Urban Neverland

Project of the month: Refugium


Johannes Kammerer graduated last year with a diploma in animation and visual effects from Animationsinstitut. The freelance motion designer and 3D artist dedicated his diploma project to his personal passion skateboarding and created Refugium, an experimental VFX skate video. Skateboarding becomes a metaphor for an "urban neverland", where, far away from everyday life, stress and fear, one can still be a child. At the same time, the short shows a world full of ambivalent feelings, where not everything is always fun and games, but also hard work, despair and frustration.

Read on and find out what's behind the unusual production in an interview with director Johannes Kammerer.



Interview with Director Johannes Kammerer


What was your motivation for Refugium?

I’ve been skateboarding since I was 12 years old. It always was a big part of my life, so it came pretty naturally to make a film about skateboarding.  Also I wanted to tell a little story about the struggles of everyday life. Stress and fear.
I myself struggled with anxiety for a while and skateboarding was always an escape for me -  a place where I could just play and still have fun like a little kid. However even in skateboarding not everything can always be fun. It's hard work, painful and sometimes filled with frustration. You fall down and get hurt, but you have to get up and try again. This represented an interesting contrast for me.


Why did you choose to do this film as your graduation film?

Refugium is not a very typical animation diploma film and probably was not the best idea for your typical showreel, that is wanted for jobs in the animation industry. Nevertheless it was always a big dream of mine to film and direct my own skate video.
For my diploma I finally had the chance to combine my passion for animation and all the other filmmaking skills I acquired so far. So I just did it.

What was the toughest aspect of making this film?

Getting the project started was pretty tough. I’ve never directed a film before and it took me a long time to get all my ideas for the film out of my brain and into something like a storyboard or script. I got stuck in my head a few times, but I found that the best way to stop it was just to start filming and experimenting with different ideas.
Filming skateboarding is more like a documentary - you can't plan everything ahead of time. You just have to go with the flow.


What did you enjoy most in production?

What I enjoyed most, was going out day and night and just filming and skating with the crew. Also finally seeing everything coming together in the edit was pretty awesome. Especially as the project was in my head for a long time and I didn't really know how it would turn out.

What was difficult about being Artist and Director at the same time?

Being Artist and Director at the same time was actually pretty awesome. I knew what I wanted the film to look like and could do it totally my own way. Although sometimes I had to let go of bad ideas and make compromises with myself which was difficult.


What would you do differently if you could do it over again?

I would try not to overthink everything and get started earlier. Also I would try to film with more female skaters. I realized a little late that I only filmed with boys, even though there is a pretty strong female skate scene in Stuttgart.

What or who was your influence?

I was influenced by a lot of skate videos I watched growing up like „Yeah Right“ and „Fully Flared“ by Ty Evans and Spike Jonze. As well as lots of different music videos and artists like Ash Thorp and M.C. Escher.


Anything else?

I want to thank everyone involved in the project. All the Skaters who put in the work. Frederic Kuntz and Dominik Schneider who helped me with filming. Benedikt Vogler and Tilo Ehmann from the Sound Department and especially my Producer Laura Messner and my Editor Victor Haselmayer, who made this project possible. Much love to you all!



Click here for the brand new showreel of Director Johannes Kammerer on Vimeo!

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