Sarah Cooper talks to Swiss producer Reto Schaerli, who has two very different films screening at the Zurich Film Festival.
Swiss producer Reto Schaerli may be based in neighbouring town Lucerne, but he’s happy to admit that Zurich is the place to be for film-makers: “We are the exception to the rule, because most of the creative talent for the German speaking Swiss industry is in Zurich. So we end up spending at least two days a week in the city.”
Schaerli has two very different films screening at the Zurich Film Festival, the entirely Swiss funded Stationpiraten, about five teenagers who bond whilst being treated on a hospital cancer ward, and the Spanish-German-Swiss co-production Bon Appetit, directed by first time Spanish feature film-maker David Pinillos, about a Spanish chef working in a restaurant in Zurich, who falls in love with his boss’ girlfriend.
“The two films are opposite in terms of their production structure, but we are passionate about both. They are the two sides of what we do,” says Schaerli, who has run his production company Zodiac Pictures with partner Lukas Hobi for ten years.
Sationpiraten is based on the Spanish film 4th Floor, which Schaerli saw at the Hamburg Film Festival in 2003 and immediately bought the remake rights to. He enlisted first-time director Michael Schaerer, having admired his 2000 short film Warmth and together with the film’s writer Jürgen Ladenburger (who tragically died two weeks before shooting began) went about researching the film’s harrowing subject matter.
“It’s not an easy film as a debut, with five kids as the leads, in a closed hospital setting and a hard topic to find the right tone, so I think he’s done a brilliant job,” says Schaerli, who adds that “the film is uplifting, as well as having sad moments.”
Schaerli says that the success of the film, which is being released in Switzerland by Disney, is down to the performances of the five young leads, who range from nine to 17 and who will be attending the film’s world premiere on Sept 26. “We took the boys to a camp for a week where they rehearsed, we gave them wheelchairs to use at home, and they had to shave their heads. Because it’s not an expensive film we put our focus on the performances.”
In contrast, Bon Appetit is a grander-scale European project, co-produced with Madrid based Morena Films and German outfit Egoli Tossell, and set across all three territories, with English as the film’s main language. “We may be a small partner, but we were involved very early on and that way of co-producing is very interesting because you learn lots from your partners in different territories. We don’t want to just raise the last 20%.”