“Our passion is to make our films truly special.”
Craftsmanship (experience and understanding of the technical, financial and organisational prerequisites), creativity (nothing works without a dash of insanity) and the ability to stage allof this well.
Wolfgang Ritzberger, an Aquarian born in 1961 who founded the company in 2000, already knew he wanted to be an actor even while at elementary school. He started working with the legendary Wien-Film company during his years at grammar school before finally making film his profession.
After his early years in the film and theatre business, and almost 20 years with the Austrian Broadcasting Corporation (ORF), he is now an independent producer and director. He studied economics, has trained as an actor, was an accomplished sabre fencer (Austrian Champion, World Championship competitor), and is still a passionate sailor of the world’s oceans. Now he is already passing on his skills to other sailors; including the wisdom of understanding that at sea, and in court, you’re in God’s hands.
Diagonale – Festival of the Austrian Film 2018:
Producer Wolfgang Ritzberger has been awarded for his “Innovative performance in production”.
Interview with Wolfgang Ritzberger – Producer, Actor, Writer, Director, DoP
“I’m grateful I’ve made it this far”
“The Best of All Worlds” is the debut movie for young director Adrian Goiginger from Salzburg. How is it turning out?
Ritzberger: Excellent. I’ve been working with Adrian since 2011. He’s a very unconventional author and director. I was recommended to him as an unconventional film producer outside the current mainstream. This is clearly perceptible in our new movie The Best of All Worlds. He has his own ideas about the story and its realization, and is willing to defend his concept almost to his last breath.
Luckily, that’s never been necessary because, as the producer, I saw that my role was to make this possible for him, to clear the path for him. This sounds way more dramatic than it actually was, but seriously, I often needed to have a lot of faith in him and his ideas in order to carry on, because his method of working sometimes really is very unconventional.
Are you satisfied with the result?
Ritzberger: More than satisfied. I kept saying that Adrian’s movies don’t leave anyone cold. Either they’ll be a great success, or, because no one gets them, they’ll flop. But that’s how it is with geniuses. And it’s clear already that his Best of All Worlds certainly doesn’t bear the hallmarks of a flop. On the contrary (knocks three times on wood).
Adrian celebrated his 25th birthday during the shooting of “The Best of All Worlds” (April and May 2016). What were you doing aged 25?
Ritzberger: At 25, let me think. I was with the Lower Austrian TV station, at the time when local TV started. We dragged hundredweights of cameras and recorders through the countryside, with the batteries alone larger than a 4k camera nowadays, and filmed pretty much everything from the mosquito reserve in the Northern Waldviertel to the wooden shoe carver in the Bucklige Welt. We had a great time and I learned a huge amount.
And what about the dream of making a movie?
Ritzberger: Back then this was my big desire. As an editor and director I shot, arranged and cut more minutes of film than many directors get to do over their entire career. While this doesn’t count as filmography, I did learn a lot doing it. And my work stood out because I always tried to tell a story, even if just reporting on a car crash. Which is what all movie makers should be doing. Otherwise you can use a smartphone too, simply holding it and shooting.
So a detour? Or even a dead end?
Ritzberger: Certainly not. It was a development. In the early eighties I had the opportunity to work as the microphone and later camera assistant on many movies, TV spots and ORF productions, including Ohne Maulkorb, and, like many others, the ORF also gave me the chance to make a living whilst gaining value experience. I made intensive use of this opportunity, all the way up to my time working on ZIB2, getting involved in everything possible, from video control at theatre productions to producing documentaries. It was a wonderful opportunity to train and learn at a great institution.
And I’m still grateful to my bosses back then for the confidence they showed in me. I still recall a report for the local TV which I had made in very wild fashion, and which my chief editor Prof. Ernst Exner commented on, saying: “I don’t understand any of this, I’m too old for this. But you young people obviously like it and it’s extraordinary”, and accepting it. It’s with the same conviction that I’m now placing my trust in young directors like Adrian Goiginger, understanding that he is creating something extraordinary.
Would you like the chance to live your life again?
Ritzberger: (laughing) No, it’s certainly not that easy. On the contrary, I thank God that I’ve made it so far without any severe accidents. Of course, I could name innumerable situations off the top off my head where I would have taken a different decision, and logically I have the power of hindsight, however, who can tell if it would really have worked out better back then? I didn’t win the Olympics or the World Championships in sabre fencing, though I wanted to very much at the time. And I still think back to those years with great joy and gratitude; I learned a lot, it was a great time. But honestly, I do envy young people for their power and wild energy, and I keep thinking how exciting to have your whole life ahead of you. Having that power and energy paired with a wealth of experience would be something. But this is almost dreaming about living forever and, as we know from literature, that never ends well!
Have you set yourself more goals?
Ritzberger: Of course I have. On all official occasions during the shooting I declared all the categories in which our movie will win an Oscar in 2018.
Isn’t this a little presumptuous?
Ritzberger: Yes, sure, but shouldn’t I try to win an Oscar? Once I was asked before competing in a World Championship what my goal was, and I replied that I wanted to become the World Champion. Asked whether this wasn’t a little unrealistic, I said, “If I’m not striving to become a medal winner, then I can just as well stay at home.” So we can assume our goal is to win 4 Oscars in 2018. Sure, some filmmakers will laugh about me. But at least I am honest enough to admit that I want an Oscar, a Bear, a Palm or a Lion, or some other film prize out there. I’m not making my movies to win those prizes, but because the story and the movie convinced me, I’m convinced they won’t be able to ignore us.
I see where this is going, it sounds like a plan.
Ritzberger: Exactly. And now that this topic is finished, I am ready to turn to new projects.
Thanks for the cue. New projects?
Ritzberger: More than I could realise, because I’m searching with great curiosity and almost childlike excitement for good stories I’d like to tell my audience, and I’d like to support more young filmmakers who very often don’t get a chance.
Now before we end with your hobbies, you’ve already mentioned fencing. Tell us something about sailing.
Ritzberger: I learned to sail at youth summer camp on Lake Wolfgangsee at the age of 14. This camp was paradise, and still is; 40 years later and my kids are spending their holidays there with as much enthusiasm as I did back then. By the way, during the summer a remake of the Doppelte Lottchen was made there. I only stopped sailing when fencing came along and kept me busy for a longer period. I gave up fencing only in 1996, prior to the Olympics because I had no more chances to qualify. And then sailing became more important. I took my “A” licence while at grammar school, and the offshore certificate I passed later. Now I’m helping out in our Marinezirkel, our club for training candidates to pass the sailing certificate. I can’t afford a big yacht, and moreover it wouldn’t make financial sense, so we charter boats. My dream is to spend the autumn of my life with my wife on a sailing yacht, when our three kids have grown up and set out on their own lives. Standing at the ship’s wheel at night, looking at a sky full of stars, surrounded by the open sea – it’s a feeling hard to describe, it’s like permanently conquering a mountain peak.