Interview with Filmmaker Nora Jaenicke (PROOF)

PROOF played to rave reviews at the May 2020 Female Film Festival.

Matthew Toffolo: What motivated you to make this film?

Nora Jaenicke: The film is, in part, biographical. In order to receive my American Green Card I had to go through a series of very intrusive interviews. Because there were some bureaucratical issues with the processing of my papers, I wasn’t allowed back home for over three years, which was very disorienting. Not being able to be there when my grandfather passed away, being forced to choose between the US and Europe, when really, I felt at home in both continents, was a nerve wracking experience. Of course, what I have been through is not comparable to what other immigrants are going through, but I still felt the need to tell a story about immigration and about how harsh these interviews at the border can be. Given the time period that we live in today, the theme remains relevant, and I felt that the script would make for a film that resonates with a lot of people. I lived in New York City for a long time. Many of my friends there had to go through similar issues in order to receive their visas or greencards. Many of them also call more than one country their “Home” and they fell in love in a city which is accepting of people from all over the world – A big melting pot of different cultures and ethnicities. When I started pitching my short film idea to these friends, many started to pour their hearts out, sharing their own experiences. I started to think about all the hearts that get crushed at the border on a daily basis and I realized how relevant this film could be.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

I normally carry an idea around for a while before I start writing the screenplay. Proof is not an exception. I would say that it took me about a year to finally write the script, mostly because I was busy working and making another short before that. Once I finished the script, I sent it to my Producers Richard Stein and Darren Cole, and they loved the idea and said that they were on board in getting the short made. It didn’t take us long to find the perfect cast. Preeti Gupta did a fantastic job playing Iman, Jacopo Rampini was the perfect fit for the part of Evan, and I would work with him on each and every one of my films. He is a great actor! Robert L.Wilson flew to New York City all the way from Los Angeles to play the Border Officer and his performance is one that the audience always praises, after seeing the short. In no time, we gathered a wonderful team. Last but not least, I wanted to thank my Director of Photography Jakob Cretuzburg with whom I work on almost every film I make. His talent took the story to a whole new level, and the look of the film is definitely one of its most distinguishing qualities (I think.) At the end we were extremely lucky to have found our Main Executive Producer Sonny Chatrath to support our short film. Thanks to him we were able to pay for Post Production and ship the short to festivals.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words!?

Love and Borders

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

The obstacle is almost always financial, when it comes to my projects. It’s hard to find funding for a short film, especially when the monetary return is not guaranteed.

When it comes to Proof, we had no idea that it would end up costing so much money. There were unexpected costs, which caused the budget to sky rocket, which is why we couldn’t start with post production right away. It takes a lot of patience to get an indie film off the ground, but eventually you get the knack of it and you can’t not do it. Once a shoot is over, you are there thinking of a new story… craving to be back on set. It’s like being a kid and wanting to play in the sandbox. Really, it’s about dreaming and making those dreams a reality. It’s a fascinating process. The moment that a script becomes an actual film and your words are spoken by the actors… there is nothing like it.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

I was reminded of why I tell stories. To touch people’s hearts. To reach someone on a deep level and leave an impact.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

I always wanted to tell this story by showing the protagonist (Iman) being interviewed, as we see glimpses from her past in the shape of flashbacks. These glimpses are supposed to show us the kind of relationship she had with Evan. How he proposed to her, how they met etc… First this was the very simple core of the idea which provided the basic structure for the story. Later on, I decided to heighten the stakes of the story by creating more conflict between the cultures that Evan and Iman belong to. In the new version of the screenplay the conflict wasn’t just personal/political and the goal of the young couple wasn’t just to convince the Border Officer that they were, in fact, marrying “for love.” The story became more layered and the ending more unexpected. Now there was a big cultural conflict that this young couple had to face. I always pictured them entering their marriage naively and unaware of the consequences of their actions. By juxtaposing the poetic flashbacks to the stark atmosphere in the interrogation room, I wanted to transport the audience into this conflict. Iman and Evan’s natural and spontaneous feelings for one another which had sparked their love to begin with, and then the complications of the green card process and the big difference between their native cultures which ends up being a “border” that’s just as difficult to surpass as the interview with the officer.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Lolita by Adrian Lyne is my favorite film. That one and Volver by Almodovar and Rainman… And Thelma and Louise. Oh wait, you said one 🙂

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are you feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

I enjoy it! It’s easy to navigate and makes finding the right festival easy. For Proof we eventually found a Distributor though… They are called Aug Ohr Medien and they are based out of Berlin.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

mmm… Right now I like Nigerian Music a lot.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Yes! I can’t wait to make my first feature film. I have two in “the pipeline” right now. The feature version of a short I made a long time ago which deals with family secrets and childhood trauma and another one which is along the lines of a psychological thriller about an older woman in her 70s falling in love with a much younger woman.

It received great reviews at the Slamdance Screenplay competition and we have a fantastic actress (whose name I can’t reveal yet) who might be interested in playing the lead. I am excited and I am staying positive about the future!

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