Fritzi (Jeremias Meyer), Samuela (Julia Windischbauer) and her father Jo (Niels Bormann)

ARRI Rental supports Franz Kraus Production Award winner “Sonnenplaetze”

Graduating cinematographer Tobias Blickle talks about shooting “Sonnenplaetze” on the ARRI ALEXA Mini LF with Moviecam and DNA LF lenses.

Jul. 2, 2024

In 2022, ARRI Rental honored one outstanding graduation film made by HFF Munich students with the Franz Kraus Production Award, offering a prize of €50,000 towards camera, lighting, and grip equipment. The awarded project was Maverick Film's “Sonnenplaetze” by writer/director Aaron Arens, producers Tristan Bähre and Philipp Maron, and cinematographer Tobias Blickle, which is playing at the 2024 Munich Film Festival.

“Sonnenplaetze” ("Places in the Sun") is a film about the unsuccessful young writer Samuela, who escapes to her family's old holiday home on Lanzarote to work on her latest manuscript. Upon her arrival she is surprised to find that her father has secretly taken up residence in the house, and when she then finds out that her mother wants to sell it, Samuela decides it's time to call the long-broken family back together again. ARRI Rental supplied camera and lighting equipment for the Lanzarote shoot, and recently caught up with cinematographer Tobias Blickle to talk about his experiences.

Best boy Quirin Wolff and DP Tobias Blickle during a short break

Best boy Quirin Wolff (left) and DP Tobias Blickle (right) during a short break

What was it about Aaron Arens' screenplay that grabbed you?

I liked the pacing and the clever mix of comedy and tragedy. It was important to me to find a lightness and a visual style that would help tell the story.

Why did you choose the ARRI ALEXA Mini LF with Moviecam and DNA LF lenses?

The great thing about the ALEXA Mini LF is that it is so versatile and reliable. And we wanted lenses that provided a natural and soft picture. With an open aperture, the Moviecams are almost impressionistic in their effect, especially at night when there are light sources in the frame. I wanted to prevent that by mostly keeping the aperture between T2.8 and-a-half and T4 and-a-half. For night scenes we added some DNA LF focal lengths to the Moviecams.

What was your lighting concept?

Our gaffer Luca Rieger and I worked almost exclusively with LED fixtures. We were able to control all the lights from the lighting console. Director Aaron Arens wanted to keep extremely flexible in his work with the actors. To reduce the times needed to change setups, we tried to light entire spaces rather than just individual positions. We almost always used existing light as the basis, which meant lots of practical light sources when inside. I prefer to use what's available and build from there, rather than lighting everything artificially from scratch. There were scenes where the entire cast was in frame, for instance at the dinner in the restaurant. We shot that with two cameras to capture the quickfire dialogue as efficiently as possible. We had to keep lighting equipment out of the cameras' lines of shooting and made minor LED adjustments from the console.

Sunset in Lanzarote

Sunset in Lanzarote

What was it like to film on Lanzarote?

The Canary Islands are full of magnificent landscapes and they played a big part in helping us create the film's special atmosphere. But at the same time, it's very windy there, so we could only set up small equipment that could deal with that. Also, the electricity grid on the island doesn't reliably ensure large amounts of available power, which is why we decided to work with LEDs. And getting the equipment to the Canaries is not something to be taken lightly either. We had to have most of it transported across Europe in Sprinter vans and then shipped to the island on the ferry. Once there, we couldn't just call for other equipment or more staff. But thankfully we had a really good team that was able to improvise with what we had when the need arose. 

Were there any specific aspects about the island that posed a challenge for you? 

Embracing white walls in day and night interiors. The Lanzarote born architect and sculptor César Manrique defined the architecture of the island in the second half of the 20th century. Manrique playfully integrateded the lava landscape into living areas and created imperfect textured walls painted in white. For this reason, it was important to us to feature this architecture in our main location, a holiday house. Usually one would try to paint the walls a darker shade to create contrast to the characters, but we felt strongly that we had to work with them for a feeling of authenticity.

Johanna Seggelke of the splinter unit (left) and DP Tobias Blickle with an ARRI ALEXA Mini LF

Johanna Seggelke (2nd AC) of the splinter unit (left) and DP Tobias Blickle with an ARRI ALEXA Mini LF

Presumably you also wanted to showcase Lanzarote's very special terrain?

We were fascinated by the barrenness of the dark lava rock. Unfortunately, there was a big thunderstorm two weeks before the start of production, so there were green plants growing out of things that would otherwise not have been there at that time of year. We had to rediscover some motifs, working with landscape gardeners in some cases. We then selectively reduced the green in grading, to make sure we kept to our color palette.

How did you benefit from the collaboration with ARRI Rental in all this?

We were given the opportunity to test the lenses in Munich at ARRI Rental during preproduction, and then take a selection with us to Lanzarote on two research trips. That enabled us to work on getting just the look we wanted, using the actual settings. When filming we were able to completely trust the camera and lighting equipment. We didn't have a single technical malfunction. On numerous past productions I had already been able to rely on ARRI Rental's generous support, which I greatly appreciate. With “Sonnenplaetze,” the Franz Kraus Production Award enabled us to shoot a feature film despite our limited budget, using the best equipment out there. I am eternally grateful for that.

On location in Lanzarote, 1st AC Pablo Gotzes

On location in Lanzarote, 1st AC Pablo Gotzes (right)

An additional comment was contributed by Tristan Bähre of Maverick Film:

We were very happy with the comprehensive support from ARRI Rental. From the very first steps of the project, we had an open dialogue about all the possibilities within our budget. Together we looked for solutions that matched the scope of our project without sacrificing quality. When we had a special request, as is always the case, ARRI Rental made it happen.

Even though this was a low-budget production, we felt that we received the same commitment and attention as any other project. But more than that, ARRI Rental looked for solutions to give us the best equipment available by trying to keep the additional cost as low as possible. So not only did we go the extra mile on this shoot, but so did ARRI Rental, and we are very grateful that they believed in this project and in us as young filmmakers.

“Sonnenplaetze” hits German theaters on 22 August after premiering at Filmfest München, where it was nominated for the 2024 German Cinema New Talent award in four categories: Best Director, Best Producer, Best Acting, and Best Screenplay.