"Wildling" director Fritz Boehm on ARRI

The fantasy-horror-thriller feature "Wildling" is the first production to be released with the support of ARRI´s International Support Program. In an interview, director Fritz Boehm talks about his feature film debut, the formats Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos, as well as about his collaboration with ARRI.

Two years ago, ARRI launched a new funding program for up-and-coming filmmakers from all over the world: the International Support Program (ISP). "Wildling" is the first project to benefit from this with a package of post-production and co-production services. Fritz Boehm´s feature film debut was shot by, Director of Photography, Toby Oliver ACS ("Get Out," "Happy Death Day") in New York with the ARRI cameras ALEXA Mini and AMIRA and edited at ARRI Media in Dolby Vision and Dolby Atmos among others. "Wildling" was produced by Maven Pictures, Celine Rattray, Trudie Styler, and Charlotte Ubben. The leading roles were played by Bel Powley, Brad Dourif, and Liv Tyler. The film is about a young woman who was locked up in an attic throughout her childhood. After her release, she realizes that she may be the last survivor of a mysterious, dangerous species: a wildling. The thriller had its world premiere at this year´s South By Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.

"Wildling" is your first feature film as a director. How did you come to film, and how did the desire to become active in this function arise?

I´ve always considered myself a filmmaker. At first I shot on Super 8 and a borrowed Video 8 camera. In 2001 after my first short film "Ein Brudermord"—which I was allowed to cut at ARRI—I studied production at the Munich Film Academy. Further short films followed and the founding of Toccata Film, where Sven Nuri and I offered post-production services, among other things. Directors, producers, editors, sound designers, etc.—We had to deal with many different creative people. So, I went through various schools until I had the feeling that I could put what I had learned into practice as a director in a feature film.

What special challenges did you have to master with your first feature film?

Since I´ve directed short films before, working on a feature was not that different. But we only had 23 days to shoot "Wildling"—not much time, especially since there were scenes with child actors, animals, and on the water. Intensive prosthetic makeup was also necessary. Because it is a so-called “Creature Feature.” This work under time pressure was an adventurous experience. Another challenge: "Wildling" takes place in a forested area with many nature scenes, but was shot in New York for financial reasons. We had a 23-mile radius around Columbus Circle, Manhattan. A large part of it is water, another belongs to New Jersey. And with the few nature areas in the background we often saw skyscrapers and power lines, which we retouched from many scenes.

"Wildling" was shot with ARRI ALEXA Mini and ARRI AMIRA. Why these camera systems in combination?

Toby Oliver has already had very good experiences with the ALEXA. Therefore, when it came to choosing the camera system for "Wildling," he spoke out clearly in favor of ALEXA. Due to our tight schedule, we wanted to work with a very agile system that was as small as possible. The ALEXA Mini was relatively new at that time. We mostly worked with a set of Super-Baltars-Vintage lenses from Bausch & Lomb, which are very small and light. The ALEXA Mini was our A-camera, for which Toby himself acted as operator and with which he shot most of the film out of his hand. The AMIRA offered itself as a B-camera because it uses the same image sensor and it was an inexpensive package. While the A-Team shot a scene with the ALEXA Mini, the B-Team prepared the next setup with the AMIRA. This allowed us to move quickly from one setup to the next without long conversion times. In selected scenes we also shot with the AMIRA at the same time.

How did ARRI´s ISP help you complete this project?

With the support of ISP, we were able to carry out post-production at the highest technical level—with Dolby Atmos and Dolby Vision. And we were able to work with the very talented creative people at ARRI. For example with Christof Ebhardt as sound designer, Christian Bischoff as mixed-tone master and Florian Martin as colorist. Sepp Reidinger, Angela Reedwisch, Mandy Rahn, and Kiri Trier also supported the project tremendously. I am extremely grateful to ARRI for this. It was a great experience. 

What experience did you gain working with Dolby Vision?

The format is like a frosting on the whole project. Especially in a film like "Wildling"—with a lot of darkness, shadows, deep blacks, and high contrasts—Dolby Vision brings you very close to a dreamlike cinema experience. When the lights go out in the hall, it´s 100 percent black. There´s nothing to distract you from the movie experience. Dolby Vision is really bombastic and an incredible added value. Unfortunately, there are too few cinemas that are equipped with it. I hope that will change soon.

And how do you rate Dolby Atmos on the sound side?

Dolby Atmos creates an incredibly real and immersive sound environment. In the first scene, for example, where we are in an attic and Brad Dourif´s character tells a story while a thunderstorm is approaching outside. For this we processed about 100 individual rain and dripping noises, which are only fully effective in Dolby Atmos. Everywhere the rain sounds a little different. It feels three-dimensional, as if you were directly on site. Very impressive! When editing sound, we found that it is always worth mixing in Dolby Atmos for all cinema evaluations. Even the automatically generated derivatives, such as 7.1 or 5.1, sound significantly better than a native mix in these formats. We were really stunned at how the three-dimensionality of Dolby Atmos was transferred to the derivative versions.

"Wildling" was released in New York and Los Angeles cinemas on April 13 and has since been available on Apple´s iTunes, Amazon, and other video-on-demand platforms. Where can the film be seen elsewhere?

Our US distributor IFC Films has since "WIldling" launched in other American cities too. Since April 20, Warner Bros. has been showing the film on more than 100 screens in Great Britain. Our world distributor IM Global sold "WIldling" to numerous other territories, where it is also evaluated. The German start date will be announced shortly.

Pictures: © 2018 Wildling Film LLC