Why the pandemic helped create “The Social Experiment”, one of the first virtual production shoots in Germany |  Features

Why the pandemic helped create “The Social Experiment”, one of the first virtual production shoots in Germany | Features

The world premiere of Pascal Schröder The social experiment on October 2 at Filmfest Hamburg, the ‘Made in Hamburg’ section is a first in several respects.

The sci-fi thriller is Schröder’s feature debut as well as producer Andreas Schlieter’s first foray into film production after running his Hamburg-based talent agency ‚ Gipfelstürmer Schauspielagentur for the past 10 years.

Moreover, it is the first German feature film to have been shot in a virtual LED production studio with the technology used by productions such as Disney’s The Mandalorian and those of Netflix 1899.

Schlieter and Schröder first met when the latter was studying directing at Hamburg Media School. “[Schröder’s] graduation movie monster tale [from 2019] was absolutely stunning visually. I was totally fascinated by his approach as a filmmaker, which tends more in the direction of mainstream cinema”, recalls Schlieter, selected for International Screen‘s Future Leaders showcase in 2016.

At the beginning of 2020, they decide to work together on the development of cinematographic projects and are offered the script for a psychological thriller. Blind love by American author Reynaldo Pacheco. “There was a gripping plot about toxic relationships with an unexpected twist something like David Fincher’s missing girl“, explains Schlieter.

The pandemic put a damper on the project, however, so the duo were then drawn to the innovative storytelling potential offered by virtual production technology.

Virtual potential

“Schröder and Raffaela Kraus [who also stars in The Social Experiment and is one of its co-producers] worked together to develop a story in an artificial world, allowing for a wide range of settings that one could create using virtual production,” explains Schlieter. “That meant we could shoot in a desert landscape, on the moon and with a mountaintop sunset. And we even managed to create a heavy blizzard in the studio with a combination of virtual production and SFX.

Featuring a young cast of actors making their film debuts, The social experiment focuses on five friends who are drawn into an escape room-style adventure, a behavioral experiment developed to test teenage friendships to the limit and turn into a race against time and a battle between life and death .

In May 2021, Schröder and Schlieter established Gipfelstürmer Film with business partner Kai Steinmetz and veteran producer Guido Thomsen to handle the production of their first feature film. Funding was raised through a combination of equity, private investors, strategic partners, and carryovers, with Hamburg’s local fund MOIN Filmförderung later providing post-production support for the film.

Principal photography followed in January 2022 in a tight schedule of just 17 days of shooting at Hamburg’s Cinegate/PRG virtual production studio, as well as on location in the city.

“We had over 600 VFX shots in the film and decided to create our own in-house VFX department so that we could finish the film as economically as possible and on time,” Schlieter recalls.

“It was not a difficult decision for us to keep the team working together as they were all so committed and within a short time we started receiving work requests for subsequent productions” , he adds, pointing out that the VFX artists of Gipfelstürmer have already delivered the effects of the ZDF crime series Bitesschwestern produced by ndF subsidiary Akzente Film, among others.

Shortly after the film’s completion last spring, Tobis became its German distributor – with a theatrical release scheduled for October 27 and struck a first deal with Schröder and Gipfelstürmer Film for future projects.

“We are developing various exciting story ideas with Tobis, including a series for a streaming service and a thriller for the cinema,” Schlieter said.

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