Filming Kampfansage was like a dream come true. I never would have imagined that I would actually get the chance to make a martial-arts-action movie smack dab in the middle of Stuttgart!
The story behind the film is long and complicated. After we decided, back in the summer of 1999 to actually give a serious shot at making a movie that could even begin to stand up against Hong-Kong, it took another three months before we started filming. I found myself with my back against a wall... I knew, I had a great idea but how was I going to successfully achieve the task of integrating a complex, action packed fighting into a dramatical story?
Not only that, but shooting a Kung-Fu film in Germany was the greatest problem in itself. I knew that none of my martial-art experts had any acting background what so ever! They themselves were even concerned, about being able to convinced audiences of the intensity of a fighting scene without looking like idiots. I decided to concentrate my efforts on directing the fighting scenes. At this time the project earned it's name: Kampfansage.
A story had to be created around the action scenes. So I came up with the story about the 3 guys watching TV on the sofa. We kept the story simple, so we could concentrate on the choreography and give it as much room as possible. We were able to create fight sequences without any limits or boundaries. No bad guys, no heroes, the story was our only frame and we were able to fit everything around our sets.
Speaking of sets, nothing had such a negative influence on Kampfsage as our choice of location. At first, we were looking for something like a high-school gymnasium. Not the most exciting location, but at the time I thought it would be the best idea. I was worried about the bad weather conditions and lighting we could encounter during the fall.
Volkram came up with the idea of the Zeppelin-Carré. I wonder why I didn't come up with the idea myself, I had been the first to check out the location. But I didn't even want to think about using the location for the entire film. The Carré was publicly accessible even though it was privately owned. A new restaurant had just opened in the nicest corner and to top things off; Mercedes exhibiting new cars in the courtyard. I could hardly believe it, without any great effort we acquired permission to shoot on the premises. We even got to use the electricity for free.
As we began, we realized shooting was more complex and was going to take much longer than planned. After the first night, we had a lot less martial in the can as we had calculated. But what we had was fantastic! I couldn't believe it when I saw the first rushes, it was more incredible than I had dreamed. The idea actually worked!
We worked night after night. The cold temperatures tested our faith, but I must add the crew suffered more than the fighters. Once a waiter from the restaurant invited us to a round of red bulls and every so often someone walking by would give us tips or ideas. Often it was a Karate Champ or Kickboxer who thought they knew better: You guys might be fighters but you're much too feminine. Sometimes it seemed as though fate would gnaw at our motivation. On one of those never ending cold nights, Mathis hurt his hand and we had to stop filming, an entire sequence had to be cut out of the film. But as they say, the show must go on!
As time passed by, we found ourselves in the midst of a whole slew of difficulties: trees began to loose their leaves, someone stored away the benches and tables for the winter (which were already on screen) and last but not least we had to fight to keep the water fall on. (They didn't turn it off until two weeks after filming was completed).
Speaking of waterfalls, this sequence is burned in our brains. I knew it was going to be difficult to shoot, especially since temperatures had dropped well below zero. To keep Mathis from freezing we turned Regine's car into a sauna by installing a hot air heater. Unfortunately we couldn't use the heater and the stage lights at the same time. So every time we had to thaw Mathis, we had to cut the lights and stop everything. Too bad Mathis couldn't take off his sweater without taking the rest of his clothes off. We didn't relax until the scene was completely shot.
Finally, the only thing missing was the story. Well, not completely... we had shot the narrative part of the story before beginning at the Carré. But I wasn't happy with the material. The living room we had used for the location, now seemed bland and the lighting was a catastrophy. So we had to jump back on the band wagon and search for a new set. Someone suggested the Schickardtbunker, but that seemed too problematic. Firstly the smell and most of all no one had actually seen it from the inside. I finally got to see it and I was thrilled. The bunker was spacious, had lots of interesting nooks, the walls were covered with old German signs from the war and when you turned off the lights the whole placed glowed a fluorescent green. It took almost a whole day to get the equipment down into the bunker. The next door grade school, had installed their heating system into the narrow hallways that led to bunker, making it extremely difficult and time consuming.
When we finally left the bunker and saw the light of day, we were finished!
Leaving 21 days of filming, 150 shots and over 2000 takes behind us!