Boys On Film is back with its ninth collection of gay-themed short films, Youth In Trouble, and one of those shorts in Prora, which stars young German actor Tom Gramenz. He plays a young man called Jan who, along with his friend (Swen Gippa), go inside the incredible abandoned German resort, Prora, which was built by the Nazis but never fully used. Once there, the feelings of Jan for his friend are revealed.
We chatted with Tom about the short.
How did you get the role in Prora?
Stefane [Riethauser], the director, found me on the homepage of my agency and asked me for a meeting.
Have you played ‘gay’ roles before or was this your first time?
This was my first time.
Do you think it’s a film that will work as well for straight audiences as gay ones? Do you think they’ll take different things away from it?
I think this is a movie for everybody and of course everybody will take different things away from it.
Do you think it is difficult for young people to truly communicate and be honest with one another, even if they’re known each other for years?
I think there are some people who can freely talk about everything and others who can’t. It depends on their educational background and on their friends, and how they handle those things.
You have a good camaraderie with Swen Gippa on-screen. Did you get on as well in real life?
We became friends because we had a lot of fun while shooting this movie, but he is living in Paris and me in Germany, so I last saw him a long time ago.
Is making a short film difficult from an actor’s point of view, when you have a lot of characterisation you need to get across to the audience, but not a lot of time?
I don’t know. Stefane told me a lot and I am quite sure that not everything got across to the audience, but something always has an effect.
As Jan doesn’t really talk about his sexuality, a lot of what we understand about him has to be conveyed non-verbally. How did you try to make sure the audience understood Jan, even if he’s not talking about everything that’s going on with him?
I don’t really know. Stefane didn´t want that we talk too much, so we didn’t and what the audience were thinking about it or understood is nothing that I was thinking about while shooting. I didn’t try all the time to show something that Jan has experienced in his past. Most of the time I just followed my intuition and feelings.
Is Prora as incredible in real life as it looks on screen?
Your character gets very upset when his friend starts pretending to be a Nazi. Are the Nazis still a very taboo subject in Germany?
You just learn a lot of history stuff in school about it, and it’s still a subject that Germans are handling carefully, but it’s not a taboo. It is more still a pressure for many German people.
Did you go to any screenings of the film? How did audiences react?
I was in Zürich and in London to watch the movie. All people who came to me and I was talking with, did like our movie very much, but I don’t think that someone would come to me to say that they dislike it! So the reaction was really good.
Are you proud of the film?
Yes I am.
Boys On Film 9: Youth In Trouble is out on DVD in the UK on April 29th.