Altered States Competition
3 questions for Ted Fendt
The director of Outside Noise talks in detail about his film, which is part of the Altered States Competition.
What was the starting point of the film and what was the process for developing the
The seeds for the project were planted in 2016 when I travelled very early one morning from Vienna to Berlin. Arriving at my friend Mia's apartment, I was half asleep as we had breakfast in her kitchen. She told me about her spontaneous decision to do a master's degree. Something about the way she said it and the light in the room struck a chord with me. Two months later, at a dinner with some artist-filmmaker friends in Vienna the night before I returned to the US, Daniela mentioned her recent bouts of insomnia. The way she said it and the gesture she made connected with the vaguely defined character who goes to visit Mia in Berlin. One year later, I asked her to be involved and I was lucky she agreed.
The film revolves around the act of conversing, of friendship as conversation. With respect to this, how did you work on the script and, specifically, the dialogues?
Our process evolved between New York and Vienna. In New York, I wrote some dialogue quickly the night before. For Berlin, we had a script with dialogue I had written in English that Mia and Daniela, still just getting to know each other, would translate on set into their own German. Following the Berlin shoot, we all agreed we were not satisfied with this method. Over the following months, we would get together and discuss and revise every scene in the script for the Vienna part. Natascha took part in this too. By the time we got to set, we had a list for each scene of the topics they would discuss and they were familiar enough with their characters and each other that only a brief rehearsal on set was necessary for them to find the words.
There is a certain element of “self-fiction” in your films, especially with the work on your characters. What interests you about this and, specifically, about the work with non-professional actors?
I am interested in working with other people and cinematically conveying what it is about them that I find fascinating. But part of what attracts me to the lead performers in all of my projects is certainly seeing something of myself in them. As a result, my films are fairly autobiographical, even if indirectly because I will draw on other experiences to describe or articulate my own. There is a lot of me in Natascha, Mia and Daniela's characters, as there was in Mike, Cal and Evelyn in the last films. So it is this initial fascination and identification that draws me to work with my performers in the first place. I have also always wanted to avoid a certain kind of stylized naturalism or performances that convey an actor's interpretation of a character to the audience. This time, though, everyone I worked with had either studied theater and actively acts on the stage or in performances (Mia, Natascha) or studied art and filmmaking (Daniela, Katharina, Stefanie), so it was different. They also gave great critiques whenever I would suggest scenes or ideas. And then there is the whole tradition of American independent films using non-professional actors from Ron Rice to Charles Burnett to Barbara Loden, to name only a few film-makers whose work I often think of.