It was our pleasure to interview FanFilm Awards 2018’s winner for Best Film, Writer & Director of FanFilm, Black Sand: Bernhard Pucher. Leading the interview is our Founder & CEO, Stefanie Warner.
STEFANIE: Tell us a little bit about your desire to create a film inspired by the Sandman Universe. What made you choose this fantasy universe from the rest? What about it inspires you?
BERNHARD: I’ve been a Sandman fan
for many years now, and I’ve been wanting to set a film in that universe since I first came across it. However the Sandman Universe is so vast that it wasn’t easy picking something specific to want to tell a story about. So instead of simply reproducing a story that already exists, I thought I’d take inspiration from some of the ideas which I love, which would actually be possible to do as a fan film. And my favourite thing about the Sandman universe is that it’s very bitter sweet in a way that only Neil Gaiman can do. The Sound of Her Wings is a great example of how charming and lovely Death is, while simultaneously ending life. It’s those kind of observations that make the Sandman universe so unique and rich. And I’m glad I was able to take a little slice of it and turn it into a story.
STEFANIE: There is something interesting about the Sandman universe, and that is the way that it interacts with our world. It comes off as very secretive and noticed to the untrained eye. What choices did you take to balance between our world and Sandman?
BERNHARD: I wanted to make sure that the world that is beyond ours, in my film specifically Dream and Death, appear in my main characters life as fleeting images. Unclear and only partly visible, as if they were just half remembered dreams. And Richie, considering that he can’t dream, can’t tell if he is dreaming or not. He’s not sure of the difference anymore. So Death just comes in and out of scenes extremely abruptly, as she does in the comics, because she’s always around you. And in Morpheus’ case, obscuring him from the viewer allowed me to do several things. Aside from portraying him as a half remembered dream, I’m also letting the audience fill in the blank about what they think Morpheus is really like, and I didn’t want to force my interpretation upon the viewers, so showed just enough to make sure the story and characters can interact, but not too much, so people can bring their own Sandman to the story.
STEFANIE: Your film is adapted from a graphic novel. When dealing with stories told through pictures, there is such a strong prominent style created by the team of artist through color, gestures, and framing. How did this effect the filming process and final film?
BERNHARD: In my early attempts to make a Sandman film, I thought it would be essential to stick to the panels as much as possible, but realised fairly quickly that not even the Sandman books stick to their own style, drastically changing aesthetics based on the story they’re telling, which is something I’ve always loved about the books. So I thought that I would do the same and stick to visuals that would be appropriate for Richie’s story, and only allude to elements in the books, rather than reproducing certain shots and colours verbatim. The good thing is, that what I initially had in mind when I wrote it was far more down to earth and had a lot of gritty realism. But once we found these amazing locations, we decided to throw that idea out and be bold with our colours and light sources. Still motivate them of course, but rather than lighting the scene, we decided to light the mood instead. John Miguel King, my Director of photography had some amazing ideas and they really came across on film.
STEFANIE: There is a scene in your film that isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s also the first time in the film where we see the theme of death. Aesthetically and Consciously, what was going through your mind when creating this scene? Can you walk us through the thought process from script to film?
BERNHARD: This scene for me was a direct inspiration from Dream A Little Dream of Me, where the Sandman and John Constantine walk through hallways which have nightmares covering them. So I took that same idea but changed it from ‘nightmares on walls’ to a real life nightmare, and of course set my main character into it. In the script it was still a corridor he had to walk through, which trashed, covered in filth and faeces and he heard Sally whimpering on the other side of the bedroom door. But when we found this incredible place, which had a really long room, we just decided to ditch the filthy walls idea and just make it about how scared he is to approach her, where he knows what she looks like but we don’t, which ultimately was much more effective I think.
STEFANIE: Gaiman is a remarkable author that has brought us many captivating fantasy worlds and engaging stories. Besides his works on the Sandman series, did you find some of his other works influential to the film?
BERNHARD: Because of the Sandman books, I introduced my kids to Gaiman’s children’s novels, like Coraline and The Graveyard Book. Those are amazing and Coraline also became a fantastic movie. I’m also an American Gods fan as well. Though I wouldn’t say they are direct influences on the film, they are certainly influences on me as a storyteller which of course helped in making this film.
STEFANIE: What would you like fans on Gaiman and the Sandman series to take away from this film?
BERNHARD: All I really hoped is that the fans enjoy the film, especially since there’s nothing in the near future in regards to a Sandman film or TV show. I personally just like listening to people and their interpretations. It’s great fun to hear, because everybody brings their own perspectives. But more importantly, I’m hoping that someone who isn’t a Sandman fan, watched the film and decided to look up the comic books. If I was able to achieve that with one person, that would be more than enough for me.
STEFANIE: Where can we find more of you and your teams work?
BERNHARD: I have my own website (www.bernhardpucher.co.uk), where I have a B
more detailed blog post about how I adapted Sandman, as well as some other blog posts too. I’m also editing my next feature film, which is most likely to come out in spring 2019. And all the actors and team members have websites with all their great work, which are quite easy to google and I highly recommend you guys check out!