Inspired by Billy Wilder’s People On Sunday (1930), Playtime is a seamless journey through the lives of German youth on a Sunday afternoon. Jan (Jan Müller) awaits his date with the sexy Matilda (Marylu Poolman). But when Matilda shows up with Andy (Markus Klauk), Jan realizes she has more in mind for their afternoon together. Not interested in this ménage à trois, Jan leaves Matilda and Andy to their own fun. But their rendezvous is quickly interrupted by a group of children at play. The boys poke fun at Andy’s shortcomings, until he finally chases them away to a mysterious graveyard. There, one of the boys (Tim Lingens) gets lost in his imagination as the sun sets on this ordinary Sunday experienced through extraordinary lives.
We knew the film would be a hit when we found ourselves on the banks of the Rhine River surrounded on all sides by nude male sunbathers, working up the courage to ask them to be in our movie…
And when the pre-war tire factory that was our primary location was deemed contaminated and condemned by the government the day before shooting…
And when filming at a cemetery was interrupted by a state funeral.
But all of these hurdles are also things that made our experience in Germany so sweet. In remaining true to Billy Wilder’s People on Sunday (1930), which was our inspiration, the process had to be organic by its nature. It had to possess the qualities of playtime itself—the ups and downs of average young people on a Sunday afternoon in Cologne. Of course, that didn’t stop us from trying to carefully plan. All of the collaborators participated in the development of the concept, after taking a full week to study and hear lectures about the German-American exile filmmakers, including Wilder. Lucas wrote the script in English, and then had it fully translated into German. This would seem to be a problem, as both the director and producer did not fluently speak German, but it strangely wasn’t. Lucas purely concentrated on the emotion of the scene. Every word was spoken with a passion and meaning beyond language.
Our leads were Marylu Poolman, Markus Klauk, and Jan Müller, all recognizable faces in German film and television. The boys—Tim Lingens, Malte Purschke, and Philipp Giez—spoke almost no English and met us for the first time on their first day of shooting. Not a single actor read for a part; there was no casting process. These were the actors we had access to on a moment’s notice. But they give such rich performances and honor the spirit of the film so well, finding each and every one of them was nothing short of serendipity.
Post was filled with nightly Skype calls from six thousand miles away, working through the first and second edits. The footage literally traveled around the world, beginning on a sunny summer day in Cologne, Germany, finding its way
to Los Angeles to be finished, and to Park City, Utah, for its world premiere at Sundance.
Playtime is why we make movies. Even through tragedy, we found meaning in the film’s underlying principles. When Ryan’s brother passed away suddenly during production, he had to return to the United States. But it was the film and its message of celebrating the simple things of life—the things his brother stood for—that brought Ryan back to Germany help finish what we all started.
The film can be summed up in one moment during production: After a long day of shooting, our three boys didn’t want any recognition; they didn’t want to see dailies or talk about how great they were. They wanted Burger King.
Playtime is about moments like this—their vibrancy in spite of their seeming unimportance. It is about life and love and all things ordinary. It is about seven weeks in Germany that we will never forget.
What we need :'(
Now that we are one of the official selections of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, we are on a quest to raise the necessary funds to get to Park City for the festival. Here is where your support will go to:
- Mastering of our exhibition copy
- Post Production (finishing) expenses (i.e. color correction, final audio mixing, multiple exhibition copies in PAL/NTSC, digital back-ups, etc.)
- Creation of promotional/final "Playtime" DVDs
- Creation of necessary press materials (i.e. posters, postcards, website, DVD art, press kits, etc.) All of this stuff takes loads of time and creative energy by many different collaborators!
- TRAVEL EXPENSES: air fare, hotel, and food in Park City, Utah during the Sundance Film Festival. No matter what we tell ourselves, we know we can't sleep in the snow. So this one is the most important.
Thank you for taking the time to learn a little about our film! It was definitely an amazing experience and we hope that you can help us see it through to the festival.
- Lucas Mireles (writer/director) & Ryan Slattery (producer)