Josephine Ehlert

Thank you Josephine for taking the time to answer all of our questions. We are grateful for everything you have shared with us. At Oxford Script Awards we are wishing you a huge success with your next projects. Keep up the amazing work!

Hello Josephine, can you tell us about your background and how you got started in screenwriting?

Since I loved going to the theater as a child, I started acting in theater groups at the age of 10. When I was 14, I wrote my first play for our theater group at school. I already wrote my first books at that time and I continued to write, direct and produce theatre productions and even won some awards. After studying acting in Vienna, in 2011, I started writing screenplays. It seemed to me then that producing a short film would be much easier than producing for the theatre. I met more and more independent filmmakers and loved our "guerrilla indie filmmaking." From 2012-2018, parallel to my work as an actress, I wrote and produced seven short films and one feature film. In 2015, I started directing them.

What's your writing process like? How do you go about creating characters and developing a story?

I guess, all of my stories start with a feeling. These can be so considered good or bad feelings. My inspiration is the deep empathy for failing people. As we all are. 

I am really touched by the longing of humans to be perfect, and our constant trying to avoid failure. And I love telling the stories about the consequences that this entails. They can be funny or tragic, to my mind in the best case: the story has both. I like tragic comedies a lot.

Can you talk about a recent project you've worked on and the challenges you faced while writing it?

I am currently working on my feature debut as a director and am happy that I found an up-and-coming production company. I developed the treatment last year when I was a scholarship holder of the “Academy for children’s media” in Germany. I have a vast ensemble in this story, and I want to give every character depth and make them understandable. As my protagonist is a 12-year-old girl, I struggled with my fear of still knowing what is going on at that age. In the meantime I am relieved, that after talking to some Girls of that age, I am quite sure, that certain issues did not change.

What do you think is the most important element of a great screenplay?

A good story can be very small, in my opinion. It needs characters that interest us and with whom we can sympathize. The premier class to me is writing credible dialogues that are subtle, funny, and smart at the same time 🙂

I also love dialogues that tell the things people don’t tell.

How do you feel about the current state of the film industry and the role of screenwriters in it?

We are shooting as many Movies and Series as ever in Germany. The industry flourishes, and they are getting in trouble because we don't have enough people for all the jobs behind the camera. 

Formerly you finished the screenplay, and the work was done. There was an initiative called "contract 18" by some prestigious screenplay writers who wanted to reach more impact the writers in the ongoing film process. Contract 18 was the first movement in Germany for screenwriters to strengthen their influence, for example, concerning the choice of the director or still having a voice during the editing process. I think those developments are overdue. Screenwriters, as creatives, should be involved until the film is finished. They are experts in their stories. Of course, filmmaking is teamwork, and I believe the saying, "Every film arises three times: In the screenplay, on set, and while editing it." But to me, it doesn't make sense to exclude the author from all of the other steps.

How do you approach writing for different genres and audiences?

I am very interested in writing different genres. I think I approach them very intuitive. When it comes to horror, for example, I ask myself: What scares me the most? Around the answers, I would create a story. Settings also inspire me. We knew we had to shoot in an old house for my feature debut. So the task was to write a story that could take place in this particular setting. The old hut beside the forest led to a mystery story.

When it comes to Rom-Com, for example, I love to dive into my hidden longings. To find out my desires. For instance, I like to write men that say precisely the things I would have loved to hear from men in my life.

How do you handle feedback and criticism?

It depends on who the critic is, how this person phrases the critic, and in which phase of the writing process I am. Of course, I am sensitive when it comes to my stories. I have certain people, for example, my agent, whose first interest is to bring me and my stories forward. I am grateful for their time and appreciate their feedback, even if it is critical.

How do you see the role of screenwriting evolving in the future?

Well, humans need stories! From time to time, I am concerned that it might seem that the most-selling films are Marvel Super Hero stories, and they get bigger and bigger and seem to lose their connection to the everyday life of people.

As I said, I love stories about humans and their imperfections. To me, those stories remind us that we are feeling and failing individuals. When the market seems only to ask for "the next big thing," I hope we as filmmakers should not forget that making films is about telling stories. A movie should touch the audience not with special effects but with bits of truth, love, and humanity.

What advice would you give to aspiring screenwriters?

Tell your truth! And bring patience with you.