Great art doesn’t need many words – Olaf Held and his short films
What might a filmmaker have in mind when he chooses to call a three-minute work SHORT FILM? Olaf Held at any rate does not leave us in the dark and pronounces the intention of his short film right up front: this is a short-film manifesto! Born in 1970 in Karl-Marx-Stadt, today Chemnitz, the screenwriter and film director views this format not merely as a calling card and field of experimentation for young filmmakers but as an art form in its own right. And he proves in SHORT FILM, by showing a man’s life in fast-forward, that many a tale can be told in far fewer than 90 minutes and all the more grippingly at that. It’s no wonder that this tribute film received the German Short Film Award in 2013.
Olaf Held’s SHORT FILM was created ”as is often the case with him” in cooperation with the Chemnitz-based Filmwerkstatt, a kind of talent factory where the screenwriter’s career got off the ground back in 1998. It all started with a Kung-Fu scene for the film PURITAS, which incidentally didn’t premiere on the big screen until 2013. In the years thereafter, Held took screenwriting courses, also tried his hand at other film trades such as sound engineering, and finally joined the Filmwerkstatt as media educator. That he then commenced studies at the Film and Television University “Konrad Wolf” (HFF) is owing more or less to the City of Chemnitz, which suddenly demanded that he produce a qualification for his job, at least in the field of media education. And thus the trained toolmaker and travel agent applied for the course of studies in screenwriting/dramaturgy at the HFF in Potsdam.
Held enjoyed almost instant success with his first forays as film director. His 2006 short film DUELL IN GRIESBACH, an amusing adaptation of the opening scene of ONCE UPON A TIME IN THE WEST, ran at a number of national and international festivals. Subsequent productions also had strong festival careers: PETZOLDS PFEIFEN (Petzold’s Whistles, 2008), DAS LETZTE RAD (The Last Wheel, 2009), VATERTAG (Fathers Day, 2009), DAHEIM (At Home, 2011), B-DAY (2012) and finally SHORT FILM (2013). Some of them also won awards, whereby Held likes to point out that these were mostly the films produced in the Chemnitz Filmwerkstatt.
His collaboration with that organization continues to thrive, due for one thing to how Held is able to put his ideas into practice there at any time without, as is customary at universities and funding agencies, having to submit to the evaluation of a jury or commission. Moreover, these productions focus first and foremost on the shared experience of shooting a film, reports Held, because at the Chemnitz Filmwerkstatt he works both in front of and behind the camera only with friends, most of them amateurs. He therefore tailors the roles in his screenplays, for example for DAHEIM (At Home), to the performers he already has in mind.
His short films have an aesthetic that’s all their own, or rather: a morbid charm. The scenery is sometimes oppressive, the grey in grey of decrepit houses often dominating as backdrop for the dreary lives of the people therein. This impression is further reinforced by long, static shots. Held, who worked as projectionist at the Kulturfabrik VOXXX in Chemnitz for many years, says by way of explaining his penchant for the dismal that he was influenced in particular by 1990s cinema, especially the works of Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismäki.
A good example is his Heimatfilm DAHEIM (At Home). A young, unemployed man leaves his home in the Ore Mountain forests to look for a job in the city. He does manage to get a job, but here in the midst of big-city life he still finds himself surrounded, as in his parents’ house, with loneliness and sadness, so that in the end he returns home “” but not without taking a piece of the pie back with him. A touch of laconic humour is always to be found in Held’s films. And yet he is always interested as well in the social aspects of his stories, which is why instead of zeroing in on the psychology of his characters he tends to choose long shots and observe them in their broader environment. Characteristic of Held’s short films is his economical use of language, of dialogue. He instead tells his stories in pictures, the original cinematic means, just like his idol, French screenwriter, director and actor Jacques Tati.
Looking to the future, Held says he never wants to pin himself down to a particular genre or style. He certainly has a wide range, as demonstrated, among other things, by his HFF graduation film ROADCREW, a 90-minute documentary about three roadies from Chemnitz. A challenge of a completely different kind was the video diary of the Toten Hosen, a rock band he accompanied with his camera on a 2012 tour through their fans’ living rooms.
Held is currently working on a documentary on the subject of intellectual property rights for the young ZDF editors of “Das kleine Fernsehspiel”, and ideas for three feature films are also taking shape in his head. Furthermore, the screenwriter and director, who today lives in Leipzig, is wondering whether it’s time to finally start his own video channel on the internet. He already has the right film material in hand and it does after all betray the “” or at least a “” signature Olaf Held hallmark. For the story is to take place once again in an Ore Mountain village. As can be expected, Held will shoot the planned multi-episode film with his friends from the Chemnitz Filmwerkstatt, and the individual episodes will not under any circumstances exceed short-film length.
2012-2013 SHORT FILM
2009 DAS LETZTE RAD
2009 DID DAVID HASSELHOFF END THE COLD WAR? (Drehbuch)
2008 PETZOLDS PFEIFEN
2006 DUELL IN GRIESBACH