Is Berlin creating creative creatures? Screen Acting student Anne-Louise H.S. Christiansen writes about whether Berlin is a fuel or a distraction for creatives. Photography by Film Production student Dico Baskoro.
The c-word. We hear about it on social media. We see it on street walls, no matter which corner of the world our feet are planted in. We feel it on the stage, ready to pour our heart out and spill all our hidden insecurities to an unforgiving audience. We taste it on a daily basis. We even smell it on some people. CREATIVITY.
“The low living cost, a central-European location and an ever-changing scene make for an appetising cocktail: a space to experiment and establish yourself as an artist.”
Berlin is a magnet for artists and creators. One in six Berlin companies work in the creative industries and the market is only growing. The low living cost, a central-European location and an ever-changing scene make for an appetising cocktail: a space to experiment and establish yourself as an artist. Acting showed me the way to the city after I discovered the opportunities at dBs Berlin. It was the same for my peers: my neighbour came to the school for the music and my friend for filmmaking. Yet, is Berlin the artist’s paradise that it is made out to be? Does the vibrant metropolis fuel or distract from creativity?
“Abandoned airports and crumbling buildings speak of a city, as German author Karl Scheffler famously wrote, ‘condemned forever to becoming and never to being.'”
Berlin, with its many faces, is an endless inspiration. There is the trashy, filthy, but nonetheless sexy side of Berlin. The under and overground swims in graffiti. Dirty banners and wet teddy bears hang from the windows of multicoloured apartment buildings. Empty beer bottles, last remnants of long, techno-filled nights, sit outside fast food joints like bowling pins. Abandoned airports and crumbling buildings speak of a city, as German author Karl Scheffler famously wrote, “condemned forever to becoming and never to being.”
Then there is majestic, historic side of Berlin. A 15-minute bike ride from home and I will stand in front of some august baroque architecture: the Berlin Cathedral. You cannot be in Berlin without being touched by the dark yet fascinating history. Monuments, museums and the occasional walking tour are part of everyday life. The history does something to you that cannot be described but only felt. Berlin also boasts showcase areas such as Kurfürstendamm and Potsdamer Platz as well as beautiful lakes, more parks than the number of Friends seasons and, of course, the Spree. All of the above inspires me and many others. However, when it comes to fueling my creativity, there is something even better.
“The vibe created by the people here is what makes the city so unique. There is freedom to be and do whatever you want.”
Berlin does not just have many faces, but many characters. And, of course, as an actress, it is characters that most inspire me. The vibe created by the people here is what makes the city so unique. There is freedom to be and do whatever you want. No one and everyone fits in. It is a melting pot with room for everyone inside. Whatever community you want to be a part of, you can find it here.
A typical week in Berlin is anything but boring. On the Monday-morning U-Bahn, I find people with beers cheaper than my water, and nothing is more normal. Tuesday night, at an English theater event, a man from across the street runs in and yells, “Free drinks to everyone in my new wine bar”. Soon I find myself discussing politics with an Australian stranger.
Thursday, I am on my way to buy groceries in my pajamas because I am a successful adult. Just like that, I’m invited to a free violin concert. I happily oblige. Saturday, I actually make it to the grocery store. A cute baby and her dad start talking to me in German. I do not speak German. Like a true actress I fake it till I make it. Sunday, time for a nice walk with my new friends. We go to what is left of the Berlin Wall and see two heroic lovers kissing.
When preparing for roles, I often think of these encounters or observations and use them as an inspiration. It could be anything from someone’s very charismatic walk to how they behave around other people.
“People often come to Berlin with big dreams and get sucked into a lifestyle that keeps them from succeeding.”
But is all this lingering inspiration in reality turned into creation? People often come to Berlin with big dreams and get sucked into a lifestyle that keeps them from succeeding. Everywhere you look there is a potential distraction, and the distractions are cheap. Whether you party all day and all night in the many clubs or you are simply a rabbit in the headlights of the city’s eventful buzz, it’s easy to be a consumer instead of a creator. Robert F. Coleman, a former musician, sums it up nicely. “I realize now that creativity is less about living a hedonistic lifestyle on a pittance and more about actually creating things,” he wrote in his 2012 New York Times article. “Berlin provided us with every opportunity to write our album, but six months later, there were still no recordings.”
“The city may have been built by rebels, but it is run by German rules and paperwork — and you cannot charm your way out of it.”
Berlin also takes the first prize when it comes to the fastest rising rent, despite having a reputation for being cheap. According to a 2018 The Guardian article, “Berlin’s move to the top of risers [follows] several years of soaring prices; the average property price has increased by more than 120% since 2004.” This has turned finding a home into a very competitive task that will almost certainly leave you distracted and frustrated. Another thing that can turn anyone’s smile upside down is the bureaucracy. The city may have been built by rebels, but it is run by German rules and paperwork — and you cannot charm your way out of it.
After discussing this topic of whether Berlin fuels or distracts creatives with numerous people living here, we came up with some conclusions. You decide if you want Berlin to help you or break you. It depends on how you use the city and that is going to be different for everyone. If your will to succeed outweighs the boundless distractions and inevitable setbacks, there are no limits to the inspired work you can create here. Berlin is wonderful for creativity, but ultimately, it’s up to you to keep it that way.
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