Markus Schleinzer has gone from casting Michael Haneke’s films to having his own feature in competition.

Marksu Schleinzer is one of this year’s Cinderella stories. The Austrian director’s feature debut, Michael, is screening in Competition today, but the former casting director is no stranger to acclaimed Croisette titles, having enjoyed a long-standing collaboration with fellow countryman Michael Haneke which has seen him cast Palme d’Or winner The White Ribbon and The Piano Teacher.

This year, however, it’s Schleinzer’s turn to take centre stage, with his drama the only German-language title in Competition. And while the hard-hitting Michael, about the last five months of a 10-year-old boy’s life with his abductor, exudes the seriousness that mentor Haneke would be proud of, the film is very much a product of Schleinzer’s own ambition.

‘’While some directors who valued my work as a casting director put the idea in my head to finally direct something myself and I learned a lot from Michael Haneke in terms of craft, this film is a result of my own personal vision,” says Schleinzer. “Casting teaches you a lot about working with actors and I always harboured a desire to direct.”

No doubt a recipient of some invaluable advice along the way, what would Schleinzer say to budding first-timers? ”It’s not very smart handing out advice after having made only one film. Instead, I should be asking myself whether I have learned all I can for when it comes to making the next one.” Sound logic.