How Two German Filmmmakers Conquered Los Angeles

April 15, 2010 · Posted in Entertainment , Inspiring People · Comment

Not only for businesses, but also for filmmakers the cultural differences between the USA and Germany can stand for opportunities. Whether you’re an American doing business in Germany, or a German artist creating your work in the US - the other culture might inspire you to see beyond what you know.

Open Doors to New Creativity

and her husband Markus Adrian are up-and-coming German filmmakers who learned first-hand that a scholarship at a Los Angeles’ cultural institution can open doors to new creativity. During their time as artists-in-residence at the Villa Aurora , the couple shot their latest film, a documentary about ex-gangsters turning artists. Day after day, Hora and Adrian took to the not so harmless streets of Watts and interviewed young creatives who used to be gang members. “After the Violence” will be shown in Los Angeles and in Germany when it’s done.

Beyond the Typical Hollywood Folks

In an interview, the two Germans admitted that if it hadn’t been for their scholarship at the Villa Aurora, they would have missed out on a career-determining opportunity. It was not only the fact that they had the chance to shoot in the streets of LA. It was, moreover, the experience of meeting American people beyond the typical Hollywood folks and learning about a completely different side of California living - a side that’s marked by struggle, danger, and the fight for survival. And yet, there’s room for creative freedom and beautiful art on the other side.

My hope is that Hora and Adrian’s experience is an inspiration for other German artists who’d like to test the waters in Los Angeles and vice versa. That’s why I interviewed the German filmmakers during their stay in LA. The entire 3-series interview with Anna-Maria Hora and Markus Adrian is available in German on . You will find an English transcript of a part of the interview below. Enjoy and be inspired!

Hora and Adrian Filming in Watts

“People on the street meet you with an open heart”
Interview with Hora and Adrian

Nina Grenningloh: When you’re going back to Germany after a three-month stay in LA, what do you take back with you from your experience?

Adrian: Our time in LA was like a second life. We could forget everything German for three months. We were only speaking English, meeting people who had stories to tell. We learned a lot about this society. We gained an insight into the Hollywood glamour world, but we also saw the other side of this city, which is much bigger. The poor districts, the poverty, and the life struggle that people who’re living there are trying to cope with. In three months LA, as much happened as in six months Berlin. We did it all: parties, dinners, filming, night shoots in Watts, encounters with the police… It was so much to take in that we will probably need a good amount of time to process everything.

Hora: People in LA are much more open. Maybe it’s the weather, I don’t know, but people on the street meet you with an open heart. If I went into the grocery store in LA, not being in my best mood, out of the blue shoppers would start singing and dancing to the music that was playing over the speakers. I was at first irritated. Then, I went to the register, and the cashier made me a nice compliment on my earrings. Her flattering remark immediately put me in a better mood…

Adrian: Now, just imagine a cashier at a German supermarket would pay you such a compliment. You would probably be very confused. What’s very common in Los Angeles, would be perceived as a strange act in Germany. In Germany, you would probably be annoyed and think: Why is she talking to me?

Yet, this kind of small talk that’s part of daily life in the US is actually really good. Coming from Germany, I have forgotten how to converse like that. In LA, people seem to be aware of the fact that that’s part of who they are as humans. They need to talk. So they meet as strangers and start talking about anything that comes to mind.

Hora: Life here is characterized by this kind of openness and friendliness. It’s not superficialness. They rather use this kind of talk to check out their similarities. And if there are none, that’s not a big deal. Then it’s just “Have a nice day!” But you will never feel bad.

Adrian: And that’s what it’s all about. The good feeling that I have shapes the quality of my lifetime. In result, I spend more time in LA with a great feeling than in Germany. And that’s a great plus for my life as a whole, as well as for the moment. I can walk down these steps, find out that I have brain cancer and die soon. But I know I’ve had a lot of happy moments, whereas in Germany, I sit around and fret about something.

Hora: I’m sure we will take this home with us, this prejudice that Americans are superficial. We did not experience that at all. And we will spread the word in Germany.

NG: Do you have any plans to come back to the US to shoot?
Adrian: Certainly. We will no doubt come back and film again in the US if the opportunity presents itself. They have great professionals and a fantastic film industry in the US.

Hora: Concretely, we have a documentary in preproduction in New York. On the occasion of the 10-year anniversary of 9/11, we are planning to shoot a documentary about this photographer who took pictures and filmed the catastrophe in Manhattan in 2001. We will start filming this year, and the film will be ready in time for the anniversary.

January 11, 2010 · Posted in Entertainment , Inspiring People ·

I recently had the privilege and the pleasure to interview Austrian comedian and actress Alice Frick . The funny performer is not only a rising comedy star in Austria and Germany. As of recently, she’s also standing in the spotlight on Hollywood’s big comedy stages. Reasons enough for me to ask her about her work on 2 continents. The full interview (2 videos on YouTube’s ) is available to watch online  - however, for those who prefer the written word, here are highly entertaining answers :

Alice Frick, Photo: Christian Modler

Nina Grenningloh: Would you like to introduce yourself a little bit?

Alice Frick: I’m from Austria. So, I’m from the same country as Arnold Schwarzenegger. I started acting in 2002, and then I did a lot of Improv. At one point, I went to a comedy competition in Austria and won that competition. At that time, I just had a set of 10 minutes, and then they asked me: Do you have a One Woman Show? And I said: Yes, yes, of course! [laughs] From then it started. After two months, I had my One Woman Show . I performed it in Austria, and I also played in Germany. And then I thought: Okay, I go to Los Angeles now. I need more excitement!

NG: Obviously, the culture is different here in Los Angeles than in Austria or Germany. What was the most shocking difference that you found when you arrived here in L.A.?

AF: The seven lanes on the freeway were a bit scary at the beginning! In Austria, we only have one or two lanes. And driving in L.A. is very hard. It took me a long time to get used to. And in general, everything here is so big that if you want to see a friend you just don’t walk to them but you have to drive your car for one hour. The weather in L.A. is very different but I like that. I am a sunny person. I need sun!

NG: What’s the difference between standup comedy here in L.A. and in Austria or Germany?

AF: Well, I think in Germany I have more words to pick from which makes my work easier here because I don’t speak English that well. [laughs] I have my pot of English words and write my jokes with those words. But in German I can say: Do I use walk or run? And I have many more words to think about. Here, it’s easier because I don’t have to think that much. [laughs] And in the first weeks I had so many things that happened to me and so many misunderstandings…for example, I had so many parking problems because I didn’t know that you aren’t allowed to park in the opposite direction of traffic, and I didn’t read all the signs so I got many parking tickets  - and in some way all these experiences are . [laughs] Perhaps, I will earn the money with performing to pay all my parking tickets back.

Alice Frick, Photo: Christian Modler

NG: In terms of the comedy stage, is there a difference in how the audience reacts in Europe and here in the US?

AF: In Austria, we do have young people but not as many as here. So in general, the audience is older and they are more reserved in their response whereas her in L.A. it’s party when you’re on stage. But I love both audiences. In Austria, they come up to me after the show and tell me Thank you! That was great! . But I also like the partying of the audience in L.A. and that they are very loud.

NG: You’re playing the biggest comedy clubs in Los Angeles, like . Are you getting nervous when you get on stage thinking of all the celebrity comedians like Jim Carrey or Whoopi Goldberg who once stood on that very stage before you?

AF: It’s really amazing that I’m performing there, and I love it. I love the club, it’s really a cool location. But nervous? I’m always nervous no matter where I’m playing! I think if I were to perform my comedy on the street I would get so freaked out before. But that’s my adrenaline. That’s why I don’t need drugs - I just go on stage. [laughs]

NG: I read on your website that one of the misunderstandings that you face here in the US is that when you introduce yourself on stage as a comedian from Austria, people think that you’re a Canadian from Australia. And I thought that was very funny…

AF: Yes, many people think that I’m from Australia when I say I’m from Austria. It’s probably because of my accent. And then they start talking to me like I understand everything. I have to stop them then and say: Wait a minute! From the beginning, please! I’m from AUSTRIA. [laughs]

NG: Is it hard for you when you’re on stage in L.A. in terms of humor. Do people know anything about Austria here in the US? Do they understand your humor?

AF: What really helps is Arnold Schwarzenegger . So they audience goes: Oh, you’re from the same country as Arnold! [laughs] We grew up in Austria with American sitcoms, so I think my humor is the same kind of humor. Usually in Austria, you have a One Man Show or a One Woman Show which is more cabaret-like. When I started, however, I always did standup. It was just me and my stories on a stage - and my whole One Woman Show is like that. My humor is a mixture of American and Austrian humor.  I took some comedy classes here in L.A., and I think the dynamic in my show is probably more American. But in general it’s not such a big cultural difference.

NG: But you’re not only doing standup. You’re also working as an actress . Can you tell us a little more about your other projects?

AF: Yes, I did some movies in Austria and some short movies in the US, too. In the US, I played in English which was fun because I always play the crying Austrian woman. [laughs] I love acting, too, because my passion is storytelling. I’m currently working on a theater project in Austria. And eventually, I also want to perform it here. It’s a drama, very sad and the opposite of comedy.

NG: Is there any advice that you could give to young artists from Austria or Germany who want to work in Hollywood and make it on both sides of the Atlantic?

AF: Before I came here, my motto was “Just jump and the net will appear.” And that’s what I’m always doing. I just jump and sometimes the net appears and sometimes it’s not there. But in the end it always works out. So if you want something really bad, just go for it! And when I got here, i didn’t have a car or a place to live but I had my comedy program and signed up with a comedy class. Today, I still meet the people who were in my comedy class and we do shows together which is great. So I it’s very good to have connections and luckily, it’s easy to make connections in Hollywood. Of course, you will make a lot of “fake” connections…I received so many offers to be in someone’s movie which never happened. [laughs]

The Sound of Gender: How Women Composers Vigorously Maneuver Hollywood’s Show Biz

October 30, 2009 · Posted in Entertainment , Inspiring People · 1 Comment
WIF Speaker Series Panel

WIF Speaker Series Panel

“In my opinion music is gender free so why should female composers get treated any differently than their male colleagues?” a woman in the audience commented at the speaker series panel - Music in Film and Television - organized by Women In Film .  The five female composers who made up the panel at El Torito Grill in Beverly Hills on Wednesday, October 28, all nodded their approval. “Exactly right,” composer Wendy Melvoin agreed. “But unfortunately as women composers we have to work twice as hard to achieve our goals.” Melvoin knows what she’s talking about. Even though she and her musical partner Lisa Coleman used to work for none other than Prince it took them years of knocking at doors in Hollywood before they got their first composing gig. Today, “Wendy & Lisa” are scoring the Emmy-winning NBC drama Heroes , Showtime’s critically-acclaimed Nurse Jackie and NBC’s new drama Mercy .

The Many Roads to Success

For singer and composer Lisbeth Scott the doors to show biz opened easier. As she recalls: “Shortly after I arrived in LA, a friend asked me to sing for Hans Zimmer . I asked back “Who’s Hans Zimmer?”  While Scott’s entry to the world of film music seemed easy, she pointed out that she has always had a very strong work ethic without which she wouldn’t have made it so far. Scott’s uniquely moving and shiver-inducing voice has been heard on literally hundreds of films. John Williams wrote a 5 minute solo specifically for her in the score for Spielberg’s film Munich . She was the featured vocalist and co-lyricist for the John Debney score to the film The Passion of the Christ , and was the featured vocalist and songwriter for the Disney film Narnia: The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe . Her latest project is the score of James Cameron’s highly anticipated movie Avatar featuring vocals from Lisbeth Scott. But Lisbeth is not only working in film and television. She is currently running an innovative web-based photo campaign called Hope is a Thing in conjunction to the release of her new album of the same title this November.

Lisbeth Scott (right) at the WIF Speaker Series Panel

Lisbeth Scott (right) at the WIF Speaker Series Panel

Helene Muddiman , a British feature film composer, shared her insight into the Hollywood music biz. “It’s important that as women we stand together and help each other to realize our dreams,” she said. Muddiman has been living in LA for a few years and has just made her first national film release for the film Skin .  The British composer has come a long way. “With my school band in England, we got a deal with EMI . Well, we  failed miserably,” she said. “But if it hadn’t been for that experience, I wouldn’t have made it this far.” Today, Helene Muddiman enjoys her work as a film composer.

“Don’t Judge Your Own Music”

, a young film and TV composer and Women in Film member, took a straight and strategic road to working as a composer in Hollywood. A graduate of USC’s prominent film composing progrram, Hillary attended a lot of panels and meet-the-composer type of events during her time at college. “Connections are important,” she said. And her advice to other young composers: “Don’t judge your own music, and always have an arsenal of themes in your back pocket!” Hillary’s diligence has paid off: She has scored the award-winning film On Great White Wings and has a number of upcoming projects secured for the future.

The Secrets of Female Success

When asked about the secrets of (female) success, Wendy and Lisa suggested

  • to be prepared
  • to know your lines
  • to believe in yourself
  • and to never give up.

Lisbeth Scott pointed out that even though it can be tough at times to work in an industry that is dominated by men, she feels that relying on her female intuition has usually always helped. “There are challenges that you wouldn’t get if you weren’t a woman, but I welcome these challenges because they make you stronger.” Lisbeth shared her oddest rejection line: “Someone told me after hearing my music that I was too musical.” How can you not achieve your highest potential upon hearing such thing?

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