LIFE IN LOOPS by Timo Novotny: Best Documentary in Karloy Vary –  Interview


Timo Novotny applied a concept often used in music to film: The media artist, who is responsible for the visuals of Sofa Surfers performances, has presented the first film remix ever. He worked with forty hours of raw material from Michael Glawogger's Megacites and additional footage shot with cameraman Wolfgang Thaler in Tokyo. The 80-minute audio and visual experience won the Best Documentary Prize at the international Karlovy Vary film festival sharing the award with Juan Carlos Rulfo for En el hoyo.


You're a member of the Sofa Surfers, are you originally a musician?

TIMO NOVOTNY: No, I took Peter Weibel's visual media class, started doing music videos, and was one of the Sofa Surfers' original members. I do the stage show, the videos, the covers, photos, and everything visual.

How did you come to work with Michael Glawogger?

TIMO NOVOTNY:  I'm a VJ and do live visuals. In 2003, at the opening of CineDays in Brussels, the curator wanted European films to be included in my live set. Since I have lots of things about travel which I use all the time, I just called Michael Glawogger. I thought Megacities could work with my images because it involves a great deal of traveling. Michael thought that was a great idea and put me in touch with Lotus-Film. I was given the footage from Megacities, and we used it in Brussels, and Michael was thrilled. At the time I said that I'd really like to do a more involved project with him, and then the idea for this remix was born.

Did you just work with the finished footage of Megacities?

TIMO NOVOTNY: My condition was getting the raw footage, which was about forty hour's worth. Another thing was that I would include a new city, and I wanted to shoot in Tokyo on Super-8. Last year Wolfgang Thaler joined the project, and he was so enthusiastic and said he wanted to come to Tokyo with me. We both went to Japan and spent two weeks there shooting.

Are any of your own images used in the film?

TIMO NOVOTNY: No, I finally wanted to use my Super-8 footage, which I love so much, in a film. But it just didn't work out, and that's why the film turned out to be a lot less experimental. That's the only thing that makes me a little sad, but the fact that Wolfgang went along more than made up for it. Now it's a real documentary, it's all on 16mm and homogeneous.

Did the images come first and the music afterwards?

TIMO NOVOTNY:  Sometimes things work out like music videos. I get plenty of unreleased material from the Sofa Surfers, including some things that I add images to. Then sometimes there are images and the Sofa Surfers have to come up with something to go with them, and there are times when we all really work parallel. I think it's great that it isn't just a soundtrack or just a music video, and that the two aren't just combined symbiotically to make up one thing, but that all three components are important.

What do you think about presentation methods other than cinema?

TIMO NOVOTNY:  Of course my real goal was cinema and 35 mm. There's a live version too, which we - Markus Kienzl, Wolfgang Frisch and I - have already presented three times. It works, but the problem is that the images are too powerful, and it's too strenuous to stand and watch them for more than 60 minutes. Furthermore I don't want it to be just a concert of visuals because I have too much respect for the images. It should remain a film, with a live influence, that would be interesting. The thing I find interesting about this project is that it's a real expansion, a real remix which operates on a cinematic basis. I wouldn't have made it just for live screenings with scratching. I wanted to go beyond that and do all this work with the raw material.

Interview: Karin Schiefer