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Niels Laupert • Director

“It’s important for filmmakers to keep on changing the way they look at things”


- German Films interviews director Niels Laupert, who has recently unveiled his sophomore feature Whatever Happens

Niels Laupert • Director

Niels Laupert’s new film Whatever Happens – released in Germany by Universum Film on 30 November, and the first since his debut with Seven Days Sunday ten years ago – tells a love story with no resemblance to the cheery comic monotony with which German cinema often seeks to win over mass audiences. But nor does this view of the broken relationship, told on various levels of time, between Julian (Fahri Yardim) and Hannah (Sylvia Hoeks) have anything in common with what Laupert calls “great German arthouse cinema.” 

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“I wanted to make a film that tells its story profoundly but also has light, entertaining moments without ultimately slipping into toilet humour. It was vital for me that the characters take themselves seriously, and I also wanted to show a baby that doesn’t automatically pee in someone’s face the minute it appears on screen. Nevertheless, viewers ought to find the film accessible in ways that don’t just demand an intellectual approach.”

Whatever Happens is the first film by Jumpseat Filmproduktion, which Laupert founded together with his close friend Benjamin Grosch, a strategy advisor, in 2013. However, it was actually born of necessity. There were problems (as yet) funding an - other, much more complicated project, not least due to its setting abroad during the period of the First World War. “That felt as though I had lost four years of my time,” Laupert says, who had a subsequent rethink and looked out for a small story that could be realized with as few protagonists and locations as possible. “I always see an opportunity when things don’t work out – and in every farewell, which is dealt with thematically in Whatever Happens, of course.” 

In this case, the director also came across his leading actors almost by chance. Initially, he had not considered Yardim, who has made a name for himself in films primarily as a joker recently. But once again, a fresh perspective helped. Rather than looking at the demo-tape, Laupert watched a video on YouTube showing a laudatio the actor gave when presenting a prize for integration: “I noticed then how much warmth and intelligence Fahri has – and that he usually plays roles in which he doesn’t use his immense abilities to the full.” 

Although they were not looking specifically for a foreign leading actress for their film, it is no secret that Laupert and his business partner at Jumpseat very consciously try to see beyond the narrow boundaries of Germany. Among other things, they are currently pushing the development of an English-language series in Berlin. The two see their chance in a new global market for quality entertainment – and not least Laupert, with his experience of festivals, enthuses about the opportunities offered by inter national co-productions: “Such joint projects always open up fresh perspectives – and nothing is more important for filmmakers than to keep on changing the way they look at things.”

At Jumpseat, where among other things an English-language love story and a German coming-of-age story are in development, the intention is for Laupert’s skill in the unusual double function of director/author and producer to bear fruit beyond Whatever Happens. The question of what success means exactly is also a question of perspective, of course. “Naturally, as a filmmaker you dream about a big audience. To make films just for yourself is the most expensive form of onanism, as one of my professors always said to us in warning,” the 42-year-old declares, with a view to the future. “But there is a difference whether you make films because you think that the masses will enjoy them, or whether you have the sense that what moves you personally might also move other people. The latter is what continues to drive me.”

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