Good gay feature films are often hard to come by – which is what makes Summer Storm such an enjoyable treat. It's now 12 years since the release of this classic German gay movie which is still a popular favourite at Film Festivals around the world.
Summerstorm is still available on DVD more than a decade after it first hit our screens and so we've been talking to director Marco Kreuzpaintner.

In Summer Storm, Marco has created a coming of age adventure that touches the soul and tickles the funny bone. Set at a summer camp for rowers, best friends Tobi and Achim share a bond that goes beyond friendship: They’re soul mates. But the arrival of a competing team of rowers who all happen to be gay awakens something in Tobi, and life as he knows it is about to change forever.

OutUK: How did the script to Summer Storm originate?
Marco:
I was often upset by the fact that in commercial German films you were always supposed to laugh at gays instead of with them. I wanted to make a film that presents homosexuality in a way that can be understood by a broad public – not a “niche” film about gay callboys or married men coming-out. I wanted to reach out to the middle of society with an outsider theme. Independently from one another, Thomas Wöbke (producer) and I had this same idea and we really wanted to do it together. We spent lots of time thinking about how this coming-out could be related. We wanted an honest film about youth, about the ambivalence and indecisiveness of those years. Not a thigh-slapping comedy or a superficial sex farce, but a film that is serious about youths, their emotional world, their melancholy. I then made an exposé from which the script was written. And this exposé was my own story.

OutUK: Is Summer Storm in a way your own personal coming-out?
Marco:
Obviously Tobi's story doesn't correspond exactly to my coming-out. But there are many common points with my own biography, which I dramatized. The characters have traits of the people I was around with then. I was a rower then, too, but I had never been at a camp with my rowing team – only as an altar boy. But the camping situation was also a time of uncertainty for me, especially from a sexual point of view. You've been freed from your social context and you're out in nature spending several days in close quarters with other people. I became fully aware of my homosexuality at the age of 18. Since the moment I accepted it, I have never regretted it and have felt bolstered in my self-esteem. This is a step that is very empowering.

OutUK: How did the gays and heteros get along on the set?
Marco:
Only one of the actors was openly gay. But obviously, sexual orientation was often a topic during our work too. It was great to see how openly they could all relate to their own homoerotic experiences, to things that had happened. Two or three of the actors accepted totally new aspects of themselves after the shooting. However, to this day no one has had his coming-out through Summer Storm.

OutUK: So how did you manage to hold this "heterogeneous" group together?
Marco:
It really was a challenge to make a group of the actors, to be in control of 18 actors aged 15 to 23 for 38 days!

There was a real gap in the age differences as well: Their experiences, their interests, what they wanted to talk about – there were sometimes such enormous differences that tense moments were inevitable.
I felt it was important for me to be a friend to them. It would have been totally ludicrous to come off as a "lion tamer" in this situation. Some people claim that shooting a film is war. Our principle on the set was the rule of friendship, and I really believe that creativity is only possible in an open and friendly atmosphere. Fear closes you up and makes you nervous. I think the "campground atmosphere" on the set helped everyone to act more authentically in front of the camera. We were all at the same hotel and were together practically day and night. This occasionally led to some situations where people had to let off steam, but also triggered some creative impulses. For example, it was important for me to put together the soundtrack from the music that the actors were listening to on the set. They all had their walkmans or MP3 players with them and were thus able to get in the right mood.

OutUK: About 80% of the film was shot outdoors...
Marco:
… which was very exhausting. So much happened during the shoot. Our location manager had a serious motorcycle accident, the weather was wretched... In comparison to my other films, Summer Storm was on a much higher level from a technical point of view and from that of directing the actors. Breaking Loose was a beautiful, human story, but it took place in limited parameters. The motifs were easy to keep track of, and there were only a few actors. Summer Storm is much more epic – just think of the big storm scene and the gigantic wind and lightning machines we needed on the set. It was also physically and emotionally very hard on the actors and on myself as well. And since it was my own story, I often had to be forceful and uncompromising in order to get my way.

We shot an enormous amount of material, sometimes working with our 35mm camera the way others use DV – we'd just let the cameras roll. Fortunately, thanks to Jakob Claussen, Thomas Wöbke and Uli Putz, I had producers who are the best thing that can happen to a director in this country, and who never put me under pressure. They gave me all the space I needed as director. And when there were problems, they were there to support me. They see themselves as being on an equal level with the director, as his partners.

OutUK: How did you proceed in the more delicate scenes?
Marco:
I had been much more worried than the actors about the sex scene between Leo and Tobi. I spent a lot of time beforehand talking about this with Robert (Stadlober) and Marlon (Kittel), and I told them that I imagined their scene as something pure and truthful, not one of those clichéd and overly aesthetic sex scenes. I wanted to treat sexuality seriously in its naturalness and directness. At all events, this here is a completely harmless sexual experience, but for Tobi it is clearly an important step since it is his first time and confirms his feelings. The actors went very far during the shooting. But we only wanted to go to the point that was dramaturgically important to the film, and not to slide into voyeurism.

Summer Storm is available to buy now from Amazon at low online prices.

 

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