Cowboys galloping through vast landscapes and gazing melancholy into the distance, this is the Wild West! Here on the wide screen the epic duels between bounty hunter and outlaws are told, here the limitless freedom of the American frontier is celebrated. Wild West Compressed attempts to bring the dusty Western genre into the 21st century and rises the question: what if the Western was filmed with a cell phone and tries fitting into the new Mobilescope? The three-part miniseries takes great pleasure in letting this experiment fail: the heroes desperately try to stay in the frame, but there is not enough space. As a result, the overtaxed protagonists are thrown into chaos, and we probably have to admit to ourselves that the Western belongs on the wide, big screen.
Read on, watch Wild West Compressed and learn more about the project team and the making of the 3D animated series.
Interview with Director Christian Kaufmann
We had the original idea for Wild West Compressed on a trip to a hut in the Black Forest, where we were forming teams for the fifth semester (AniFilm/AniPlay) and develop ideas. The idea of a Wild West without enough space came up. Let's take away the cowboys' play space! We'll make the prairie super narrow, the bars totally cramped, and the bandits can just squeeze through the canyon, it's fun! We all really liked the idea, so we decided to spend our semester together with the Cowboys. However, during the design phase, we kept running into problems. We struggled a lot to develop a consistent world in which our logic of the narrow Western would work. Basically, we kept getting caught up with the question, "If this is all so narrow, then surely the cowboys must know their way around and have adapted - and therefore behave normally!?” Consequently, we just could not figure out any serious problems, and therefore any jokes, for our Western heroes that resulted from the narrow design. What was funny could just as easily have been told in a normal Western world.
So we rethought how to implement our original idea of taking away the cowboys' play space and finally came up with the idea of annoying our heroes with the form itself - the image format - in such a way that their normal mode doesn't work at all. Equipped with powerful egos, all cowboys naturally always want the camera to see them but there is no room for that in a vertical Western. Once we established this basic premise, we were able to generate a huge pool of funny slapstick situations. From here on, it was a lot of fun to shoot the various western scenes exactly like their film-historical models, but with the small restriction that we exchanged the old Cinemascope for the new and modern Mobilescope, creating a lot of chaos.
At the project level, one of the big challenges was the moment when we realized that our initial idea was not working. That was a big damper for the whole team at first, because we had been working on designs and implementations for our narrow Western for quite some time before we realized, "This just isn't it yet." Sometimes a little time pressure does you well, so we had to come up with the idea for the vertical Western relatively quickly. From here on, everything went smoothly. We were all finding our new idea funny and took that as further motivation for the implementation, which was ultimately already concentrated, but never lacked fun as a team. After a few projects at Filmakademie, I think it is fair to say that at least one little low point is part of every production. These "stumbles" are important to make clear to yourself once again why you decided on this very idea in the beginning and whether you are still doing what you originally intended to do. It is important to determine which screws need to be tightened in order to achieve a better result. That is exactly what happened with Wild West Compressed. We hit the brakes to make ourselves aware of what we actually wanted to do. This short breath cleared our heads so that we finally arrived at our new vertical Western.
Another challenge, of course, was the size of the team. After all, we were 10 people, and we all needed to feel comfortable with the project and have fun making it happen. It took us a bit of time to establish communication within the team through the introduction of daily meetings and regular team meetings in the departments. The aim was not to slow everyone down but to keep everyone up to date while keeping the project work fun. I think that establishing this communication was the backbone of our project and we are very happy that we found such a great "groove" as a team.
After graduating from high school, I studied media design in Cologne and had the opportunity to take a class in film, which was my first contact with filmmaking. During this time, I shot several short films with a team of fellow students. At the same time, I was always curious about motion design and at some point began to use its techniques for filmmaking. That is when animation started to play an increasingly important role. I then became more and more excited about the possibilities of animation, the chance to create and exaggerate characters, to link designs to a story, but also to tell stories in my own way. This impression became even stronger when I worked in a motion design agency for a year after graduation and really missed the storytelling part of filmmaking. Therefore, I decided to study again and applied to Filmakademie’s Animationsinstitut in the spring of 2016. I was fortunately accepted and have been very happy there ever since!
I am currently working with a larger team on my diploma film, a 3D animated short, which is expected to be finished in the summer of 2022. Right now, we are in transition from pre-production to production. We have a working animatic, are diligently creating designs, and are already starting concrete animation tests for our characters.
After graduating from Animationsinstitut, I want to continue to focus on storytelling, always with the premise that the most important thing is an honest heartbeat. I think films - and stories in general - become beautiful when there is an honest underlying attitude to them, and that is something I would like to maintain in the future with whatever projects come along. Also, I think it's important to work together as a team because it's just nice to see a project grow together and I definitely believe that a product is greater than the sum of its parts. It is just super cool when different people contribute their great ideas and you see how the film benefits from this exchange.
I always find it difficult to give general tips for applying to Filmakademie. What is certainly the most important thing is to be honest with yourself about what you would like to do and not to "overthink" it. If you want to do animation, have fun animating. If you want to tell stories, do that. Do not sell yourself as something you are not and do not stress about perfect reels and blog posts telling you how to do something. This may become a bit more important after graduation. From my experience, people at Filmakademie enjoy what they are doing more than anything else and therefore just do it. It is often not perfect and may have rough edges, but that is what makes it interesting!
Christian's interest in film was sparked during his media design studies in Cologne. During this time he shot several short films. Alongside his studies, he always worked in motion design, which led to an increasing interest in animated film. Here you can not only recreate characters and worlds, but also exaggerate them and give them a heartbeat of their own. So in 2016 he decided to pursue this interest further and started studying animation at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. Since then he implemented several short films, sometimes a little melancholic, sometimes a little naive, but sharing their optimistic view of the world.
Linda studied Business Administration at Freie Universität Berlin. She moved to Canada in 2015 to start her training in the fields of animation at Vancouver Film school where she graduated with her first stop motion animated short film. Since 2016 she’s enrolled in the animation program at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg where she took the chance to discover the many fields of animation. During the course of different semesters she worked as a 3D and VFX artist on student projects and realized another 2D animated short. Soon she rediscovered her interest in production and took over as a producer. During her gap year she worked as a VFX coordinator at RISE in Stuttgart. Now she’s back at Animationsinstitut producing her diploma project and practicing screenwriting.
Janik Otterbach is a technical directing student with a major interest in rendering and pipelines for VFX and animation productions, who is currently finishing his diploma in order to graduate in July 2021 from Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. After taking his first filmmaking steps during highschool Janik started his studies at the Hochschule der Medien in 2013, where eventually computer graphics caught his interest, giving him the opportunity to combine his passion for film making with his technical understanding. He graduated in 2017 with his Bachelor thesis about the implementation of measured reflectance data in a production path tracer. Janik worked as a 3D generalist before he joined the technical directing course in 2018. Since then he has been involved in several projects, where he could depthen his technical knowledge in areas like real time rendering and software development, as well as improve his artistic skills in lighting and compositing.
Oscar Bittner was born and raised in Berlin. In a gap year he gained first professional experience as a filmmaker, doing internships in his hometown and as a volunteer in France. Afterwards he was accepted into the animation program of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in 2016, where he created several films about social issues and experimenting with unique storytelling opportunities in animation. In 2019 he had the chance to further develop his skills during an exchange with „Gobelins“ in Paris.
Sarah Schulz, born in Zweibrücken in 1996, wrote "children's book author and illustrator" as her first career wish. and illustrator" in her friends' books. Later she added "animator" to this job title "Animator," worked in television and at Balance Film GmbH in Dresden after graduating from high school, and began studying animation at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg in 2016. Since then she has been working on numerous projects in a supporting capacity, including animation for "Night Spinning" (FABW 2017), "Blieschow" (FABW 2019) and working in the cleanup department for "Wolfwalkers" (Cartoon Saloon 2020). She also gained experience in directing ("Little Big Bear," FABW 2018).
Laura Staab studied design in Nuremberg with a focus on film, photography and illustration. During her studies, she animated several short films in stop motion and 2D and has since also worked as a freelance illustrator and animator. Since 2016, she has been studying animation at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, where she focuses on character animation.
2016 B.A of Fine Arts in the field of Visual Communication // Bauhaus University Weimar
2021 Diploma in Film/Media with the focus on Characteranimation // Filmakademie Baden Württemberg - Animationsinsitut
Participated in the 4th Lucerne Master Academy of Animation 2019
Participated in an intermediate Animsquadcourse 2019
Wunna Winter is an animation filmmaker who graduated with a Media Design major at the Technische Hochschule Georg Simon Ohm, in Nuremberg. Here, she found her affection for (stop motion) animation films and was part of numerous student projects, including her graduation film: "Lure.“ Since October 2016, she has been studying animation at the Filmakademie in Ludwigsburg, focusing on learning CG. She had the chance to get some professional experience in the industry during her internship in the asset department at RISE FX. After she acquires her diploma, she aspires to work as a grooming/lookdev/modeling artist for Characters and Creatures.
Niklas Wolff, geboren und aufgewachsen in Erfurt, kreierte seine ersten 3D-animierten Kurzfilme im Alter von 14 Jahren. Nachdem sein Abitur abschloss, begann er ein Praktikum bei der Visual-Effects Firma Unexpected in Stuttgart. Dort arbeitete er bis er 2018 sein Studium im Studiengang Animation an der Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg begann.
2019 Unter Druck (Animation - Co-Director and Artist)
2019 Killing Jenny (Horror/Comedy - Co-Director)
2020 Sprout (Science-Fiction - Director and Artist)
2020 Into The Cutezone (Action/Comedy - Director and Artist)
Tim Hennig, born on 02.10.1992, is a composer, music producer and pianist.
Music always has a message and awakens in people a longing for something greater than themselves. From the beginning, Tim had a penchant for improvisation and composition, in short, expressing himself through music or telling a story through music. He comes from a live jazz background, loves handmade music with a groove, and has been on a stage many times. Especially exciting for him is the combination of different timbres and musical styles. Thinking out-of-the-box comes naturally to him. After his studies of popular music and Bachelor of Arts at the HKDM Freiburg in 2017, he started studying film music at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, which he will graduate with a diploma in 2021. So far, two EPs by Tim have been released, "Timotheus" in 2018 and "Dein Wille Geschehe" in 2019. He currently plays in various formations, such as the singer/songwriter band "Maja & the Jacks" and the cover band "Nightunes".
Hannes is a film composer based in Ludwigsburg. He has studied Jazz Piano at the International Music College in Freiburg, Composition at the ArtEZ Conservatory in Arnhem (NL) and Film Scoring at the renowned Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. His music can be heard in lots short films, feature films and advertisements. In the last years, he has written for professional musicians like the Film-Orchestra Babelsberg, Budapest Scoring Orchestra, Zilina Chamber Orchestra, Matangi String Quartet and the WESO Orchestra.
Johanna Roth studied at the Mannheim University of Music and Performing Arts and at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. During this time she has already worked on a number of film productions, including co-productions with ZDF or Arte. She works as a freelance sound designer and noisemaker and gives workshops in the field of film sound/sound design.
Timo Müssig is 26 and studies interactive media. He has always been interested in puzzles, problem solving and technology in general. Already in his school days he started to teach himself programming and automating small tasks. As part of his media informatics studies, he published the computer game "Elena" in 2016. After graduating in 2018, he began postgraduate studies in Interactive Media at Filmakademie to devote himself especially in the areas of creative work and the organization of teamwork. In 2019, as part of a semester abroad, he participated in the DADIU program in Denmark, during which he directed a team of 14 master's students over the course of a semester. In 2021, he will graduate from Filmakademie with his diploma project and dive into the computer game development industry.
Sara Kindschus studied music design at the Musikhochschule Trossigen. During this time she specialized in film and game music, as well as audio programming. She especially enjoys making game jams. She spent her internship semester at Animationsinstitut of Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. She is now studying game programming in Cologne and loves working in teams that create extraordinary audiovisual works.