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Stefan Gutternigh Illuminates the Path to 'The Common Good' – Director's Perspective

As the applause echoes for the triumph of 'The Common Good,' Stefan Gutternigh, the visionary director behind this cinematic gem, takes center stage. Winner of the coveted Best Short Film award, Gutternigh offers us an exclusive glimpse into the creative alchemy that brought 'The Common Good' to life.

American Dream Screen : In the current landscape of independent cinema, what do you believe sets your film apart from the rest and makes it a unique and compelling addition to the medium?

Stefan Gutternigh : I love films that combine a message with strong visual aesthetics. A good example for me is Michael Bays „The Island“ from 2005. It features the beautiful and talented actors Scarlett Johansson and Ewan McGregor, great production design and some perfectly shot action sequences. But after watching it with friends at the cinema we discussed the whole evening about the cloning oneself for living longer theme of the movie. Technology has improved in the last decade so that you can deliver stunning visuals in an independent film. In „The Common Good“ we are trying to combine the message of the dangers of surveillance with as cinematic images as possible, which was a great challenge with our limited budget. Luckily we got some great locations to shoot at. Especially the Vienna University of Economics and Business by architect Zaha Hadid is a great spot for the beginning of the film. Getting the permission to shoot there wasn’t easy. In the end we were able to deliver a futuristic environment shooting entirely on location without green screen or an LED wall.

American Dream Screen : Independent filmmaking often encourages creative risk taking. Can you share a specific instance where you had to make a bold creative decision during the production of your film, and how did it impact the final product?

Stefan Gutternigh : I think the whole process of independent filmmaking is a risky endeavor. You have to coordinate people who work for peanuts, manage deadlines, production, post-production, etc. all while doing your regular job. Anytime someone

might loose interest or have better paid job offerings. When everything is finished there are festival fees and screening coordination. It all depends on what you want to achieve in the end. I want to reach as many people as possible with my story. So far I have an an incredible 64% selection rate at filmfreeway. After the – hopefully very successful – festival year I want to reach out and try to get a feature film based on all three of my "The Common Good“ comic books funded. Not an easy task, but one can dream, right?

American Dream Screen : Collaboration is a fundamental aspect of filmmaking. Could you elaborate on a particularly memorable or challenging collaboration experience with a member of your cast or crew and how it influenced the project?

Stefan Gutternigh : The whole film started out of a collaboration experience. I often work with Visual Effects Artist Ivo Apollonio and Colorist Roman Keller. Over the years we have become good friends. Since summer 2019 we meet almost every Thursday after work to discuss clients, projects, work or personal stuff over a cold beer or/and a glass of red wine. We have been talking about doing our own creative project for a long time to have a break from the commercial stuff we earn our money with. I suggested my „The Common Good“ story. I actually wrote the script back in 2011 but lacked the know-how to proceed with it back then. The script rested on my hard drive until 2017, when I was looking for a story for my second comic book. It became a crowdfunding success so I moved on with the story in two additional comic books. In 2023, with the help of Ivo, Roman and my wife Eva Amann, it finally became the film I dreamed about more than a decade ago.

American Dream Screen : Can you discuss the artistic influences and choices that informed the film's visual aesthetics and how they complemented the narrative?

Stefan Gutternigh : The decision to do everything in black and white came from the comic books, which are also black and white. A lot of people got interested when we told them about a cyberpunk film in black and white. Normally when you think of cyberpunk you think neon, blue and pink contrasts. An obvious influence was „Sin City“. In the end the black and white aesthetic works great with the political message of the film. These days we often get presented only two narratives when it comes to current events, a good and a bad one depending on the media and your political perspective. But the world isn’t black and white, most of the time it’s gray.

American Dream Screen : The post-production process is where a film truly takes shape. How did you approach the editing, sound design, and music composition in your film to enhance the storytelling and emotional impact?

Stefan Gutternigh : Like I mentioned the whole film started as a project with my post-production friends. We worked closely together and did almost everything in DaVinci Resolve. While editing I worked with proxy media to work as fluently as possible with multiple timeline tracks. For the music I used stock sites except for the end credits song. Local cyber-pop band Ardenite let me use their awesome song „end of the world“. Combined with my burning comic books this delivers a very emotional end of the film. The most challenge were the visual effects for the "implanted pads", since these are featured very often. Ivo worked almost 6 months on them. The result speaks for itself and we got a couple of visual effects awards, which we are very proud of.

American Dream Screen : Can you share a challenging moment during the production of your film and how you overcame it, ultimately making the project stronger or more meaningful?

Stefan Gutternigh : Since we were shooting while there were still Corona restrictions in Austria and the couple that let us use their beautiful flat for the indoor scenes were leaving for three months after the shooting weekend we decided that I play Mr. Berger myself to keep the crew as small as possible. I wrote the role after myself anyway, so I just had to imagine how I would react in that situation. Acting while simultaneously directing was a big challenge though. A few days before shooting I started suffering from severe backache, maybe due to the stress of preparing everything. We were shooting the scenes with me and Bety Aubrechtova on Saturday and my back was hurting all day long. When we were shooting the fight scene and Bety kicked me to the floor like 20 times I felt genuine pain, which in the end made the scene pretty authentic. Sometimes one has to suffer for ones art.

As we bid farewell to this cinematic journey, we're reminded that in the realm of short films, Gutternigh's vision has carved out a space for storytelling that is both poignant and memorable. 'The Common Good' not only entertains but prompts reflection, a testament to the enduring power of short-form storytelling. Stefan Gutternigh leaves us with a cinematic legacy that resonates far beyond the screen, an ode to the art of storytelling.

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