If the name Dennis Gansel doesn’t immediately ring a bell with you, dear readers, fear not, that’s what we at Dread Central are here for- to expand your horror-loving horizons by giving you the lowdown on some of the best our beloved genre has to offer from all over the globe.
Writer and director Gansel is a well-respected filmmaker in Germany who has made a name for himself with several eye-opening features including Girls on Top, Before the Fall, and the startling drama The Wave which recently hit VOD courtesy of IFC Films (it’s not a genre film but definitely worth a watch if you’re looking for something different).
Now Gansel is celebrating his first venture into the horror genre with his vampire flick We Are The Night (review here) (which IFC also recently released on VOD). Dread Central had the opportunity to chat with the director recently to talk about his experiences making We Are The Night and some surprising tidbits on just how hard it is to get a horror film made in his native country.
Even though We Are The Night is a recent release for Gansel, he spoke about how his idea for a group of female power-hungry vampires originated some 15 years ago, definitely before the resurgence of vampires in pop culture hit in a big way. “I originally had the idea for this story back in 1996 and then I wrote the first draft of the script in 1997. Actually, it started off as very much a love story and then it evolved into an action-driven story about a teenage vampire who was falling in love with a young guy, whose parents were actually killed by the female vampire gang she was initiated into.
Eventually, the script evolved into what you see in the movie now and I know I’m definitely pleased with the results of the changes because I don’t think a simple love story would work anymore. After all, that’s more Twilight’s department than mine.”
Well since the writer/director clearly didn’t take any pointers on his story’s direction from Stephenie Meyer’s book series about young vampiric love, Gansel actually went to some interesting source material for inspiration in creating the world of We Are The Night.
“A lot of where I got my influences for this movie came from the novel Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu which actually pre-dates Bram Stoker’s Dracula by a few decades,” explained Gansel. “That story was about a female vampire that set her sights on seducing and bringing over another young woman into her dark world. The story of Dracula has been done so many times that I didn’t really want to create another version of that story. Carmilla is one that hasn’t been done to death in contemporary times so I thought it was time to make a movie about female vampires and showing them as strong and sexy creatures, but they’re also tragic in their own ways too.”
Making an ambitious genre film that features impressive stuntwork and a lot of CGI meant that Gansel and his entire cast and crew had to get creative in order to make sure their efforts were successful.
“We had to do a lot of preparation beforehand to make We Are the Night. We didn’t have a huge budget so we weren’t allowed a lot of shooting days so we had to keep five cameras going at all times just to make sure we had enough coverage. I knew going into the film that our CGI work had to be top-notch so we enlisted the help of some of the guys who worked on the Lord of the Rings trilogy. There was a lot of ambition that went into making this movie and I think the reason it all came together so successfully was because the cast and crew wholly believed in what we were doing and wanted to make the best possible film we could. It was a hard journey that I’m still a bit overwhelmed by all we had to do to make this movie but all the struggles were worth it in the end.”
Gansel went on to discuss just how hard it was getting We Are The Night off the ground because, surprisingly enough, horror isn’t a draw for German film-going audiences.
“It was so incredibly hard to get financing to make this movie,” explained Gansel. “We tried several times and everyone kept telling us no. We even had the entire project cast in 2006 but no one in Germany was looking to finance a horror movie. So, ultimately, I ended up making another movie first (The Wave), which thankfully turned out to be a huge hit in Germany and all over Europe and because of its success, we finally got the money we needed to make We Are the Night. Unfortunately for us, We Are the Night opened right after the third installment of the Twilight series so the movie didn’t perform well at all in Germany. In fact, it tanked. So thank God for the DVD release because that’s where we’ve had the most success so far and I’m interested to see how US audiences react to our story now that we’re coming out over there.”
Even though the horror genre has established roots in many European countries dating several centuries back, it turns out that audiences in Germany mainly head to theaters these days to get their laughs over getting scared, which makes it all the harder for filmmakers like Gansel to tell stories that skew more closer to the macabre side of storytelling.
“There are a lot of amazing genre movies that were created throughout Europe over the years, including films like Metropolis and Nosferatu or even any of the Hammer classics from the 50s,” said Gansel. “I think a lot of modern German film audiences almost forget we have such a rich tradition of horror movies in Germany.
Everybody in Germany, especially in the younger generation of directors, wants to make those kinds of films but the financiers always say ‘do comedies,’ because sadly those are the only movies that make any sort of money there. I’m hoping one day that will change but I don’t think that will happen any time soon.”
Special thanks to Dennis Gansel for taking the time to speak with Dread Central!
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