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On Realising Lore

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As a young producer, I first read the manuscript of 'Lore' in 1999 before the story became part of a trilogy known as 'The Dark Room' by author Rachel Seiffert.

The first two short films I produced were directed by Rachel, so we knew each other well in Scotland and although I had limited experience in filmmaking at the time, the acute visual style of her writing, combined with the history, politics and emotional intensity of her story, all shouted cinema to me.

I immediately knew I wanted to make a film of 'Lore' but really had no idea how to go about it. Sitting in Glasgow, the prospect of making a period feature, set in Germany, about the subject of Nazism, was daunting.

I put the idea on the back burner and waited for the situation to develop.

And soon enough it did.

When 'The Dark Room' was published in 2000, Rachel's story immediately received great praise and secured a Booker nomination in the UK.

From nowhere, Lore was suddenly a valuable property and I felt further away from making the film than ever. But thankfully - with her experience in film as an editor on shorts and features - Rachel was wary of adaptations and let things cool down.

As my experience increased, we continued to discuss the possibilities until Rachel finally agreed my company Edge City Films could option the story early in 2004.

I attached an experienced screenwriter, Robin Mukherjee (Dance of The Wind), and raised the first development funds for the project from Scottish Screen.

Around the same time, Cate Shortland's 'Somersault' arrived at Cannes (Un Certain Regard, 2004). Three months later, Cate presented the film at Edinburgh IFF and when I watched Somersault I enjoyed two things in particular about her work.

Firstly, Cate doesn't do black and white. She was operating in areas where you could love and hate her characters, respect and despise them, all at the same time.

Lore was completely defined by this type of emotional contradiction for character and audience alike. So on a fundamental level, I thought Cate would respond well to the material.

And the second thing I enjoyed about Cate's work was its rich sensuality. Watching Somersault in Scotland, I found myself in the Blue Mountains of Australia. And for Lore to work, I knew the audience would need to cross Germany with Lore and her siblings, blisters and all.

Shortly after the festival screening, we were introduced and connected as friends first. With Cate on the verge of leaving Scotland, I asked her to read The Dark Room on her way home to Sydney. So when she did, and said yes, that was it. I had my director.

Between 2005 and 2008 Robin wrote the first three drafts of Lore, with a strong steer from Cate and myself. And during this period - as we scouted Germany and the subject unfolded and deepened for everyone - she made it clear she could only direct Lore in the German language.

It was a summer evening and we were sat outside a restaurant in Prenzlauer Berg when she told me. A few hours earlier we had visited Sachsenhausen, the concentration camp at the end a U-Bahn line in Berlin.

I already had plenty on my mind from the camp but I knew she was right. Rachel always wanted the story to be told in German. And for it to be told properly, how could the film be produced any other way?

I had a massive challenge on my hands now. The period subject matter was already very tough and somehow I had to convince people Cate could direct children in a foreign country and language.

For me - as an originating UK producer - the German language decision instantly slashed my finance possibilities. Creatively, it was the right decision but pragmatically, my British peers regarded the decision as suicide.

Regardless, from that point forward I needed committed partners capable of helping raise the budget outside of the UK. There was no other way to make the film and given the elements, Lore always had three-way potential with Germany and Australia.

Conversations had begun with a number of companies in each territory and given the serendipitous nature of things, unsurprisingly this led me back to the excellent Aussie producer Liz Watts (Animal Kingdom, Rover) who had given Cate's husband 'The Dark Room' years before.

We joined forces in 2008, raising further development funds between Scotland and Australia and these allowed Cate to start writing.

But nothing could happen without Germany.

As a story, Lore has epic scale with the action moving from the deep south to far north of the country; from opulence to decay; from vast countryside to period villages and towns. We needed ambitious partners on the ground.

The path once more led to a producer who had recognised the potential of Lore early in its life. Karsten Stoter of Rohfilm came onboard in 2009 and so began two very tough years of financing before the film was greenlit in July 2011.

We shot Lore in two months, traversing four regions in Germany before embarking on the post-production in Sydney.

And Lore finally premiered in June 2012.

For all the inevitable cultural and practical difficulties involved, everyone on the crew embraced the challenge and worked tirelessly to realise the qualities of this story on the screen. That commitment helped put Cate's unique vision of cinema on the big screen for only the second time.

Lore may have a long time to arrive but I'm very proud of the result.

Lore is out in cinemas nationwide now.