Kristina Schippling

Kristina Schippling is exceptional in many respects. Looking at her multifaceted oeuvre, one might think that there are several people behind such a body of work, or at least someone in a very mature phase of life who has long since passed the age of 60. But Kristina, who has just turned 40, could also be taken for a student. The filmmaker and multiple author of literature and non-fiction books comes across as youthful and light-hearted, but her works offer a lot of depth. You need more than one viewing, you have to watch the films multiple times, read the books much more often to penetrate this depth and complexity.  

London Director Awards: How does this work come about, Kristina? Do you have several assistants in the background that we don't know about?

Kristina (laughs): No, everyone who is involved in my work is of course mentioned in the credits or the imprint. And I also enjoy working with new and exciting people and being inspired by them. I would get into a lot of trouble if I were to forget someone. After all, you make contracts in which such things are written down in detail. In fact, I often work with artists on an equal footing in the independent sector. There are rarely assistants. You meet in cafés and draw up big plans, visualise exciting projects and see if you're on the same wavelength. Then you get started together. It's a network of artists that I'm part of. Sometimes someone involves me in their project, sometimes I involve someone in mine, sometimes you start a project together.

In the past, I often did a lot by myself to make the projects possible, as I often couldn't afford a large team financially. Back then, it was mostly good friends who joined in for the fun of it. There were never any big hierarchies. I have familiarised myself with many things over the years and, thanks to my versatility and flexibility, I am also very happy to be called upon by colleagues for a wide variety of projects in different functions. 

London Director Awards: It sounds like you develop completely new ways of working every time. Don’t you have a certain routine?

Kristina: That's actually the case. I always approach each project in a completely new way. There is basically no routine. Especially with film, that was unusual for some colleagues at first, as they are used to very strict processes. I then adapted to their way of working when I was bought in. But in my own projects, I really like working with small teams and often in multiple roles. It is often much easier to steer a small ship than a huge team. Not that I'm against the traditional way of working, but you really need a large budget and often years until you have everything together and often the very large-scale projects don't even get off the ground because the route to accomplishing the goals is too long and too arduous. I tend to be someone who works with what is easier to achieve.  

London Director Awards: That sounds very interesting. I’m always thinking of a director who imagines everything exactly on paper and then executes everything precisely like that, but it sounds like you work differently. 

Kristina: Definitely. I let myself be inspired by what's there. For example, I first look for a location and then work out the story around it. That's how "Inequal" came about. The location was there first and 5 performers who wanted to make art there. We orientated ourselves on site-specific art. We developed the story and the plot based on the location and those who wanted to be there. For "This is my Body", I rehearsed with the actors for six months and developed the script from that. We then built the locations here. However, the actors decided what moved them, what situations and themes they wanted to get into, what they wanted to improvise, not me sitting at the desk. I then developed the script from the rehearsal material. Sometimes I also work according to the given conditions, especially when I'm called in for a project. But often I use completely different methods, approaches that I personally find fascinating. I make films to engage in dialogue, not to impose my ideas on people. I'm interested in real encounters, in personal development. 

London Director Awards: I definitely want to be there when you're working. On Instagram, one gets the impression that you still love theatre very much. Why are you doing film now and not theatre? 

Kristina: That's a good question and a good observation. Yes, I have very fond memories of my time in independent theatre. In 2006, after a theatre performance in Brussels, I was asked by my good friend Nico Sentner if I would like to take part in one of his projects. That's how I got into film. Theatre has a strong magic. However, I feel that such a production is lost forever after the performances. There may be recordings of it, but if they are only in one total perspective, the play no longer works. If you have different cinematic perspectives in a professional way, you can almost make a film. I decided against theatre for precisely this reason. I wanted my work to remain. What I sometimes miss about film is the linguistic art of the plays. Of course, you can also live this out in your own films and that's what I did. But the film industry is very different from theatre.  

London Director Awards: How do you come up with the ideas for your works? Do you have specific role models? How do you choose your themes? 

Kristina: I don't have any direct role models. Some works inspire me, others I find less accomplished. I'm often asked if I want to take part in a project with a given topic. But I also have my own ideas that I am committed to. The ideas come to me in everyday life, in conversations with friends or they just pop into my head and are suddenly there. When I'm writing, I often have words and even sentences in my head that I simply write down. They usually come to my mind several times, or a topic keeps popping up. It's as if the ideas and topics attract me, as if they want to say: bring me into the world! It also takes this energy – you develop the project yourself, but at a certain point the project becomes a living organism that pulls you along with it. I like to work on themes that fascinate me in this way, to penetrate them in this way, to develop a theme, but also to develop myself through the project


London Director Awards: It sounds like you're always working and never have a break? 

Kristina: That's exactly how it is. Actually, the projects overlap all the time. I haven't had a break in that sense for years. I did have a gap for a few months after my studies, which really irritated me at the time. Basically, I can't be unproductive. I also simply start projects without funding, I just write, get started, and a publisher will come along later. Or I meet up with friends in a café and develop ideas, later the money for the film project is found or sometimes not. Then you keep on developing and it runs on the side until you do find money or are able to finance it yourself. But I'm always busy. With or without funding, I always come up with something.  

Untitled design - 2024-03-19T100707752png

London Director Awards: That's really fascinating. I hope you will create many more exciting projects. In any case, I wish you lots of joy and luck with your work. Thank you for this great interview! 

Kristina: Thank you very much as well!