Director Florian Froschmayer: “Of Course the Gut Decides About Good and Bad!

Interview Florian Froschmayer Director
Director Florian Froschmayer | © Photo: Florian Froschmayer

Sensitive and without hypocrisy, with a clear focus on the essential! With this praise, the weekly magazine Stern already introduced filmmaker Florian Froschmayer to its more than five million readers in 2009. Today, not yet fifty years old, but with more than 50 successful cinema and TV films in his list of works, the director has enjoyed a successful career in the German-speaking world that is second to none. Especially since Florian Froschmayer taught himself the craft of film making.

Filmpulse: Florian, in an interview eleven years ago (on the occasion of your first crime scene) you said you were a “head person”. Isn’t directing primarily a matter of gut feeling?

© Foto: Florian Froschmayer
florian froschmayer interview

fpi. Born and raised in Switzerland in 1972, Florian Froschmayer began his career by editing documentaries, television programs and over 1,000 news reports for Swiss television for several years.

His very first feature film, “Exklusiv,” sent shock waves through Swiss cultural society and the media. Froschmayer ignored the traditional conventions of Swiss filmmaking, which was produced almost exclusively with public funds and money from cultural sponsors. In doing so, he opened up new avenues of financing and made possible a new generation of Swiss feature films.

In 2001, he began directing in Germany, where the filmmaker shot several episodes of TV series such as “Coast Guard” and “Vice” before traveling abroad. His second feature film, L.A. X, was a road movie about a loner (Martin Rapold) who travels through the American West in search of himself.

Back in Berlin, Froschmayer directed several episodes of the German television drama “Tatort.” Episodes such as “Ihr werdet gerichtet” or “Borowski und die heile Welt” with Alex Milberg followed and were received with much critical praise, as were the TV films “Die Route” (2009), “Nicht ohne meinen Enkel” (2013), Süßer September (2015) or “Verliebt in Amsterdam” (2017).

In his career to date, Florian Froschmayer has directed over 50 successful feature and television films.

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Florian Froschmayer:No, I see it differently. Directing is a creative process that requires a lot of empathy and feeling for situations and atmospheres. Of course, the gut often decides whether a take is good or bad, who to cast or whether a take needs to be repeated. But the rest is in my eyes craftsmanship, which has to do not only with experience but also with foresight, inner peace and a cool head. If I were to decide only and exclusively on the basis of my gut, I would be taking quite a risk for productions. I always have a very clear plan, which requires a lot of mental work. On the basis of this structure, I can sometimes let myself fall back on a gut decision and follow it. But basically I am a “head person” who questions everything and is always looking for the best way for everyone.

Filmpulse: Can you illustrate this with an example?

Florian Froschmayer:In a script it says: Sophie jumps into the water and swims to the shore. It is the emotional climax of the movie, because Sophie swims to her love interest and they finally find each other. But now it’s only zero degrees on the day of shooting, the actress already has a cold and we still have 15 days of shooting ahead of us. It’s 2:00 a.m., and we’re about to hit overtime. So how do I get to my scene without endangering the quality of the film or the health of the actress and at the same time jeopardizing the production? These must not be gut decisions!

Filmpulse: The series “Der Zürich Krimi”, which you as a director are responsible for, was co-developed in 2016 by Christian Kohlund, who also plays the leading role as the uncompromising ex-lawyer Thomas Borchert. Which one of you two is the boss on set?

Florian Froschmayer:The director is the creative person responsible on the set. The actor plays his role and from my experience, he is always grateful to have a director who takes care of the character and the film. Christian is a very experienced actor with many ideas and a clear attitude towards his character. My job is to channel these ideas in such a way that they fit optimally into the whole. During the shooting of “The Zurich Cases” Christian and I have always been very harmonious. We see ourselves as a team.

Filmpulse: You taught yourself the craft of directing as an autodidact. Would you recommend this to a newcomer today?

Florian Froschmayer:I recommend every newcomer to find his or her way! Whether school or autodidact, it is also type-dependent. For me, it was the right way. I think the inner fire is much more important. Do I really want that? There are many who burn just like me then and now! Anyone who does not at least inwardly burn for directing in this way will not be able to position himself sustainably. Too many people are crowding into the market. But: Those who really want it will make it, just like me! By whatever means.

I was and am a passionate doer!
Florian Froschmayer

Filmpulse: Usually directors for television films and series dream of the cinema. Your path was the other way round, from the cinema (Exclusive, L.A. X) to TV. How so?

Florian Froschmayer:I come from Switzerland. There were hardly any TV movies in the 90s. In a small country, you can do almost nothing but cinema. I love the cinema and would make cinema again any time. The financing path can only be very long, sometimes taking years. I am rather an impatient person and love to just shoot. Continuity is easier on TV, as more is produced in Germany in particular. For me, without film school, it was also a great school to be able to work industrially for a long time after two independent cinema films.

Photos: Shooting “The Zurich Thriller” with Christian Kohlund. Director: Florian Froschmayer

 

Filmpulse: Honestly: Don’t you have a script next to or under your bed that you want to realize for the big screen?

Florian Froschmayer:To be honest, for a long time not at all. (laughs) I was and am a passionate doer and I always get fully involved in the projects. So for years I didn’t have the time to develop a book on my own, because I dedicated myself very intensively to my TV work. In the 2000s, TV work was often described as something inferior. I couldn’t understand that even then. The best way to learn the trade is on television. There are tight budgets, tight deadlines and great flexibility is required. But since NETFLIX at the latest, the view of TV has changed dramatically and everyone wants to make series. Many who have no experience with this are overstrained at the beginning because the general conditions are often different from those of a cinema film. At that time I already loved series like NYYPD BLUE, 24, ALIES or WEST WING, which were basically forerunners of the productions you see on streamers today.

A film should above all entertain and touch me, and under no circumstances should it be pleasing.
Florian Froschmayer

Filmpulse: You deserted to Berlin early on, but you also shot in Switzerland again and again. Do you notice any differences when working on the set?

Florian Froschmayer:I shot my first feature film EXCLUSIVE in Switzerland in 1998, the Lucerne TATORT “Ihr werden richten” in 2014 and last year for the ARD Degeto production “Der Zürich Krimi”. Otherwise, my directorial work was in Germany or in other countries for German clients. I have also shot films in the Czech Republic, Austria, Holland, Italy and Mexico. The sets are always a bit different in the organisation and of course the mentalities of the people also play into the work. But I find it totally exciting to work in other countries, because then you can live a little bit there and immerse yourself deeper.

Filmpulse: Christian Jungen, the new artistic director of the Zurich Film Festival ZFF, said at this year’s Berlinale that he heard time and again that the Swiss are not prepared to go to extremes in film. Everybody this nice? Is that so?

Florian Froschmayer:I cannot judge that, I am too far away from Switzerland for that. The Swiss is not the most extroverted and rather a polite contemporary. But what does “going all the way” mean? I think that a film should above all entertain and touch me and should not be pleasing in any way. However, this is often the problem. Subsidies and also broadcasters – this also applies to Germany, by the way – often try to create films or series that are capable of winning a majority. As a result, compromises often have to be made. Formats like BREAKING BAD, STRANGE THINGS or even then 24 were actually special formats for a very special audience. That is why they can also “go to the extreme” and be consistent.

Photos: Florian Froschmayer on the set of “The Zurich Thriller

Filmpulse: When does your work as a director start with “Der Zürich Krimi”? When does it end?

Florian Froschmayer:The work as a director begins with preparation. I receive a script to which I commit myself. There are then many questions and precise arrangements with the broadcaster, the production and, in the case of “Der Zürich Krimi”, also with the main actors. Finally, motives are sought, the other roles are filled. Then the film is filmed and then cut. The acceptance of the rough cut of a normal TV film takes place about 3-4 months after the start of the preparation. After that it takes another 3-4 months for sound editing and if necessary dubbing, color correction, music composition and final mixing. But a director is only involved in this at certain points.

I treat everyone as I would like to be treated myself.
Florian Froschmayer

Filmpulse: Must one strive for power in the profession of a director? Want power?

Florian Froschmayer:No, on the contrary. You have to be a team player, but of course you must not be afraid to lead people. In television, the director is the head of the set and bears a great responsibility. Of course, he also has his say, but in the end it’s all about making a good movie together with the cast and team. In the cinema you certainly have a little more influence, but even there you have to keep to deadlines and budgets.

Filmpulse: Ingmar Bergmann has said of himself that as a director he is a child with genitals. In the age of #MeToo, this statement must be interpreted with childlike openness to see things in a new way, combined with the fact that man cannot get around sex. How do you deal with these two things in your work?

Florian Froschmayer:With common sense. At the end of the day, however, this also ties in with the question of power. I treat everyone as I would like to be treated myself. I have been driving very well with this attitude for years. If I have to shoot a scene that involves sex or violence, I always seek a detailed conversation with the actors and team members involved before I do so. I see my task as a director – not only for intimate or delicate scenes – as creating a pleasant situation on the set and being able to react to the feelings and sensitivities of others. Of course I can still remain a child in spirit and am happy about every play with the camera or any funny nonsense besides work. The perpetrators of the #MeToo debate are often power mongers, who neither have the team spirit nor a sense of decency and common sense, and who clearly overstep boundaries and have to be held accountable accordingly. Assaults of any kind, whether psychological or physical, against women or men, must be reported and punished accordingly.

Filmpulse: Unlike Netflix or HBO, the TV audience in the DACH region is on average well over 50 years old. So you move closer and closer to your target audience and understand them better and better? Or have you always made films for your parents?

Florian Froschmayer:I was born in 1972, so I was really close to it. (laughs). I make movies I like. I think less about the target audience. My parents are in their mid/late 70’s. My 78 year old father hardly watches linear TV anymore and has seen more Netflix formats than I have. Age now plays only a minor role. The interests are the decisive factor.

Filmpulse: The question is as old as the profession of screenwriter and director: can you only tell what you have experienced or felt yourself?

Florian Froschmayer:As a director I have to say quite clearly: I hope not! (laughs) I have made over 50 crime novels with the darkest abysses and murderers, but I can honestly say that I have never killed a human being. I think life experience certainly helps as a director and gives you more insight into abysses, fears but also solutions. As an author, it is certainly the case that at least themes, characters or individual scenes of a story are linked to personal experiences. An author is always something individual. He writes down something which is very personal just by that. As a director, I read the book, have my own view of it, but first and foremost I try to understand the author and implement his experiences in the film. I may then be able to supplement and specify them with my own point of view or insights.

Filmpulse: Let’s get a little philosophical: for a TV movie you shoot about 22 days and give four to six months of life. A commercial is shot within 1 to 2 days, and is finished two weeks after shooting – but still you earn a lot more money as a director of commercials! Because you sell your soul in the process?

Florian Froschmayer:A TV film and a commercial are two completely different products. One (TV film) is financed by fees, subscription fees or sometimes by advertising. A TV movie is at best a zero bill. In the case of the private sector, it should cost as little as possible so that advertising revenues are as high as possible and the group makes a profit. A commercial advert advertises a product. Take a new iPhone, for example. With a good spot that lasts 20 seconds Apple will make billions in sales. Why should you not be involved in any way?

Video: The showreel by director Florian Froschmayer

Florian Froschmayer, Director

Filmpulse: A single (!) sentence on what you have learned about TV and film over the last twenty years?

Florian Froschmayer:If it were easy, everyone would do it.

Filmpulse: A secret only directors know?

Florian Froschmayer:I have no secrets, you can ask me anything.

Filmpulse: Three wishes to your screenwriters?

Florian Froschmayer:To understand the work on a TV film as a cooperation. Patience to deal with my questions in order to be able to discuss the script together. I think it would be great if the authors were on the set and if you could consult them directly if you had any questions and if they could then talk to the actors about the dialogues personally.

Filmpulse: Two wishes to your producers?

Florian Froschmayer:To create sustainable fair working conditions for the whole team and to see the director as a partner. Both things that I experienced extraordinarily well in “The Zurich Thriller”! I would like to make one more request to the broadcasters: to bring the budgets into line with their content wishes in order to give the producers the chance to create fair working conditions for everyone. However, due to Corona we are in an exceptional situation in which the health of all participants should be the first priority. Therefore I wish for a responsible handling of the current situation and hope for appropriate regulations, so that the existence of the film makers is secured.

Filmpulse: A wish for your TV audience?

Florian Froschmayer:Look only at the things that entertain you! If you don’t like something, switch over. If you think something is good: enjoy it and pass it on!

Our thanks for this great interview go to director Florian Froschmayer, who took time for us and our questions. We would also like to thank Johanna Bartsch from the agency 17durch2.

This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.

About Carlo P. Olsson 87 Articles
Carlo P. Olsson accompanies the production of films, videos and TV series on behalf of companies, agencies and production companies. In his spare time he plays ice hockey and is engaged in baroque sound drama.

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