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'Take Risks and Make Mistakes'

22 May 2021
The man behind NZ Box Office success story James & Isey gives us an insight into the highs and lows of his career, with some advice he wishes he knew 22 years ago.

Florian Habicht is a film maker with an eye for the unusual. His documentaries and movies have garnered awards and film festival selections worldwide. With his latest charming story James & Isey among the top films at the New Zealand Box Office right now, Habicht reflects on some of the best tips and life lessons he'd share with his 22-year-old self.

Write down your memorable dreams

Keep them in a diary, and don’t stop this. Now I’m 45 and only remember a handful of my dreams! When I’ve spent half my life dreaming.

Keep playing the piano

Don’t stop! When I was twenty I thought I had started learning the piano (and guitar) too late in life, and wasn’t good enough. Now, I would do anything to have played for another twenty years. My friend Kristine Crabb recently gave me her Piano, and I’ve started again. It's never too late :)

Do what you love and the money will follow

I heard philosophy professor Robert Solomon say this at a lecture at Auckland University when I was twenty.

He was visiting Auckland from Texas, to talk about Nietze's recurring life cycle theory - that if your life (how it is now) was on an endless loop, would you be happy?

Full of energy and movement, he addressed the audience like a rockstar, and the last thing he said before leaving the stage was "Do what you love and the money will follow!" Later in life, I learned this is not always true (!) but I would still give the same advice to my 22-year-old self.

Follow your heart

22-year-old Florian filming Liebesträume, with eccentric Auckland Hip Hop Jazz star Killer Ray. Photo: Supplied.

Have faith in your subconscious. With filmmaking, it's more important to take risks and make mistakes, than taking the conventional road.

This advice can sometimes leave you in a ditch, but I'm still giving it! Some years ago, one of my risks didn't pay off.

I embarked on an epic film shoot for my drama Under a Full Moon and everything that could possibly go wrong on a shoot went wrong.

It took me years to get over it. Still, all the creative risks I've taken in life have been worth it, and helped me find my voice as a filmmaker.

Always own a video camera

And if you're broke, sell everything, but not the camera! That way, nobody can ever stop you from making a film!

The funding bodies can all say no, but if you have your own camera, you can make your own mind up about when to start making a film.  James & Isey was shot with no crew. It was just James, Isey and myself on set!

When I was broke after the Full Moon shoot, I wanted to put my Sony FS7 camera on Trade Me, but Teresa, my partner and collaborator convinced me not to. I'm so grateful I didn't sell it, otherwise I wouldn't have been able to start filming James & Isey spur of the moment. With Isey's birthday around the corner, there was no time to apply for funding. I found some beautiful vintage Lomo lenses from a seller in Moscow, they arrived in the post and we began the shoot!  The sound was recorded from a sennheiser microphone attached to the camera, and I was right up close to my beautiful subjects from Kawakawa. That's why the film is so intimate. 

Don't be a workaholic 

Relationships and friendships are just as important as making films!

We are insignificant in the Universe, and there are more important things than making movies. Peace & love!

The titular stars of James and Isey. Photo: Supplied. 

James & Isey is currently screening on 85 plus screens in Aotearoa. A miracle for a film filmed with no crew!