17 Feb 2015

Confessions of a Shooting Stars Juror

The 2015 Shooting Stars award ceremony nearly didn’t happen for me, as what started as a brief trip to Colorado to visit the set of Quentin Tarantino’s new film The Hateful Eight turned into nearly week in the skiing town of Telluride as the production waited in vain for snowfall. As time passed, I recalled a previous visit to one of Quentin’s sets: a Café Einstein in central Berlin had been converted into Maxim’s Of Paris for a key scene in which former Shooting Star Daniel Brühl, as Nazi war hero Fredrik Zoller, brokered an important meeting with Germany’s head of propaganda, Joseph Goebbels. It reminded me just how far these Shooting Stars go; I’ve seen a lot of Daniel lately, not just on screen in the acclaimed dramas Rush and A Most Wanted Man but in the flesh: two winters ago he was in London shooting Michael Winterbottom’s The Face Of And Angel, and last summer I ran into him in Cannes, where he presented the Prix De Jury.

Shooting Stars Press Photocall © Markus Nass
After a brief stopover in London to drop off my winter clothes – I didn’t think the rest of my Shooting Stars jury would see my muddy boots as a fashion statement – I sped to Gatwick Airport in a panicked cab, since all available trains were either cancelled or running late. I arrived with ten minutes to spare, and after landing at Schönefeld Airport I was whisked to the 25Hours Hotel in the old west of Berlin’s city centre, which would be the base for the next three days’ activities. My first encounter was with fellow juror Natalie Cheron, enjoying a quick cigarette en route to the Annual Meeting of the International Casting Directors Network. Natalie told me that all was going swimmingly, that our Shooting Stars were hitting it off and had already become a tight little unit.

I saw this myself when, an hour later, I arrived at the Press Photocall. I’d hoped to catch a few words with some of our chosen few, but everyone was flitting between rooms. The Ritz Carlton was in a state of flux, TV crews and photographers streaming in and out, but our Shooting Stars kept their heads and all had dressed for the occasion.
  Moe Dunford and Debbie McWilliams at the
Actors Industry Network © Markus Nass
From here, we went back to base and over to the Waldorf Astoria for Actors Industry Network. This was where the real work would be done; each actor staked an area and held court as Europe’s best-known casting agents table-hopped to speak to them. From the UK alone I saw major players such as Leo Davis, Dan Hubbard and Debbie McWilliams, who has cast every Bond film since For Your Eyes Only. From Prague, I bumped into Nancy Bishop – just these four might be enough to change one actor’s life forever.

At the Tesiro-sponsored cocktail later that night it was clear that our Shooting Stars had bonded, which was proven at the following morning’s press presentation. Introducing the event, our fellow juror Eva Röse got things started by recalling how much her own experience as a Shooting Star in 2006 meant to her. “Of course, it was a great honour,” she said, “and I felt that my work was being recognised. I was now part of something bigger, and it was definitely a door opening for me. It helped me to expand my horizons. And it’s been interesting to me to see how the Shooting Stars programme has evolved from 2006 to this day. It started out as a spotlight, but now it’s a valuable stepping stone to help actors find their way internationally. So I’m really excited for these guys and I wish them all the best.”

Shooting Stars Press Presentation © Markus Nass
Interviewed onstage, the Shooting Stars proved comfortable in a room filled with cameras and recording devices. Denmark’s Joachim Fjelstrup offered us an insight into his research for the rock’n’roll biopic Itsi Bitsi, while Finland’s Emmi Parviainen (The Princess Of Egypt) gave us tips on being truthful in performance. Jannis Niewöhner (Sapphire Blue) informed us that genre films were just as much fun as dramas; Iceland’s Hera Hilmer (Life In A Fishbowl), talked about her experience on the major international TV shows such as Da Vinci’s Demons; and Ireland’s Moe Dunford (Patrick’s Day) spoke movingly of mental health issues in his native Dublin. Lithuania’s Aistė Diržiūtė unexpectedly revealed that her co-star in The Summer Of Sangaile was on old friend that she’d met online, enabling her to be extra comfortable in the role; Spain’s Natalia de Molina spoke emotionally about her Goya win for Living Is Easy With Eyes Closed; while Switzerland’s Sven Schelker (The Circle) assured us he would never swap the stage for the screen, or vice versa. The Netherlands’ Abbey Hoes (Nena) charmed everyone with her story about making her debut as “the winking girl” in a TV commercial, and the UK’s Maisie Williams (The Falling) amazed us all with the fact that, at 17, the Game Of thrones star already has a million Twitter followers.

In the afternoon there was a run-through of the ceremony at the Palast, at which, for a brief moment, my co-juror, producer Danijel Hocevar, and I were not deemed sufficiently stellar to play ourselves as the camera team blocked the show. Common sense soon prevailed, however, and Eva plus fellow juror Malgorzata Szumowska – whose very well-received new film The Body was to premiere in the Berlinale that same night, later winning her the Silver Bear for Best Director – made excellent MCs. The run-through went smoothly and we returned later for the real event, which went just as well until a technical hitch saw Moe Dunford’s face beamed onscreen just as Eva was paying tribute to Hera Hilmar. Without missing a beat, and with a wry joke, Eva calmly started again – a reminder of the star quality that first brought her here in 2006.

Shooting Stars on stage at the Berlinale Palast © Isa Foltin /Getty Images for European Shootings Stars
The appearance of Black Swan star Natalie Portman as this year’s patron sent visible shockwaves through our Shooting Stars, and she was a gracious host, handing out the distinctive silver trophies. Not only was this seen on TV3, these images soon went all around the room, gracing Twitter feeds and Facebook pages before the night was even over. From the Palast it was back to 25Hours Hotel and the Monkey Bar, where our Shooting Stars were finally able to let their hair down, partying long into the night in a city that certainly knows how to party. It had been an extraordinary few days for all of us, but although it marked the end of the road for me, for our Shooting Stars the journey is just beginning.

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