1987 born and raised in Karlsruhe, Germany. After several years as a best boy and gaffer in the industry Simon improved his directing skills at the University of Television and Film in Munich. Since then, he directed several short films and commercials. He is known for his craft in working with actors and his ability to combine creativity and technology to tell heartwarming and strong stories. His graduation film ADISA won the Student Academy Award in 2021.
Thank you for planting Adisa in our hearts forever but most importantly, thank you for making the boy's death to be heard. How did Laura Anweiler's script and your directing come together to tell this story on a screen?
I came across the true events that later inspired the screenplay for ADISA while watching a documentary. The events were only mentioned in passing but the cynicism of it really hit me. Within several weeks, I wrote a treatment outlining a possible story for ADISA. My Producer Kevin Anweiler then brought in Laura to write the screenplay. What I really liked about the screenplay was, that Laura connected the plot within the inner family circle of the main character Susan. To work with Laura was a very inspiring. She also gave her feedback on casting and editing. For me it is quite relevant that the author is a collaborator that is a part in the whole process of telling this story.
When the human factor comes into the scene, our true values come to the surface, if we believe, such as you do, that no one acts out of pure evil. Wasn't Adisa's killing a heartbreaking casualty that made Susanne empathize with the situation in northern Kenya beyond politics, in other words, a killing that became a value to fight back for?
It is tragic, that only, when things happen in our direct surrounding, we show true empathy. But in the same time it is human nature to behave like that. Every forceful death is unnecessary, but it can spark actions that change something. I personally really dont like, that we often need a symbol first, before things change.
We would love to hear about the casting process as you put up an incredibly true acting ensemble. Does the crew bond in any special way when shooting a film about such a sensitive subject matter that inevitably puts everyone to question themselves?
For the German actresses and actors I did the casting by myself, mainly by searching various databases. I then just send out the script to their agents. It resonated quite strong with them, but the real learning about our privileges and misconceptions happened during our shoot in Nairobi. For all Kenyan actresses and actors, we had a casting director in Nairobi. He did send me different casting tapes. Based on them, I met with different actors in Nairobi. In the end the casting was really easy going. Sometimes you just need luck to find the best cast 🙂
Were there both European and African crewmembers? Where were the shooting locations?
It was very important for us, to get the Kenyan perspective into this story. Only 7 crewmembers (including cast) came from Germany. So, most of the crew, including the head of Departments where Kenyan. We shot in and around Nairobi.