Dream duo Will Brice and Julia Abramovici reflect on creating our inaugural Studio Sessions series while studying Film Production at dBs Berlin (now Catalyst).
They say that the only safe thing in filmmaking is to take a chance. From choosing to study film, to moving to Berlin, to creating our stellar Studio Sessions series, Film Production students Will Brice and Julia Abramovici took that chance – and it paid off every single time.
Pulled in by the city’s creative energy and a mutual passion for film, the dream duo met at dBs Berlin [now Catalyst] and soon became partners in life and work. Uniting filmmaking with their love of music, while simultaneously connecting both of our schools, Studio Sessions has not only become a space to showcase talent, but to grow it together. “Going in, I thought it wouldn’t be too hard, that it’s just someone performing and an interview after. Wrong!” quips Will.
But now the curtain is closing and it’s time for Julia and Will to take another chance – relocating Down Under to begin the next part of their filmmaking journey. As the intrepid creators wave cheers and tschüss! to Berlin, we caught up with them to reflect on their Studio Sessions experience, and to learn what’s next.
“I was sick of doing stuff that I didn’t care about and decided to go to film school. That’s when I discovered Catalyst.”
First off, tell us a bit about yourselves.
Julia: My name is Julia, I am 23 years old. I’m half-English and half-French. I moved here about a year and a half ago.
Will: I’m Will and I’m 26 from Western Australia. I moved to Berlin in 2016.
How did you get into filmmaking? Was there one specific moment when you just thought, ‘I have to do this?’
Will: After always watching, appreciating and obsessing with television and films since I was a kid, I finally decided to give filmmaking a shot. I was sick of doing stuff that I didn’t care about and decided to go to film school. That’s when I discovered dBs Berlin [now Catalyst]. About four months in, I was hooked.
Julia: I got into filmmaking during a visual anthropology module of my previous degree. I had a few film workshops and had to produce a short documentary as the final project. This really motivated me and I pursued a few projects of my own as well as collaborating with other people. Then I decided to give it a proper shot.
What brought you to Berlin?
Julia: I visited my friend living in Berlin over the summer a couple of years ago. I loved the city and decided to move here a few weeks later. It was definitely a good call.
Will: I came to Berlin specifically for the film school. I’d heard endless positive things about the city so I didn’t take much convincing.
“Technically with filmmaking, it’s an endless learning process. As usual, we’ve learnt a great deal from our mistakes.”
Did you guys meet in Berlin?
Will: Yeah, we met studying Film Production at dBs Berlin [now Catalyst].
And now you’re moving to Australia. How did that come about?
Will: It was a combination of having a limited German visa and just feeling like a little change. We’re excited about giving the Australian film industry a shot. I think there are some exciting opportunities – from a great music scene to stories that maybe don’t get heard enough.
Julia: I’ve always wanted to check Australia out so I figured, why not go for while? We don’t really have a specific plan, we’re just going to see what happens.
Your Studio Sessions films have been really amazing – we’re sad to see you leave! How did you first get involved in the project?
Will: Thanks! We’re really sad to be leaving the city and the job. It was never going to be easy to leave a city like Berlin. Well, Julia and I got a filming gig for a record store day event. There we met Temi Hollist from dBs Berlin's [now Catalyst] storytelling team and we got talking about upcoming projects that she and the school were working on. We were especially interested in filming live musicians from the music school.
Julia: Yeah, it all happened from there really.
What did you learn over the course of the series?
Julia: I feel like I learnt a lot in terms of collaborating with other people and bringing someone else’s vision to life. I’ve learnt the importance of creating a comfortable and positive environment on set and the difference this can make in the final product. As well as some basic skills such as leaving enough time to set up and keeping things as simple as possible.
Will: I don’t even know where to start. Technically with filmmaking, it’s an endless learning process. As usual, we’ve learnt a great deal from our mistakes. Our teacher at dBs Berlin [now Catalyst] said that would happen when we started and, well, he was right! With this series, it was all so new. I’ve never filmed musicians or made these kind of mini-documentary behind-the-scenes videos. Going in, I thought it wouldn’t be too hard, that it’s just someone performing and an interview after. Wrong!
It takes so much more planning and thinking and learning than I imagined. Like any film project, it was a series of exercises in problem solving. That’s also why I love it. One lesson that I especially keep coming back to, is while I want to create something that’s challenging and special, I need to remind myself to keep it simple sometimes. Especially while I’m in my early phase of this kind of thing.
“It’s so hard to choose a favourite. We were so lucky to have worked with amazing artists.”
Which episode was your favourite, and why?
Will: It’s so hard to choose a favourite. We were so lucky to have worked with amazing artists. They were all so talented and so great and easy to work with. Lamia was especially interesting with her hauntingly beautiful voice – at least that’s how I would describe the experience. Her final song ‘Sweet’ still sticks with me and I think she’s going to go on to do amazing things.
Charlie, a.k.a. Cocktail Party Effect was a ride, just watching him manoeuvre his way around the setup he had. I had no idea what to expect next – so impressive. Then our most recent one with Otari was yet another incredible experience. It was awesome watching two students kill it on both their vocals and the music they were producing live. Their sound is so full and developed, especially for such a young duo. They should be really proud.
Julia: It was such a pleasure to work on each episode that it’s also hard for me to pinpoint a favourite. They were all great for various reasons. Each artist we have worked with for Studio Sessions has been a genuinely really great person as well as being incredibly talented, making each shoot inspiring and just a lot of fun really. We have been so lucky.
Is filming musicians something you’d like to continue with or do you have other passions and projects in the pipeline?
Julia: I would definitely like to keep filming musicians, whether in studio sessions, gigs or music videos. It’s such an awesome way to collaborate across disciplines and I love discovering new music as well as coming up with new ideas with someone who shares a different perspective. I will really miss Berlin for this reason! Aside from that, there are a few projects of my own that I want to dedicate more time to.
Will: It’s definitely something I’d like to continue, but it’s also part of a long list of things I’d love to achieve in the filmmaking world. Julia and I also love the freedom of creativity with music videos. That also means we get to keep working with musicians, which makes me really happy. I also love writing my own material to hopefully film in the future. That will probably mean creating short films and working my way up to something bigger, because my real passion lies in writing and bringing narrative concepts to life.
Where do you see yourselves, careerwise, in a few years’ time?
Will: That is a tough one. I know where I’d like to be but I also need to be realistic. All I ask is that I’m supporting myself filmmaking and enjoying it. Whether that means I’m crewing on a film set, making music videos, making my own personal projects, filming musicians or editing projects, I just want to be involved. I feel like I’ve finally found what I want to do and where I want to be. It took a while, but I’m there, and it’s exciting. Oh, and it would be really nice if I could be doing all of this alongside Julia.
Julia: I feel like being too focused on five years’ time can limit you and make you dismiss potential opportunities. My main goal is to keep collaborating with new people and continue to create 24/7. I really enjoy the freedom of freelancing and as long as I’m making enough money off that to cover the bills, I’m happy! It would be cool to start a production company somewhere down the line. We’ll see.
“There’s something so satisfying about cutting up footage and finally placing that song you’ve been imagining in your head to fit the scene.”
What’s the one thing that fuels your creativity?
Julia: Inspiration fuels my creativity and that can come from infinite places. For example, interesting artistic content (films, music, art, writing), people, places, stimulating conversations or even the everyday mundane occurrences one can often overlook.
Will: I don’t know if this exactly answers the question or if it sounds arrogant, or if there really is just ‘one thing that fuels my creativity,’ but, I guess I fuel my creativity. I want to push myself, challenge myself and surprise myself. I’m constantly chasing that feeling of creating a concept in my head, making it happen on shoot day and going back to my computer with the footage to start putting it all together.
There are also other things like simply watching a really impressive film or television show. Or music – that’s always been huge for me. There’s something so satisfying about cutting up footage and finally placing that song you’ve been imagining in your head to fit the scene – putting my two favourite things together. It’s so simple but for me, and I don’t know if you can print this, but it’s orgasmic… a filmmaking wet dream. At least for me.
Finally, passing the torch to the next Studio Sessions filmmakers, what advice would you give?
Julia: Probably just to listen to everyone else on set and have fun with it!
Will: I agree. It might sound corny, but have fun! With any shoot, I spend a lot of hours stressing about the thousand things that could, and probably will, go wrong. But at the end of the day, it’s probably going to work out. Then there are basic things like trying to create a space for you and the artists and everyone else involved to collaborate in the best possible way. All you can do is your best to try to achieve what the artists want and create a good product.
Thanks so much for chatting to us!