Now there’s a creative approach to short filmmaking, then there is a CREATIVE approach to short filmmaking. Maximillian Niemann’s is breathtaking short Five Minutes is refreshingly the latter. Five Minutes tells the story of a man (John) fighting for survival in a zombie apocalypse. John gets bit, and as we meet him, awaits his fate. Will he succumb to his injuries and turn into the undead? Or will he pass “the test” and remain alive to fight another day? In a unique twist on the storytelling mechanics of short films, Five Minutes lets the audience make that choice.
Through the use of a series of mini-games and pseudo-quick time events, Five Minutes separates itself from the typical Zombie Apocalypse story. The story progression is in your hands, and depending on how well you play the interactive portions the ending is up to you.
Don’t be weary, Five Minutes despite what it sounds like is not a gimmick. Its form is experimental, and it tells a story that is incredibly compelling and emotionally complex. Audience members will find themselves engaged in the well-being of the short’s characters, while also ceasing the opportunity to engage Five Minute’s story physically.
The production value in Five Minutes is phenomenal. The cinematography is top-notch and mirrors that of Hollywood features and most full length pieces. Hordes of Zombies and colorful action sequences look realistic and are aesthetically pleasing. The sets and locations are incredibly immersive and add greatly to the short film’s overall emotional effectiveness.
Not only does Five Minutes separate itself from the rest of the zombie genre through its interactive feature, it does so also through a high scale of production that is often lacking in the short film horror genre.
The acting in this short film is incredible, Hannah Chinn and Kieran Bew do a remarkable job onscreen. The actors carry each scene with emotional complexity and pleasing chemistry. The zombie hordes act in frightening fashion, and will make audience blood coil when they threaten the fate of our protagonist.
All in all Five Minutes is a nice change from the regular format utilized in the typical short film. It’s inventive and will hook you, yet still has an interesting enough story to make you stay for the whole ride.
Like with many experiments in the world of filmmaking, one can but only hope the next journey into this realm results in even greater creations. One can hope Maximillian Niemann’s next journey into interactive storytelling comes soon, and that next time it features an even more in depth and even more interactive concept.
For now, Five Minutes is a great compelling horror short that will leave audiences glued to their seats and tapping away on their IPad. Whatever the future holds for this new unique form of narrative storytelling is unknowable but exciting. Five Minutes has set the bar!
INTERVIEW with Felix Faißt (Producer)
What inspired this short?
The Filmakademie is some kind of a playground, we are really free to decide what projects we would like to do in a given framework. So we looked for new ways of storytelling which combine the best aspects of film and the internet. We found a few really amazing projects which inspired us eventually to make an interactive branded short. Besides the good ones there are many projects which just added some interactivity like an overlay and in the end it didn’t matter how good you played or if you played at all. So our main goal was set: The interactivity should really be a part of the film!
Any interesting production stories?
One of the most interesting story of the production and probably the biggest challenge was of course the programming of the interactive part. As this is really a complex and time-consuming task it was of course quite impossible to find any developers or a company who were willing to engage for several months without getting paid especially in the early stage when everything was just our vision. Eventually Max decided to start programming by himself or rather in a first step to learn programming. Otherwise there wouldn’t be this interactive project now. But we stayed fortunately in contact with Piero Frescobaldi from Unit9, so they could really help us to finish the programming.
What is it like film making now after having made this film? Has your approach changed?
Basically film making hasn't changed that much for us since Five Minutes. Of course we learned a lot by making Five Minutes (like we did on our other projects before), not only regarding the interactive part and there are certainly some things I would like to make better or different the next time. But I wouldn't say that our approach of film making has changed, we still want to move people emotionally and now we know a little bit better how to achieve it.
Our approach to develop an interactive film has certainly changed as we hadn't had any experience before Five Minutes and learned a lot through try and error. Like for film making you really need experience also in the interactive part to understand and get a better vision about what's possible, how will it probably work and will it be fun. So especially in the beginning we had to try many things because we weren't sure about them.
Do you have any projects lined up for the future?
At the moment I'm in the preproduction of a "normal" short film and Max is already developing his next projects. Maybe we will work together on another interactive film, we will see.
Any advice to filmmakers?
I feel a little bit too young to give other filmmakers groundbreaking advices, but there are two points which seem to me very important:
1.) If you believe in something, simply do it and don't give up!
2.) If you do something, make it the best you can or let it be!
When we hadn't believed in these two points Five Minutes would be probably just another average zombie film without any interactivity.