital for each song you sing, so why not create one character through 20 songs? It’s a sung monologue, and I tried to pick songs which were written individually rather than as part of song cycles. There are well-known songs and a few less known pieces. I had the wonderful task of sifting through poetry that grabbed me, because I was focused on a performing a story that was in the first person and in a female voice. I always enjoy planning a journey to take the audience on, and doing this was a fun exercise that I think really works for me and for the audience.

KF: How will performing in a small room like the Weill Recital Hall compare with singing in a 4,000 seat “barn” like the Met?
KR: That’s the great thing about my job: you have to alter your performing style depending on where you are. A Lesson in Love was written for small audiences, and it’s difficult to create that intimate atmosphere in such a large opera house. It’s something that I enjoy doing while onstage, and I’m able to draw the audience in.

KF: A new DVD has just been released of Don Giovanni that you starred in at last summer. How do you see the visual aspect of your art in this era of social networking and other competition?
KR: I’ve watched clips of the DVD and I think that opera works fabulously on video and (director) Jonathan Kent’s idea was a very filmic one that translates very well. I think the visual has always been a huge part of my singing world, and I notice more and more while reading reviews that what performers look like, and even what they wear, are mentioned more than anything else, even in classical reviews. The media side of it has certainly changed, with a much wider audience that can watch operas live in movie theaters, which I think is a fantastic thing. The only downside might be an audience’s confusion over amplification: during a live performance, to experience the acoustic sound of an orchestra and singer is something that can never be recaptured on video.

Soprano Kate Royal performs A Lesson in Love
May 20, 2011
Weill Recital Hall
Carnegie Hall, 57th Street and 7th Avenue, New York, NY
www.carnegiehall.org

Photo courtesy of EMI Classics

Pianist, Writer Charles Rosen Delights 92nd Street Y Audience

On the morning of November 14th, 2010, at the 92nd Street Y, acclaimed pianist and music writer, Charles Rosen, spoke fascinatingly for about 90 minutes on the late works of Frederic Chopin as a prelude to his concert celebrating the bicentennial of the composer's birth. Given that he has written three chapters on Chopin in his book on Romantic music and also recently did an article on the composer for the New York Review of Books, Rosen took this opportunity to avoiding repeating what he has said elsewhere and here sought to compare the style and achievement of Chopin with that of his exact contemporary, Robert Schumann. The speaker illustrated his talk with abundant musical examples at the piano.

Read more: Pianist, Writer Charles Rosen...

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