“I always sleep very well in our camper van that we bought for our last movie. It’s a very fine little bus, brown carpets inside, no plastic plates or other camping-ish stuff. I never use a sleeping bag in there but white nice white blankets.“
Mario is a filmmaker and producer, living in Graz and Vienna. His latest project has led him to West Africa, where he worked on a surf documentary.
“Generally everybody in the crew expected more improvised sleeping conditions. At one point during preparations I was sure we would need roof top tents on our two pickup trucks - fortunately Andy talked me out of this idea. The hotel rooms were a safe haven every night after long shooting days in heat and desert dust, to be honest.“
“There is this saying 'The most important things are happening in our absence' - I don’t know what’s happening when we sleep but probably a lot.”
What are you doing during the day?
What I like in my life is that it’s currently coming in different phases, such as seasons, which in the last years revolved mainly around my documentary movie projects: In the pre-production phase I’m at home in Graz, and my day consists of preparation and planning of the upcoming shooting trips, writing concepts, email stuff, phone calls. In between I like to cook and take walks in the evening. When we are on a shooting trip it’s mostly preparing interviews, lots of phone calls, driving around to meet protagonists, talking with the rest of the team. After shooting it’s watching, sorting and selecting video material, daily meetings with my editor, exchanging ideas on the phone with Andy who’s my partner in this project, and Vanessa who is my favourite employee of our little company.
You are currently producing / directing the movie ‘Beyond’, can you tell us a little bit about it & where it was shot?
'Beyond' is an indirect sequel to a surf documentary about Europe called “The Old, the Young & the Sea”. In Beyond we traveled for three months down the coast of West Africa: Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal and Gambia. Judith (our photographer) and myself in our (geographically) most Southern moment, touched Guinea Bissau’s soil for 2 hours as well, we ran down a beach - so we even had an illegal boarder crossing there, but that doesn’t really count, I guess.
Beyond as a documentary movie has quite a simple principle: We meet all sorts of people, spend two or three days with them, visit their homes, their work place and watch them surf their local beaches. It’s like Sand & Such - but not about sleeping, but surfing. And it’s film instead of text. There is a lot of personal thoughts of the protagonists in the movie, life motives - it’s about getting to know people at other places in the world, living in different surroundings. West Africa is a very interesting place for that as it’s so close to Europe, yet culture is very diverse. The surfing is just what unites a majority of our audience with these protagonists - it’s like a mental bridge to remind you, that people take pleasure from similar stuff than yourself. I don’t think you have to be surfer to relate to that - it’s just an example of what people are passionate about.
What time do you usually get up?
I used to have troubles getting up in the morning. I was grumpy and tired before 10 a.m., and tried to arrange my daily schedules around that issue. My creative phase, in which I mostly write, was in the evening. About a year ago my schedule shifted. I started to sleep outside between April and September on my balcony which is tiny, it barely fits my small guest mattress. I still get to bed quite late, around 02:00 a.m. mostly, but my body wakes up latest by 07:30 a.m. Morning light is a great motivator for me and the earlier I get up, the more I enjoy it. I like the thought of a city around me still sleeping while I’m sitting, writing, reading, having my first coffee.
How does your alarm sound?
My alarm is the birds, chirping. They and the morning light wake me up quite constantly at the same time. If I need to set an alarm because it’s a day when I have to get up earlier or I can’t sleep outside it’s a dull sound my iphone makes. I guess this annoying guitar chime mostly. That reminds me of buying one of those old radio alarm clocks!
What are the first things you do in the morning?
I make coffee. I’m not a big breakfast guy. It’s usually 2 cups of coffee and a cigarette. And I like to listen to radio in the morning, mostly FM4 and OE1 - as a friend put it: “Listening to the radio in the morning makes me feel I’m part of the society around, about to wake up.”
If I’m having breakfast, it’s more a weekend thing, I like Mohnweckerl (a kind of sweet roll with papaver on top, very common in Austria!), butter, marmelade made by my grandmother if available. Sometimes I take to effort and make french toasts filled with mashed bananas and blueberry marmalade, topped with vanilla ice cream. But coffee is always the main reason for me to sit at a table for breakfast.
Any breakfast or brunch places in you recommend?
In Graz I like Kunsthaus Cafe and blendend - both are more or less next to my flat. Now that I partially live in Vienna it’s a café with a very unfriendly waiter who still pretends to not know me. Who doesn’t remember a face when it’s coming every second day or so, sitting up to two hours with his notebook, ordering at least three cups of coffee?
What time of the day are you most productive or creative?
It’s mostly in the mornings. I feel less stressed early morning, it’s my favourite time of the day. Later on I either meet with work colleagues, mostly my editor Juri at the moment and our work mostly consists of reviewing the most recent edits and talk about tiny details in shots we saw, connections to stuff that was said in interviews. There is a lot of talking and reviewing which can take until late at night. Occasionally evenings are becoming very creative moments when I’m having a glass of wine (or more) with friends and colleagues. It’s a different form of productivity I guess but it has it’s value. And a Damenspitz* is always a very pleasant thing.
* when you’re having slighty warmer cheeks, when your tongue is a little more self righteous and faster, thoughts are generally liberated and the knees a little soft - usually induced by a spritz or two. It’s the small sister of being drunk.
Do you think sleep influences your work?
It definitely does. I don’t sleep quite a lot. It’s just a rhythm I have. But once I get a lot less than 5 hours I lose focus during the day, I have bad mood and become impatient with everyday things. Being less patient is horrible when you’re supposed to watch and select hours of video material - not falling asleep is almost impossible for me.
Do you think you get enough sleep?
I probably don’t. I had this app on my phone that tracks my sleep patterns. I found out during the course of a year or so that between five and seven hours is my ideal sleeping duration. Below that, I will become the walking dead described above, and when sleeping more than seven hours I feel kind of out of tune during the day, somewhat paralyzed and slow.
On weekends I sleep longer sometimes. And I like naps on Sunday.
Where do you sleep best?
I always sleep very well in our camper that we bought for our last movie. It’s a very fine little bus, brown carpets inside, no plastic plates or other camping-ish stuff. I never use a sleeping bag in there but white nice white blankets. Makes it just so much better and homey. Apart from that I sleep best when it’s somewhat cold where I sleep - either with windows wide open or sleeping outside to have that cool air.
Any rituals before going to bed?
I try to read. Usually I fall asleep after 7 pages and have to read the last five of them the next day. Makes me an incredibly slow reader. Another ritual is failing in not using my phone to text or read before sleeping. I think there is some truth to that the blueish light of screens crushes your biological clock.
What do you keep on your nightstand?
A worn out book that has been read for weeks, water and my phone.
Do you remember your dreams?
I don’t really dream often - or I don’t remember it. I recently had a very intense dream of a lighthouse in Maine or Massachusetts maybe. Inside was a grocery store where some guy who looked exactly like John Goodman sold sandwiches and I was pretty sure in my dream that I should get as many as I can because I was about to cross America with this green pickup which parked outside. I wish I would know what my subconscious wants to tell me.
What do you wear while sleeping?
Describe your bed in 3 words.
Not too soft.
How did you sleep during your travels?
We mostly slept in Hotels along the coast - some of them better, some of them more basic. The heat during the night was definitely an issue for me. Especially in Nouakchott and Nouadhibou, Mauritania I had trouble sleeping in and sleeping well. I don’t think anyone in the crew was really uber excited about that. I relied heavily on my alarm clock to get up early. Roman, one of our camera men, was most times already up and shooting or taking picture when I was still half dead, longing for coffee. During the first preparational trip to Morocco in 2014 I was sleeping for ten days in my rental car. Apart from the hassle to find an unobtrusive parking and sleeping place it was surprisingly bearable.
Generally everybody in the crew expected more improvised sleeping conditions. At one point during preparations I was sure we would need roof top tents on our two pickup trucks - fortunately Andy talked me out of this idea. The hotel rooms were a safe haven every night after long shooting days in heat and desert dust, to be honest.
What was the most special special place you’ve slept in?
The best sleep I probably had was where I slept at a friends place in Senegal. He comes from a tiny village with house mostly made of clay, without electricity or water. Village life is slow and comfortable, very sociably. At noon everybody was eating together the oily rice with fish, after that you have one cup after another of strong black tea to not instantly fall into digestive coma. Since there was no electricity in that village at that time activities during the day where about singing and dancing together, talking - and as soon it got dark people went to sleep. So at ten in the evening the day was really over and starting again at seven, when the sun came up. It was one of the calmest weeks in my life I guess. When I was in the same village again just last year with Stefan, who came along to photograph the research trip to Senegal, the village life had changed completely. Now they have electricity and television and when back then people were just chatting the day away, people now stayed up late and watched television in small groups until late at night. Not to say I wish they wouldn’t have electricity now - it was just interesting to observe the impact of that.
Do you sleep well while you travel?
I generally sleep quite deep and well. Since I’m sometimes not the most quiet sleeper (that’s what others say) I sometimes feel better sleeping at a different room than my more sensitive travel buddies. So if there is a room for me in that case, I sleep just as well as at home. If it’s an improvised bed in the hallway or even the bathtub I don't get the best sleep.
Are your dreams different while traveling?
I think it’s mostly more intense - depending on the style of traveling you do there’s a lot of impressions to process. I think during the shooting of Beyond in Africa I was dreaming a lot about interviews and awesome or less awesome things that can happen for the next day’s shoot. When I’m sleeping close to the ocean I feel like I sleep better and more calm - the sound of the ocean is just very mind soothing.
What do you think happens when we sleep?
There is this saying “The most important things are happening in our absence” - I don’t know what’s happening when we sleep but probably a lot.
How many sheep do you count?
None - I usually sleep in before they arrive.
If you could choose, what do you want to dream about tonight?
Food. I would like to dream about the best food. I love food. Or that my editor calls me in the morning, excited, telling me he can’t explain by himself, but somehow, magically he just finished the entire movie over night. I would have a long, pleasant breakfast then.
“West Africa is a very interesting place for that as it’s so close to Europe, yet culture is very diverse. The surfing is just what unites a majority of our audience with these protagonists - it’s like a mental bridge to remind you, that people take pleasure from similar stuff than yourself. I don’t think you have to be surfer to relate to that - it’s just an example of what people are passionate about.“
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