Interview with Florian Habicht / Spookers

During the Sydney Film Festival Jacqueline interviewed director Florian Habicht about his documentary Spookers.


I had the opportunity to interview the director of Spookers, Florian Habicht at the Sydney Film Festival. Without a doubt, he had brilliantly brought nightmares to life, and showed the realistic horrors in the famous Spookers haunted attraction; “as night falls at Spookers, dozens of seemingly ordinary people become freaks, zombies and chainsaw-wielding clowns”.

Through extraordinary cinematography and compelling stories, Florian opens up a new world to us, (which required us to sit on the edge of our seats in suspense) and showed us how to completely immerse into his understanding and interpretation of his new film.

I instantly understood that this was ‘not just another documentary’, but in fact a journey. Following the ride I met so many new people, heard all their stories and understood why they choose to do what they do. I had a history lesson without feeling strained from learning, and got the sense of adrenaline and anticipation as if Freddy Kruger met Jack Torrance from The Shining (you don’t know what to expect).

Hello Florian, I hope you are well!
I thought your documentary was absolutely fantastic.  My favourite parts were the shots through the ‘haunted’ psychiatric ward, presenting the overwhelming state of each person entering and also near the end of your film when a majority of the actors were talking about ‘self-acceptance’. As a 15 year old girl, being raised in a society which degrades you for being who you want to be, it is easier said than done to love yourself and I thought it was beautiful that this was a highlighted theme in the documentary, “it’s okay to be yourself”.

Awesome! Yeah, I can relate to that too Jacqueline. It took me a while to find myself. When I was a teenager, I was very shy, felt like an outsider, and it wasn’t until i went to Art School, that I found my people and came out of my shell.

If you had to pick your favourite scene in your documentary, which one would you pick and why?

I love the dream sequence where Huia the clown is singing while walking on water. I love it that he is worried about his weight, but when he gets out of the bed he can walk on the ocean. It’s magical. Magic is real. I love the ocean art director Teresa Peters created out of cellophane and wind. I love the hand made stars in the sky, and the jumping fish, did you spot them ?

After visiting the set and meeting all the “characters”, did you find yourself getting more frightened or more comfortable with the scene?

More comfortable. We filmed this scene in a studio, all the dream sequences, and most of the special effects were in camera, similar to how they made films in the olden days before computers. I directed with a megaphone. We played music while setting up and often during the filming. I felt very at home in this atmosphere.

You fantastically got the actors to act out their fears; where did you get the inspiration to try to depict their nightmares?

We did a workshop, which was the actors and myself getting to know each other better. I took off my hat and put it into the middle of our circle, and we shared intimate things about ourselves and our lives, by writing them down and throwing them in the hat. People wrote down their dreams and nightmares, and I think that’s where the idea came from. I always like to mix fantasy with my documentaries, so this was a nice way to do it. Also meant the actors could take their performing to another level. We filmed many more dreams, but they didn’t make it into the final edit.

This documentary was quite personal, how did that affect yourself and putting together the film?

All my documentaries are personal, so I’m used to that. The film’s become my life, they take over. I loved the performers in Spookers, so the shoot was very enjoyable and fun. The edit was harder and I couldn’t just do what I wanted. It wasn’t as free as the shoot. I had more responsibilities in the edit.

Why did you decide to direct the documentary after Madman Production Company reached out to you?

I was in the middle of writing a drama, a love story. And I really wanted to make that film next. So I was trying very hard to say no. I went to Spookers to shoot a test, and loved what I saw. It felt very rich, the performers and the environment. I felt like I could make the film my own and I liked the Madman team i met on Skype. So, after thinking about it lots, and lots, I said yes. It’s the first time I’ve accepted a project that’s been offered to me.

Would you do a documentary based on Kingseat Psychiatric Hospital from what you found out throughout the making of this film?

I don’t think I’m the right person to make that film. But Deborah, who was at Kingseat Hospital and features in Spookers, we could release her entire interview. It’s two hours long and is so interesting. I couldn’t stop thinking about her and her story for weeks after filming her.

Spookers was absolutely eye-opening. What was the filming process like on Spookers compared to the other films you directed in the past? : Pulp (2014), Love Story (2009), Kaikohe Demolition (2004), Rubbings From A Live Man (2008), and Woodenhead (2003).

The filming was very similar to all those titles, small crew, and intimate shoots. The edit had more people involved, and felt different to my other films.

What films made an impact on you in your youth?

Pippi Longstocking, Pipi in Takatuka land, was the first film I saw at the cinema, I saw it in Berlin, in German. I fell in love with Pippi, and she inspired me that I could do anything I wanted to. To live a life where my dreams can come true, and that is what film making is for me.

instagram @florianhabicht

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *