In her diploma project Lionhearted, Ricarda Saleh portrayed the 8-year-old girl Rida, who fled with her family from Pakistan to Europe and lives in a squat in Athens. The 360° film takes the audience on an immersive journey and empathetically reveals the perspective of a child in the context of the refugee crisis. After graduation, Ricarda's motivation as a writer and director continues to be making people think about issues at stake and achieving a social impact.
Read on to find out how Ricarda got started in the industry and what tips she gives potential applicants.
Interview with Ricarda Saleh
With Interactive Media you can reach your audience with very powerful tools. "Be relevant" means that you use this power wisely, that you use your visibility and your abilities as an artist to raise awareness for an issue at stake. With Lionhearted we tried to make people think twice about the day-to-day life of displaced people, but it could be any topic which you feel passionate about. From the average wage for a nurse (too low!) to complex ideas such as freedom of press and freedom of religion.
I was at an exciting panel at the Berlinale in 2011 about transmedia and crowdfunding/user-generated-content. Then I thought, cool, there are so many exciting ways to tell stories - immersive, cross-platform, including the involvement of a community. In 2011/2012 I studied for a year at the University of Sussex in England. During my studies, I mainly focused on film studies and documentary film. At the same time, I came across so many exciting web experiments like the web documentary Bear71 and the interactive music video The Wilderniss Downtown. I was totally fascinated by that. I found the speed of these new technologies - faster internet, social media, changes in consumer behavior of movies, dominance and spread of the smartphone - breathtaking.
I heard about the Interactive Media program at Filmakademie through another industry event. I thought I definitely had to apply there. I had already applied to the film academy in Munich the year before and got as far as the selection process with an on-site exam. I was extremely interested in creative projects since my school days - from photography and journalism to short video shoots (honestly, these were mostly very trashy, but we were able to express ourselves and let off steam with this clunky humor). I was extremely active, initiating various art projects with different friends. Among other things, I put on an interactive performance in the town centre in Kiel to create awareness against right-wing extremism. At that time, we even had a small grant from the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, which we used to print flyers. We even had a photo exhibition in Kiel's town hall. Despite all this commitment, I thought for a long time that I wasn't creative enough for film school. It takes a lot of conviction to say - I'm going to apply there now. I am going to sit down at my desk and work out ideas for the application! I would say that for me it were many coincidences that brought me to Animationsinstitut. Also many moments of overcoming, in which I eventually said to myself "Oh, what the heck, I'll just try that now and apply there."
After graduating, I had the great fortune to be entrusted with a project for a Cinematic VR documentary at WDR. I implemented the VR documentary Paris Terror: The Hostages from the Hyper Cacher for WDR, which was released in January 2018. That was a great opportunity, as a young director, to be entrusted with such a project on a sensitive topic and with complex demands. How can you tactfully and appropriately tell about a terrorist attack in VR/360°? My knowledge about animation production, which I learned at Animationsinstitut, was very useful for me as 70% of the documentary are animation scenes. This VR-doc was an extremely exciting project and I was allowed to travel to Paris very often - for research and shooting. After circa 5 years in Ludwigsburg, that felt really good.
Since the beginning of 2018 I have been living in Hamburg and in the last few years I have worked here a lot for public TV NDR. In 2019, I was able to co-write and co-direct the web series Throwback89 for NDR and Tagesschau. We reached 5 million views with the series about the fall of the Berlin Wall, that's awesome how you can tell stories with social media, isn't it? Let's go back to my diploma project Lionhearted for a moment. I was very lucky that Lionhearted did really well at festivals. The 360° film was shown worldwide and won various awards. It is and remains an important reference project for me and gave me my start in the industry. In addition, I was able to learn a lot during the production - technically, storytelling for 360°, in the area of conception, team leadership and teamwork. And - what is also important - I was able to build friendships.
Currently, I work more in story development, screenwriting and dramaturgical consulting. I advise creatives and companies in the field of transmedia, VR, 360°, interactive content and web series. In screenwriting, I am currently developing a feature-length film and a mini-series.
You should apply because Animationsinstitut provides an excellent education - the resources both technical and teaching - are second to none. The people who work there are extremely dedicated to providing students with the best possible experience. The students at Animationsinstitut and Filmakademie are extreme - extremely special, extremely intelligent, extremely creative, extremely eccentric, extremely motivated. It's a great opportunity to be surrounded by so many talented young people and to work together on projects.
Interactive Media, is right for you if you are curious. If you are burning for storytelling "outside the box". It is right for you if you're motivated to create and if you are also a team player.
My tip for potential applicants is, listen to your inner voice - what excites and motivates you? Is it a medium, is it an art form, is it a style? Be honest with yourself in your application, write - and create - what interests you, not what you think others expect from you. And as a final tip, do your homework. Research your topic/medium. Research similarand relevant projects in the area. I thought of one more tip: If you have a little voice inside of you that thinks "no, I'm not good enough (yet)". Or "there are only geniuses studying there...I don't belong there", then try "I'll give it a chance."