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Spotlight: An interview with Phil Ramcke ("Götterdämmerung")

In the pulsating heart of cinematic innovation, one name stands out as a beacon of promise and creativity: Phil Ramcke.

With his recent triumph at LAFA, where his captivating trailer for "Götterdämmerung" clinched the esteemed title of Best Trailer, Ramcke has firmly cemented his status as an inspiring director to watch.

His journey in the film industry is a testament to relentless passion, unwavering dedication, and an unyielding commitment to storytelling excellence. From humble beginnings as an assistant producer to his meteoric rise as a visionary director, Ramcke's trajectory is as inspiring as it is compelling.

Join us as we delve into the captivating narrative of Phil Ramcke's cinematic odyssey, exploring the triumphs, challenges, and boundless creativity that define his remarkable career.

- Phil, it's wonderful to have you with us! Before we chat about your current projects, can you take us back to the beginning of your journey in the film industry? What initially sparked your interest in filmmaking, and how did you take your first steps into this world?


Hello Nami, thank you for having me here. Film has truly shaped my entire life. My earliest memories include 8 mm films shot by my grandmother, and my mother documenting many of our vacations on HI8. These were a constant presence throughout my childhood. Of course, there were also those outstanding films which I secretly watched in the basement on a tiny TV, so my parents wouldn't find out. They greatly inspired me to make films myself because cinema makes possible what reality cannot. So, I grabbed cameras and asked my childhood friends to join in, and I started making films at a very young age.


- Was there a particular moment or film which ignited your passion for cinema? What about it resonated with you?


The most impactful experience was watching James Cameron's "Titanic" in the cinema at eleven. Observing other viewers as they empathized deeply, crying from the bottom of their hearts, made me realize something. Hey, these viewers had only known the characters on the screen for about two hours, yet they felt so deeply connected. I cried too, and it was then I understood that I have a profound emotional side, and film is the medium through which I can fully express this aspect of myself.


- As you progressed from an assistant producer to a producer, what were some pivotal lessons you learned along the way? How did these early experiences shape your approach to filmmaking?


Well, that's a good question. We need to start a bit earlier. Germany is a challenging country today for those aspiring to be successful filmmakers. There's a common saying here that filmmaking is a thankless art, some even dismiss it as “films are worthless.” Hearing that for over 18 years, you find yourself making more compromises... between what your family wants and what you desire. I believe choosing the path of a producer was such a compromise, but I intended this role to only be a part of my journey until I found the courage to pursue my true calling. However, during my time as an assistant producer, I learned a great deal. For instance, the dynamics of preparation on a set and recognizing that everyone has different security needs. And of course, how to negotiate finances—a topic I had long feared and thought I wasn't cut out for. Yet, it got better the more I faced it and learned from my first mentor, who threw me into the deep end more than once. I remember waking up one day, having dreamt that this wasn't my path. I dreamt of a future that looked very different. The most important lesson is certainly that you can learn many things and that the things you fear the most are where you can learn the most and grow beyond yourself. I also learned how professional film production runs as I organized commercial film productions for international corporations with huge budgets. After gaining a few years of experience there, I felt ready to tackle "Götterdämmerung," which remains my biggest and longest project to date.


- Could you share a memorable experience from your time as an assistant producer that influenced your career trajectory?


Well, I always find it very difficult to do things just because someone else says they've always been done that way. So, it's not about a single moment. There might be a whole period that's memorable for me because it taught me the most important lesson of my life so far. Over time, I've learned that when everyone suddenly rushes in one direction or tackles projects in a certain way and wants to follow a specific formula, I pause and look around to see which paths have not yet been discovered. I deliberately seek out these paths and the people who want to build them with me. I do things in a way that makes the journey enjoyable for me and for the people I work with; their mere presence makes it enjoyable, which ensures that I will follow through to the end. I've managed all financing and implementation of projects through trial and error. Very few of my projects that were done according to a standard formula were successful. For my current company, Mia Video GmbH, I was specifically brought in for this expertise because the idea behind the company had never been done before. For me, the projects and things that others claim are impossible to realize are interesting. I find ways to make them happen.


- What motivated you to transition from producing to directing? How did you navigate this shift in roles within the industry?


That was actually quite straightforward. At the company where I was working at the time, I was able to bring in many new projects through pitches and recommendations for my clients. There came a point when the business owner, who was also a director from whom I learned a great deal, no longer had time for smaller projects, and I took over the directing duties. There were even times when these long-standing clients specifically asked for me. Shortly after, I was fired with disgrace. However, I learned a lot during that time. Even though the ending was unpleasant, I am very grateful to this director from whom I learned so much. I believe "Götterdämmerung" was heavily influenced by this experience. Before we started shooting the trailer, I pooled all my money and my conviction, and under challenging conditions, managed to set up a day of shooting in a film studio. Naturally, it was total chaos because I had to do so much myself. But the output looked great, and with these clips and a well-edited showreel, I then applied for jobs. I believe that simply trying and putting everything you have and can do into a project can be an incredible boost towards achieving your dreams. Of course, there were many setbacks, and I wasn't immediately recognized as a director. But the moment I focused on making commercials and image films that primarily made me happy—they made my clients happy too, and at that moment, I was acknowledged.


- "Götterdämmerung" represents a significant milestone in your career as a director. What inspired you to undertake such an ambitious project, and how did you approach its development?


"Götterdämmerung" has always been the project I wanted to create since I was a child. I come from a family with a wide range of political views. There were some Nazis in my family, but there were also those who resisted. For instance, some helped smuggle people across borders during night-and-fog operations or distributed leaflets in factories. These were impressive stories that fascinated me as a child. Therefore, my childhood projects were always closely linked with the fight of the Allies and the resistance in Europe against the Nazis. Creating the teaser for "Götterdämmerung" was the fulfillment of a childhood dream.


First, I worked extensively on visualization. Before I even started, I collected images from catalogs and magazines of sets or premieres and pasted them over my entrance area so I was compelled to see them several times a day. Over time, these visualizations became more vivid, and I could precisely envision how the shooting days would proceed and what the premiere would look like for the teaser. One day, I woke up and said I couldn't continue living if I didn't work on this project, so I worked 10 hours a day at my regular job and then another 8 hours in the evenings on "Götterdämmerung." After completing the first day of shooting and having something to show, it only took six months to find an investor and assemble a team and actors, totaling 350 people. We then shot "Götterdämmerung" on weekends and evenings. We approached various people with open hearts and asked for help, which we received. For example, we were allowed to film at a medieval castle because the castle's lord was also deeply moved by the theme. I believe that when you truly have a passion for something, people notice it, and if they find a connection, they support you if you have the courage to ask and keep your promises to the end.


And now, raising a substantial budget for the "Götterdämmerung" feature film is a challenge that I would have considered absolutely impossible ten years ago. But now, we are slowly but surely getting closer to realizing this dream.


- Winning Best Trailer at LAFA must have been an incredible achievement. Can you describe the emotions you felt when you received this recognition and what it means for the film and your career?


First, I must emphasize the importance of the city of Los Angeles for me. Currently, my wife and I are in the process of immigrating to the United States, specifically to Los Angeles, and we are in the midst of the visa process. For me, Los Angeles is the place where I can be closest to my dreams. This city has fascinated me since childhood when I secretly watched movies like "The Big Lebowski" and "Die Hard" in the basement.


Now, regarding the award, I was actually in the car when I saw a pop-up, and my wife then checked the results, and "Götterdämmerung" was not listed. That made me very sad at first, because I associate so many positive feelings with the USA and especially with Los Angeles. It would have been such a great achievement to win the Los Angeles Film Awards. When we arrived at our friends' place and they had cooked for us, we talked about "Götterdämmerung" for a long time, and at midnight, I received a notification from Filmfreeway that I had won.


My first thought was that it couldn't be true. I wasn't even listed in the afternoon. I had to check my phone two or three times and even handed it to my friends to verify. It was an incredible joy that burst within me. Because it was my first film award, given in a city that means so much to me. It was first an incredible relief, and then an incredible joy to share this recognition with my friends, and that this award came from the city that I hope to soon call my home. We spontaneously turned the evening into a small party.

- Beyond individual accolades, how do you believe "Götterdämmerung" has contributed to the film industry as a whole?


How this film has contributed or will contribute to the film industry might only be measurable long after its release in cinemas, perhaps even long after my lifetime. "Götterdämmerung" is set during a very dark period in Europe and the world's history. With this film, I aim to show that there is always a reason for hope, even when the forces of evil and oppression temporarily prevail. My wish is for this film to demonstrate that good will always triumph in the end.


I hope that this film will inspire filmmakers around the world, particularly in Germany, to be braver, to recognize that there isn't a right or wrong path, only the path one must find and follow. I hope it shows that every small step can positively impact one's own life and the lives of others, and that as filmmakers, we should simply go out and get started.


When I launched this project, I did not have a deep, detailed plan for every last aspect. I just started, and the plan unfolded as I went along. I met investors along the way, assembled the team, and found the actors. I didn't wait until everything was perfectly in place. It’s important to realize that what ultimately matters is what appears on the screen. I hope that this trailer may already convey the message that fortune favors the brave.


- Can you share a behind-the-scenes moment from "Götterdämmerung" that encapsulates the spirit of the film's production journey?


Yes, there were many beautiful moments, from people who had nothing to do with the film industry saying, "Hey, I'm going to switch my job and just try this out," to relationships that were formed on set. But actually, I want to talk about the setbacks because, in my opinion, they don't get enough attention in the public eye:


When I first attempted to launch the project, the initial try failed because I couldn't gather enough funding. Then, on the morning of the first attempt to shoot "Götterdämmerung," I was the only one on set, naturally feeling very sad and depressed. Later, I made another attempt and, with the support of various factors, managed to organize the first day of shooting. I was able to persuade an investor and an equipment rental company to lend me a lot for the first day for free, and after depleting my account again for infrastructure, a small remuneration, and catering, the first day was a success. We filmed what we absolutely needed, but some professional team members criticized that my set and the shoot were not prepared professionally enough and that I wasn't doing it the way everyone else does. They threw everything down on the set and left. 

When I convinced the first major investor to invest in "Götterdämmerung," I effectively had no team. But there was no turning back. There was still the challenge that the Gotterdammerung story was far too long and I was now planning those movies as a trilogy. During this time, I met wonderful people who stuck with me through thick and thin. So, I find it beneficial nowadays when people leave my tent full of anger because I don't do things the way everyone else does, preferring to address issues early rather than at a critical point. The new team I found there is one I have been working with for years, and they have faced much greater challenges with me than what happened on the first day of shooting. I believe this is the standout characteristic of "Götterdämmerung": no matter how bad things were for the project, we always found a way to continue. This might sound simple now, but if you imagine being depressed, feeling unable to continue, yet still pushing forward and then being rewarded with such loving people, that is definitely the spirit of "Götterdämmerung."


- How do you approach collaboration in filmmaking, particularly when working with a diverse team of creatives?


Firstly, I only work on projects that truly ignite my passion. I cannot commit to a project unless my heart is 100% in it. When I'm passionate, I can inspire others as well. That's the first hurdle, because I don't work with just anyone. I want to feel comfortable on my set, and it's important to me that every department works professionally but also brings their own suggestions by sharing the vision. I see myself as a cooperative director. Once this foundation is established, I take the time for each person. I want to precisely determine whether they love themselves, love filmmaking, or, in the best case, love my project. I want to understand their personal needs. Do they need a particularly high level of security? Detailed prior planning? Frequent consultations with me? If I feel that as many team members as necessary and as few as possible have been assembled, I give my full trust to the departments and try to interfere as little as possible. So, especially in pre-production and preliminary discussions, I spend a great deal of time thinking and take all the time needed to find the right people who fit well with me.


- Tell us more about your current project, MIA Video. What inspired its inception, and what role do you play in bringing it to life?


I have always believed, especially since watching James Cameron's "Titanic," that film is an incredibly touching tool that carries great responsibility. I even believe that film can make the world a better place. I first heard about the idea for Mia Video from my "Götterdämmerung" investor, who is actually a doctor in real life. He shared the idea with me, mentioning that his initial attempt had not been successful.

Once I understood the concept, I realized what it was missing: emotion and heart. My investor wanted to develop an app that could drastically reduce the time for consultations, thus relieving clinic staff and providing patients with thorough pre-consultation information. The crucial element missing was the essence of film—for example, the principle of "show, don't tell." From my experience and in my opinion, I was never interested in what was written on the explanatory sheets; rather, whether I could trust the doctor, understand his expertise, and feel reassured by him before a surgery. Thus, emotional aspects are crucial for me in a crisis situation.


Once we added this emotional component to the idea, I was directly employed for my expertise, became a co-owner, and raised a seven-figure sum for financing. Afterward, I permanently hired team members from "Götterdämmerung," providing them a safe harbor to freely express their creativity for a good cause.


Of course, we had to meet government standards for medical explanations, which primarily involve textual and verbal communication. The media in Germany, where being a doctor is a highly respected profession, unlike filmmakers, has covered these aspects extensively. However, the core of what the entire team sees is the emotion we want to convey to patients. Film is such a powerful tool that it can transform a patient's fear and panic into feelings of security and hope. No other medium or tool is as efficient and potent as film, and here I am specifically talking about true cinematic art, not the blunt methods of resolving everything at the linguistic level. I believe this will not only have a local impact but will dramatically improve clinical situations and the conditions of patients worldwide.

- Your book, "Fast Lane Filmmaker," offers insights into the world of filmmaking. What motivated you to share your knowledge and experiences in this format?


Well, my journey has certainly been extraordinary. I never saw myself as someone with exceptional abilities, and I certainly couldn't believe that one day I would be able to fulfill my deepest dreams.


For a long time, I've kept a journal, recording both the negative and positive aspects of my experiences. When I began to transform these notes into a book, I was going through the toughest time of my life. Yet, I always had the feeling that things would get better if I didn't give up.


As I revisited these notes, I realized that I had become a completely new person. I wondered why this had happened, why I was able to gradually fulfill one dream after another. I began to give meaning to the sections of my life where I had learned something significant, and I developed exercises that could have helped me gain these experiences more quickly.


I've made many mistakes in my life, and these mistakes were actually what propelled me forward because I often learned a lot from them. On the other hand, I repeatedly made some mistakes, until I learned my lesson. So, this is not about how to avoid mistakes, but about how to find your own path more quickly. I have already received feedback from industry leaders that the content of this book is unique and has never before appeared in these contexts. Of course, this is a great honor, and I am pleased that even those who do not find it helpful are excited about it.


I wrote this book primarily for my past self. I wrote what I wished I could have read when I was in those situations. It's a very practical book; it's a workbook, not something you just casually read through. And certainly, not every chapter will help every person in every life situation. But as life situations change, a chapter might suddenly take on a new meaning for the reader. This is because I don't believe that following rules can lead to greatness. I even think that blindly believing in conventional wisdom can trap us in a deceptive form of security and make us slow in finding our own paths. There is no "correct" path to follow. There is only your own path, and this book is meant to help achieve that perspective shift.


- Are there any particular directors or filmmakers who have had a significant influence on your style or approach to storytelling?


Yes, there are quite a few, each excelling in different aspects. For me, the art and the work always come first. So when I talk about people, I primarily refer to their works. This doesn’t mean that I don’t admire their genius. I believe this is currently a global societal issue: art is not valued at its true worth. That’s why I want to highlight the art of the brilliant artists at the beginning. But yes, for example, filmmakers like Tarantino or Spike Lee, and of course, Cameron and especially Spielberg. However, I particularly value the pioneers of film, such as Fritz Lang, Robert Wiene, or Lewis Milestone, who brilliantly adapted the challenging novel "All Quiet on the Western Front."


I also seek inspiration outside the box. The works of Vincent Van Gogh, the acting of Meryl Streep or the songs of Taylor Swift are particularly strong emotional pieces that can lift me out of any creative slump.


But to be completely honest, I have only one idol whose influence on my work I gladly welcome: that of Phil Ramcke in 10 years.

- As someone who wears multiple hats in the industry, including as a coach and lecturer, what do you hope to instill in the next generation of filmmakers?


I believe that out there, there are millions of talented filmmakers who haven't yet managed to seize the opportunity to make their dream film. When you look at the situation objectively, it often boils down to discouraging phrases like "that's impossible," "I can't do it," or "who would want to see my idea?" I find this state of affairs very sad.


At the academy where I taught as a lecturer, I heard some instructors say that the students were dumb or incapable. I never wanted to adopt that approach. I always told them that real life happens outside, and here we can only build a theoretical foundation. I particularly engaged with students who kept limiting themselves with such statements. And after almost a year, there was a class session where I found myself alone in the lecture hall. Naturally, I wondered where everyone was. I went to get a coffee and started looking around. This academy is an old castle near Dortmund. Nearby, I found all the students, cameras in hand, boom poles over their shoulders, and directors, as a team, turning shared ideas into reality. I felt in the depths of my heart that they were on the right path, the path they were paving for themselves. And on these sets, they learned more than they could have in class, especially about themselves.


I hope that with my contributions, I can spread courage and hope. Maybe it just takes meeting the right mentor, maybe it's about reading the right book, and perhaps it's enough to simply say to oneself, "I'll make it anyway!"


- What's the most rewarding aspect of being a filmmaker for you?


For me, the most rewarding aspect is truly the process itself. It's wonderful to create a collaborative work with other creatives. I love working with actors because it is a collaborative exploration of a new personality. The switch from digital to analog production, in particular, has had a significantly positive impact on team morale.  Then, waiting a few days until the dailies are developed and we can finally watch them—it always feels like Christmas. There's so much imagination involved in envisioning what it might look like in the end. And then the premiere... that's just fantastic.


- Looking forward, what are some of your dream projects or goals as a filmmaker? Is there a particular story you're itching to tell?


Yes, I actually have concepts and partial scripts ready for 10 projects. Three of them are, of course, the 120-minute Versions of "Götterdämmerung." But above all, I want to tell stories of courageous people who stand up for freedom, democracy, and equality, or simply, for their own stories. One person I particularly admire is Franklin D. Roosevelt. During a time of diverse and competing interests, he united many people in the fight against the Nazis. This is a remarkable achievement that deserves recognition through a film. However, my dream project is also to support new and young filmmakers in fighting for their dreams and telling their stories. I believe there are so many people in society who have been ignored for too long, and I especially want to help these people bring their stories to the screen.


- What advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers starting their journey in the industry?


There are so many people out there eager to see your future film. All you need are a few good friends, talented actors, and your smartphone. Just go out now and find your own way.


- Finally, where can our readers follow you on social media to stay updated on your latest endeavors and projects?


Unfortunately, I don't have a very active social media presence. However, you can find me through my website: or on my Instagram account: director_phil_ramcke. These are probably the best ways to connect.


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