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Radu ZERO's Path to Success in Filmmaking

1. Please tell us a little about yourself first. How did you become interested in cinema and how did you learn filmmaking?

Until I was a teenager, I lived under the worst communist regime in Eastern Europe, that of Romania. Until it ended in 1990!

As a result, creating has been a matter of course for me from the start, an act of resistance and desire above all the difficulties of life.

My parents were visual artists, so I immediately developed a vital passion for images.

After leaving my country and moving to Switzerland, I practiced contemporary painting for more than twenty years and then, around the year 2000, I created my first art films for international galleries.

They were so enthusiastically received by the public that, little by little, my work shifted towards art cinema, experimental if you like...

(For me, any work of art is experimental in the noble sense, so... I don't know if you can call it experimental. That would be a pleonasm).

2. As the primary question, could you tell us about the type of frame you have picked for your film? How did you decide to use this frame and give the audience the feeling of watching a negative film?

Coming from the world of contemporary painting, which I practiced long before becoming a filmmaker, for me "the form" of a work is to be considered as the very subject of the plot!

SAG MIR, WIE LANG, playing with the viewer's perception and ability to recognize the provenance of the images he or she is looking at, I have constructed a visual environment that plunges the gaze into a universe similar to that of an artist.

that plunges the viewer into a "found footage" universe, evolving in different film formats, old and degraded.

This is what gives the insistent sensation of a "negative" of an original. It's as if the images had been reconstructed from incomplete, initially lost elements...

3. How did the idea of ​​SAG MIR, WIE LANG come to your mind and how long did the process of writing and developing the script take? Some writers reach the final result in the second rewrite, and some are still not satisfied with the tenth one. Basically, how many versions can get you to the final result?

In the specific case of this film, the process of writing the screenplay has to be considered outside any conventional norm.

I'm a totally semiotic and visual person. For me, everything lies in the subtle interaction between images, sounds and memory.

So, yes, I write down and develop each of my shooting intentions beforehand. I make notes, structure them with charts, drawings, location scouts and sound recordings.

So that shooting becomes a coherent extension of this intense reflection. But for me, the construction of a screenplay continues right through to the final post-production phase.

The script is all movement.

As the form is intimately linked to the subject and the narrative, my screenplay doesn't really take shape until the end of the total adventure involved in making the film.

4. As someone who is both a writer and a director, how much of the script do you change on set? Are you basically an improviser?

As I wrote in my previous answer, for me, the construction of a script evolves with the film, right up to the finalization phase.

So yes, when I'm shooting, there's a great deal of improvisation, not improvisation, but rather adaptation and transformation to meet the needs of "reality".

The credibility of the moment and its capture.

5. Your film is visually very spectacular and it is clear that you have thought about each of these frames. Tell us about your shooting strategies and process.

The creation of my shots stems from images that have been haunting my mind for a long time, even before the writing phase, the conception of a film.

Initially, all my efforts will go into metabolizing these images. How to make them tangible and how to give them direction, meaning and a sovereign form within a narrative.

Then, concerned with form, perfect appearance and mimicry with these visions, I'm going to go on multiple scouting trips and look for actresses or actors who will give incarnation to these preliminary spectres.

I think the question of identity and the making of my images is directly related to art.

Here are many parallels between my shots, my frames, their content and the forms of the collective unconscious, linked to the history of art, cinema...

In the moment of shooting, all my attention is focused on "accidents", on the unpredictable situations that the game will trigger:

on the unexpected, on a shadow, a stray light, a hesitation in a gesture. In the end, when it comes to editing, my film's definitive structure is largely based on these particular accidents.

In conclusion, my films integrate into their "corpus" this friction between visions, references, prepared mastery of actions and improbable sides.

6. Tell us a little about working with your actor. How did you cast her and how much did you practice to get the desired result?

As mentioned above, everything in my films is symbolic, nourished by fantasies and echoes of the images' memory.

As a result, each appearance of a central character is equivalent to a painterly "portrait", prepared over a long period of time.

To materialize it, this implies that the chosen person fits perfectly with a very particular profile, able to exist as a perfect reflection of this vision on screen.

For me, the actions and acting of my actresses and actors are born on screen from their aura, their pre-existing "image", and not the other way around.

In the case of SAG MIR, WIE LANG, the actress, is a woman I've known for a long time, and with whom we've collaborated on numerous occasions.

In fact, her role, filling every nook and cranny of this film, was a logical consequence of this complicity.

For me, her character here is a composite entity, fusing multiple signals belonging to the female roles consumed by cinema...

We talked about it a lot, in agreement with the sources, and then improvisation took over. So that, little by little, the shootings would capture these fragile moments of her, which call as much for a cinephilic memory,

and a sense of sensual disquiet, attached to the totemic muteness of her character.

We shot three versions of the film, in four or five night-time sessions, spread over two months.

7. For filmmakers like you, who are somehow close to the style of someone like David Fincher, the post-production process must be very important. Please tell us about the post-production of this film.

In fact, the main reference of SAG MIR, WIE LANG was the Giallo.

This transalpine genre was born in the fury of the 70s in Italy.

In appearance, SAG MIR, WIE LANG, is a mannerist gesture, which anamorphosis in the space of a musical composition all the motifs dear to this coded genre:

riminal plot centred on female characters, fetishism of bladed weapons, indistinction between enjoyment and repulsion, secrecy of the stakes. That's for form. Which obviously takes up a lot of space here.

In SAG MIR, WIE LANG, scenography thanks to the aesthetics of this « genre », the idea that the actress (her character if you prefer) is gradually locked in an optical trap with the spectator "by her side".

Therefore, in terms of post-production I had to face two major challenges that delimited my research, for a little more than four months following the shooting, during the studio:

The first was to create the visual identity that could translate the memory of the Giallo and in a certain way contextualize it, give the illusion of it: era, tics of visual composition, arrangement of scenes, appearance, etc. So I decided to build a visual regime by filters, close to Super 8 / 16mm film cameras. To support on the one hand the allegorical idea of this time of the Giallo, and on the other hand, to be able to build a coherent thought linked to the second problem. Where does the view come from?

Who sees, who films what we discover? This question is the center of SAG MIR, WIE LANG. And as you can see on the screen, there is a panoptic system that is rapidly being put in place, with images that confuse, that reconfigure themselves, and that ask this question: Who sees?

On the one hand because of the Super 8 camera object present in the space of the film, on the other hand because it is manipulated several

 times by the girl herself. And above all, because the identity of the film on the screen gradually confuses formats, in unframing, frames, split-screens until the image becomes compulsive and permutes the meaning of the story. Ultimately my love for form, and this search for aesthetics on these two levels has brought the film to its current style.

For me, the form is sovereign in art in general and in cinema in addition. The excitement is in the form.

It is by finding in me and around me the codes of a new form to explore, that I find the subject.

Often the music, the invisible, brings me there. In the case of SAG MIR, WIE LANG, this sensation of dated film, imprisoning the gaze, crossed me each time I listened to the musical composition behind the film.

Over the years, I no longer believe in the law of storytelling which predetermines a form. Moreover, the law of forms is more coherent than the chronological history of the arts. To be in the moment, in the now, you have to master the forms. A film can be very inventive at its creation and seem instantly dated because of poor management of the form, and the inability of the filmmaker to represent the aesthetic issues of his film in the present, and for posterity. For me, a highly intelligent cinema (a sign of the contemporary) is a cinema that does not use the classic laws of storytelling to convince us, but which bends the story to its shape to make us captive.

8. How do you see the current state of filmmaking in Switzerland? Do the government and institutions help young filmmakers?

The situation of the Swiss film industry is complicated. As Switzerland is a country that relies heavily on precaution, it invests, yes, in original productions, but with a commercial and economically coherent outcome.

With productions like SAG MIR and WIE LANG, I don't even try to approach film investors. I'm more interested in the contemporary art world...

9. What experiences did you gain while making SAG MIR, WIE LANG that you think can be instructive for other young filmmakers?

My experiences and their outcomes, their lessons, respond to needs that are very specific to my own approach. It's hard to give advice.

I think the possible answers to this question can be found in the film itself, as well as in the thread of this interview.

10. Will you continue to make films in the world of shorts? Or are you planning to enter the field of feature-filmmaking?

The thread of my creations stubbornly follows a filmic and artistic program, of which the idea of format is an integral part.

All my short films are interconnected in space and time in such a way that each new film becomes a true extension of the previous one.

In this way, my entire body of work can be seen as a feature film in perpetual construction. But yes, at the moment I'm building an experimental feature-length film made up of several autonomous segments, which will premiere at the end of 2024.


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