Huan Vu: Interview with the director of "Die Farbe"
Tuesday September 25, 2012
Huan Vu is a German filmmaker of Vietnamese descent. From 2003-2007, Vu worked on his first feature, Damantus, a non-profit Warhamer 40,000 fan film. He spent two years from 2008-2010 working on his most recent feature, Die Farbe, an adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft's short novel, "The Colour Out of Space". I caught up with Vu recently to ask about sci-fi influences, adaptations and future projects.
Christopher Coffel: A lot of filmmakers are able to recall a certain moment or a particular film that influenced them to jump in to filmmaking. Did you have a moment like that?
Huan Vu: I think it was the combination of reading about the pre-production and the shooting of The Lord of the Rings Trilogy and watching fan movies of Star Trek and Star Wars fans on the internet. Back then, around the turn of the millenniu, 1999 till 2001.
At that time Peter Jackson wasn't really well-known, New Zealand wasn't known for film making at all. So the whole trilogy production had a real independent and revolutionary vibe to it. That impressed me very much, they made the impossible possible, with a budget that wasn't really huge for what they were going to do. And as a big fan of Tolkien's works I searched for news about the filming process on a nearly daily basis. That and watching fan films, expanding beloved universes through passion, sacrifice and hard work, really got me in to it.
So I graduated from college and said to myself: Let's give it a try as well. So I started making short movies with friends to test my abilites and then embarked onto the bir Warhammer 40,000 fam film project "DAMNATUS" that took more than 4 years to complete while studying 'audio-visual media' at university.
CC: Your new film, Die Farbe, is based off an HP Lovecraft short novel. Can you tell us a little bit about the film and how it came to be?
HV: Co-producer and lead 3D artist Jan Roth, whom I met at university, and another friend gave me some of their Lovecraft books and I started reading those stories after completing "DAMNATUS". We had played the Arkham Horror board game a few times and so I got curious about the universe behind it. I got really hooked and was fascinated about Lovecraft's groundbreaking works. Back then we also had to start thinking about our final examsand after reading "The Colour Out of Space", I stated to Jan that I loved that story and we played around with the idea how to adapt that in to a film, especially translating the alien colour from unimaginable imagination to visual image. We came up with black and white pretty fast to solve that so we continued, developing a script, looking for shooting locations, etc. In the end the whole project became too big for our university and our final exams so we decided to finish our studies and then produce "Die Farbe" on our own.
CC: What are the major differences between adapting someone else's work and working from original material? Would you ever take on another adaptation?
HV: I think I enjoy adapting because I often fell that big budget Hollywood adaptations don't get it right. With both of my films I tried to create something that I would enjoy watching myself, being a fan. That also means that both films aren't easy to watch for 'normal' audiences - they break many of the unwritten or written rules of storytelling. Some deliverately, because I didn't feel that it would be 'right', that it would compromise the original vision.
CC: You've got two features under your belt, both in the sci-fi/mystery realm. Who, aside from Lovecraft, are some of your major influences in the genre?
HV: Hmmm, among my all-time favourites you would fins "Akira", "12 Monkeys", "Alien", ... "Akira" sits on the top spot, but "Alien" is also very special to me. I got to watch it with my parents when I was only six years old, it was the first time that movie was screened on public television in Germany. My parents thought 'he will go to bed if it gets too scary'. I didn't, I watched the whole thing and was scared for my life. I's say - to this day - that experience was the scariest of my whole life. But what I probably learned from "Alien" very early: it's not about the monster. It's about its shadow.
That's probably why I'm more on the suspense and mystery side rather than making 'direct' visual horror or gore stuff to avoke goosebumps. And in a weir way I also always have to think about who will clean all the messy film blood later on? or 'oh no, we'd need five identical full costumes for that scene' - that's probably going in to it as well.
CC: Do you already have a follow up to "Die Farbe"? Anything new you're working on or that you'd like to plug?
HV: Right now I'm writing a treatment for another Lovecraftian film, though this time it isn't a direct adaptation of a particular story. It's more like throwing several stories and ideas in to a box, shaking it thorougly, and looking what will result out of that. I'm close to finishing it, and all I can say is: this time it's for both audiences. Unfortunately it's a really epic story, so probably impossible for us to finance even with fan support. Thus, we are thinking about producing a promotional trailer (with fan support hopefully) so that we can try to get some attention from the film industry.
That's on possible future plan, it's not definitely decided yet. I could still switch to another film idea. I don't like making project trailers, I already failed with one (that was between "DAMNATUS" and "Die Farbe") and all the money was gone. All the money could have went in to "Die Farbe", that would have helped us immensely, it could have been possible to shoot the intro at real locations rather than relying on blescreen. So I'd really prefer using any budget to make a small low-budget film but promotional stuff for a film that is not existing. But right now I have a strong feeling that I should do this. It's absolutely daunting but it's also very exciting. It would be my Lord of the Rings!
Ok, I'm lying - right now I'm downloading the demo for X-Com: Enemy Unknown... I hope I can finish the treatment before that game is released... Noremally I seldom play games, I used to play a lot as a teenager but then switched to filmmaking, so this remark of a real all-time classic is very dangerous to any career plans...
Die Farbe Trailer