Indie Shorts Awards Cannes

Nils Keller

Nils Keller studied film directing in the city where he was born. Munich, Germany. He is working as a film, commercial and TV director. His short films have been screened at several renowned film festivals around the world, such as LA Shorts and Sapporo Short Fest. His SciFi short ALMOST HOME has won a Student Academy Award. As an advertising director, he works for clients such as Pringles, BMW and Sodastream. His commercials have been honored at the New York International Advertising Awards and The Golden Award of Montreux among other festivals. As a TV director, he just finished his first German TV project.

Nils, how has winning the Gold Medal Student Academy Award changed your perspective on your work?
It’s hard to overstate the impact this had. It was an almost shocking change. Suddenly there were these respected filmmakers and experts from all over the world who felt touched by my work. The idea of creating something that was relevant to a global audience suddenly felt real, and especially in relation to our themes of mental health and family relationships, it felt encouraging to pursue our interest in telling those stories. It’s also overwhelming when you think about the hard and arduous process of making the movie, which was often improvised and makeshift. So many amazing people worked on this project for two years, hoping that at least some kind of movie would come out in the end. We never dreamed that people would like it so much. It is my duty as an artist to think about the fate of those whose life is an everyday chellenge. And to help them by highlighting the problem in a broader way. I immerse my characters in the world of fairy tales. They are like lost guests of the Wizard of Oz. This is the only place where they can be children, because they have lost their childhood.
Were there any specific techniques you used in order to bring your vision to life?
In retrospect, it’s almost unbelievable what a variety of techniques we used. In almost every shot there were bluescreens that had to be properly lit and replaced later. Furthermore, there are several full CG shots for the exterior of the spaceship. We also created sequences in zero gravity by wiring the actresses and actors. For these, major parts of the full-scale walkable spaceship we built had to be disassambled. We also had special cranes, motion control and remote control gimbals on set that allowed us to move more freely in the very confined space our film takes place in. Again, the challenge was that we needed all of this to create a credible backdrop for a mother and son who are locked in a confined space, with nowhere to go, reliant on each other. Besides that, we didn’t want the technical parts of the film to be felt but focus on nuanced story telling and deep emotion. In the end it’s a chamber play. This said: with all the elaborate preparations for the aforementioned techniques, and considering how abstract and bare the actual movie set was, my greatest admiration goes to the actresses and actors who managed to make this place their reality. Of course, that doesn’t mean I don’t admire all the other team members who created this incredible thing. I’m deeply thankful that in the end it all worked out the way it did.
Which five tips would you think are most important to share to those who are wanting to make a successful short film?
1. Know your story and characters. 2. Dare to think big and try things… 3. …but only if it benefits the story. 4. Try to find partners you really trust and who share your vision. Value their talent and don’t shy away from their suggestions or letting your work be criticized. 5. Trust your vision!