I’ll Share an Early Draft of My Script to an Audience…Because I Like to Test It by Marc R. Wilkins of BON VOYAGE Movie

MARC R. WILKINS – FILMMAKER – ‘Bon Voyage Movie’


FilmCourage:  Where did you grow up?

Marc R. Wilkins: I am a hippie child. I grew up at many places. For some time we lived in a camper-van, camping in the gardens of friends of my parents. But the highlight of my childhood as living in a commune on the island of Crete. We were sleeping in sleeping bags, our bathtub was a well in a bamboo-forest.

Marc as a child
 FilmCourage:   Which of your parents do you resemble most? Marc: Hah, that’s a tricky question. I am a even mix, I believe. I inherited the optimism of both of my parents, the talent for chaotic cooking from my father and habit to blush about everything from my mother.

FilmCourage:  In hindsight, how did life change for you after moving to Crete at age 5? 

Marc:  My parents left the middle-class-comfort of Switzerland for a reason. They were seeking freedom, nature adventure. It was perfect for my brother and me. Playing at the beach and in deserted villages all day long, watching snakes, and, starting to record my very first audio-plays. I remember my fingers being nearly too small and weak to push the strong buttons of my old battery powered cassette-tape-recorder down.

Marc Wilkins with his first fan
FilmCourage:  Did your parents lend support toward creativity or encourage another type of career/focus? Marc:  I was lucky. My parents both very much encouraged my desire to tell stories, to be creative. My father and my stepfather are both artists.My mother recommended to learn at least a craft, ship-carpentery, so that I have something ‘proper,’ just in case. But she was not pushing it. I spend most of my teenage-time in a darkroom developing black and white photos.
FilmCourage:  You’ve lived all over the world.  Which place feels most like home? Marc:  I feel at home at many places: New York, Berlin, Switzerland. New York because it makes me feel most alive, most challenged, most in touch with the rest of the world. Berlin is the place of my coming-of-age. Every street-corner is carrying some exciting memories. Berlin made me grow, but New York made me an adult. When I come to Switzerland, where most of my family lives, I feel most comfortable and cozy. The smell of the streetcars, the sound of the train station announcement: Everything feels dear, in perfect shape. So much in shape that it makes me too calm. I need a challenging
surrounding to feel inspired.
Marc as a child
 FilmCourage:  Did you go to film school?

Marc: No. I quit school when I was 18 and started to work as a production assistant. I knew I wanted to learn how to direct, but I wanted to learn it on a set, not in a classroom. I was not convinced that I could find teachers in a school which I could respect and learn from.

But today I think about this subject a bit differently. Film school is a good option. Especially because of the fact that you are surrounded by other young filmmakers with the same goal: To become a great storyteller. I believe it is a very fertile surrounding for a young filmmaker to have other students around to discuss your ideas, explore them together, criticize each other.


FilmCourage:  Favorite anti-authority quote and by whom?

Marc:Don’t worry about the rebellious kids. Don’t worry about the trouble makers. They will find their way. Worry about the obedient, with no will and without independent ideas. by Rudolf Steiner. (I don’t know the exact wording.)

FilmCourage:  Favorite quote on writing or directing and by whom?

Marc:  I don’t have a quote in stock, but I am inspired by Werner Herzog’s thinking:  There is nothing wrong with spending a night in a jail if it means getting the shot you need.

FilmCourage:  What’s the best and worst job you’ve previously held?

Marc:  I would like to exclude film-jobs here. The best job was to help my friends selling fantastic pulled pork sandwiches. I was the cashier. It was simply incredible to have a new face in front of me every minute, total strangers, hungry, talking to me. Like a wild form of speed-dating. I was totally exposed to this strangers. The sandwiches were so good that we had a long cue. I could not stop the line of encounters, people just kept running into me, hungry and excited.

The worst job was being a waiter at a Oktoberfest in Bavaria. I was serving huge mugs of beer and plates overcrowded with sausages and sauerkraut. My guests were all huge, loud and in the mood for dirty jokes I did not get. It was a nightmare.

FilmCourage:  What is KINOHERZ?  Marc:  KINOHERZ was a platform for short film-makers outside of film school. We started it 1998. It felt unfair that young filmmakers at film schools had a strong lobby for equipment deals, agencies and distribution companies, but young filmmakers outside of film school doing just as many and just as strong short films, had to start from scratch with every project. We were planning to be a label, a platform, a collective to make it easier to create new short cinema outside of film school.
FilmCourage:  How is your approach to filmmaking ant-intellectual?Marc:  I would like to quote Werner Herzog again, two quotes, to answer this one question: badge of honor is to fail a film theory class. I think the worst that can happen in filmmaking is if you’re working with a storyboard. That kills all intuition, all fantasy, all creativity. (Sometimes I like storyboards, please understand this as a metaphor. Sometimes its good to have a story board, but if a strong wind comes up from the right direction, let it blow the storyboard away.)
FilmCourage:  Tell us about winning a Cannes Gold Lion? How many films had you made at this point?

Marc:  This was quite a big surprise. It was my third commercial project: A commercial for the NGO Doctors without boarders. A friend who was working at an advertising agency wrote it in his free time and asked me to direct it. We had not budget. I borrowed some money and equipment, and we shot it.

The Golden Lion was an unexpected surprise.

FilmCourage:  What prompted your upcoming film, BON VOYAGE? Marc:  BON VOYAGE is the story of sailors running into a sinking refugee boat during a holiday cruise.I am a sailor myself. For me casting off, sailing towards the horizon, is something wonderful, beautiful, luxurious. But when the media started to report about the dramatic and often deadly sea-crossings of refugees, trying to escape war, by crossing the Mediterranean sea, mixed feelings started to grow in my heart. It felt so not right that marinas around the world are filled with yachts, very expensive toys, while hundred thousands of human beings have to cross the seas in rickety small dangerous boats.The contrast between sailing yachts and unseaworthy boats appeared to me as the most perfect metaphor to inspire an honest discussion about our fears and hesitations reg. illegal migration.
marc_wilkins_bon_voyage_filmcourage_kickstarter_1FilmCourage: How much does your venturing away from institutional education tie into your interest in this story for BON VOYAGE?  Any parallels in themes?Marc: No, there are no parallels. I am not an anarchist. I do believe in governments and institutions. But human rights must be treated above everything else.FilmCourage:  Why do you have a Kickstarter campaign?Marc:  The story of BON VOYAGE must be told as soon as possible. Crowdfunding is the fastest way to gather a budget. But we also believe that this story must be told “by many” people “for many people.” Kickstarter gives the power to a large crowd of people to produce one film together.FilmCourage:  You are attempting to raise $55,000?  What will the funds go toward?Marc:  100% into the shoot: Renting the boats, hiring maritime safety personal, equipment, travel costs and catering. Many of the crew members work for very low or no pay.

FilmCourage:  How long do you think it will take to finish the movie if you complete funding?Marc:  We want to get this film out there as quickly as possible. I hope post production will be finished end of March.

FilmCourage:  Do you know many of the 180 plus Kickstarter backers?

Marc:  Yes, indeed. Many friends and filmmaker-friends. I hope to be able to introduce the project to more people outside of my circle of friends in the next days.

FilmCourage:  Any plans to turn BON VOYAGE into a feature?

Marc:  The original idea was full length feature. But it would take too long to finance it. We are shooting the short now, and if it comes out well, we will tackle the feature.

FilmCourage:  What does your film BON VOYAGE say about the world we live in?  What universal themes are explored in your film?

Marc:  Fear, generosity, courage, hope, egoism.

FilmCourage:  What emotions do you feel your film brings forth in viewers?

Marc:  I hope that the audience will feel inspired to rethink their own situation. Already the fact to find 30 minutes of peaceful free time and having the access to technology to make it possible to watch BON VOYAGE makes us privileged. With privilege comes social responsibility.

FilmCourage:  How long did it take you to write the screenplay for BON VOYAGE?

Marc:  I was working for three months on BON VOYAGE. It took me around five drafts. It’s 15 pages, but very fast-paced.

While I write I share my scripts with many. I like to expose my work-in-progress-material to an audience. Not because I am not sure how it is, but I like to test it.

FilmCourage:  Where do you write and with what?

Marc:  My laptop. Always at a desk. BON VOYAGE was written in a boat shed in Malta, an Airbnb apartment in Istanbul, my grandmother’s kitchen table in Switzerland, and my desk in New York.


FilmCourage:  Do you listen to music when you write?

Marc:  No, I could not concentrate. I like to listen to music between the writing.

FilmCourage:  Where did you cast your actors from?  How did you audition them?

Marc:  We’ve only casted the sailors so far, the characters of Reto and Silvia. I had the pleasure to work with the fantastic casting director Susan Maller from Zurich. The casting for Abel, Dora, Maha and the other Syrian refugees will be done in Istanbul with a Turkish casting director.

FilmCourage:  Have you ever cast an actor you’ve never met in person?  If they were right for a role, how did you know?

Marc:  Yes, I saw him only on Skype first: Darri Ingolfsson. He was playing Gunnar in my last short film, HOTEL PENNSYLVANIA. He was in LA, I was in NYC. We had no budget for casting-travels. He was so convincing during two Skype-sessions. But after I met him in person for the rehearsals and costume-fittings, I got very unsure. He was so different then I imagined him. But once we where shooting, in front of the camera, he was amazing. Topping my expectations. I guess he needs a camera. A web-cam, or a film-camera… Just a camera..


FilmCourage:  Have you ever assembled your team without meeting someone in person? How did you know it would work?

Marc:  Casting and putting together you key team is one of the most important tasks for a director. You must at least talk to you key crew members before hiring them. On the phone, on Skype. There are so many possibilities for communication this days. But you must feel a vibe, chemistry, and a connection. I also need to admire them. I want to work with people I can look up to and learn from.

Annelore Sarbach as Sylvia
FilmCourage:  How do you know when your story’s finished, when to walk away?Marc: It never is finished. Only after locking the edit. Or wait, stop…. Even the music can still change the story. But for the screenplay I usually organize a reading and have actors read out the story to an audience. I watch the faces of the people listening, and then I know if it is ready to be shot or not.
Someone said: You write your films three times: When you write, when you film and when you edit. I think this is very much true.
FilmCourage:  BON VOYAGE will be your 4th short film.  How far have you come as a storyteller after making 3 films?  What have you improved on?  Any mistakes you felt were made previously?Marc:  I explored the visual side of story telling first. My second short, TWILIGHT, was uber-visual. Today I am ashamed about the weak story but the atmosphere, created by camera, light, sound and music is still capturing me. HOTEL PENNSYLVANIA, my second film, was the opposite. I wanted to focus on characters, dialogue. BON VOYAGE is bringing it all together now, but strong, dramatic storytelling is the key focus.
Stephane Maeder as Reto
FilmCourage:  Do you have the location picked out for BON VOYAGE?  Have you previously been there?


Marc:  We are going to shoot off the coast of Antalya. I have been to Turkey many times, but not to the south-east-Mediterranean sea.  If the crowdfunding goes well, I will start a precise scouting beginning of January.

FilmCourage:  What’s next for you creatively?

Marc:  Turning the novel THE SAINT OF THE IMPOSSIBLE into a feature film. A New York story about two Peruvian teen-brothers, their beautiful mother, a mysterious Ukrainian girl and a romantic pulp fiction novelist. I will shoot it with the same team I am, fingers crossed, shooting BON VOYAGE with.



Born in 1976 in Switzerland, Marc has Swiss-British citizenship.

At the age of five, he moved with his family to the Island of Crete. This was an important period in Marc’s childhood, leaving neat Switzerland behind, finding his new home surrounded by the wild beaches of the Mediterranean sea, making friends with snakes and turtles. This is where he started to enjoy storytelling by recording audio-plays with his dusty battery powered tape-recorder.  Moving to Germany in his early teens, he discovered photography. From then on he spent his sunny afternoons in the darkroom, developing pictures. He skipped class to spend as much time as possible with his camerawork.

At 16, during a student exchange in New Zealand, he shot his first short film on Super 8: BREAKINGOUT. It premiered during a youth film festival in Germany. Finishing school early, he taught himself the craft of filmmaking on location, working in different departments in over 10 feature film projects all over Europe.

In 1997 he founded KINOHERZ, a board of young directors aiming at creating short movies. He produced the short film NASS and the international award winning short LEROY CLEANS UP. The second short he directed, TAKSI MUNICH, won BEST SHORT COMEDY at the WorldFest Film Festival in Houston/USA and the GOLDEN HOPE AUDIENCE AWARD in Munich.

When he was just 23, the directors’ group YOUNG GUNS recognized Marc as an emerging talent for commercials. In 2003 he was chosen as one of Saatchi’s 25 top ‘Young Directors’ in the world. In the same year he won his first Golden Lion for the commercial GAME OVER for ‘Doctors without boarders’.

His New York based short film, HOTEL PENNSYLVANIA, premiered in 2013. It was an official selection of many festivals around the globe and awarded with jury- and audience-prizes. While directing over 200 commercials and music videos, Marc has shot in every continent for clients like BMW, SPRINT, MERCEDES-BENZ, UNIVERSAL, BMG, T-MOBILE, NIVEA and SONY ERICSSON. A European who winks to America, he calls his approach to filming anti-intellectual, and his relation to life naïve with a purpose.

Through his rigorous commitment to the camera and elegant use of postproduction and sound, he entertains himself and the viewer alike with a poetic touch of provocative surrealism that is his signature. Beside preparing the filming of his short film BON VOYAGE, he is in development for his debut feature film THE SAINT OF THE IMPOSSIBLE.

Marc resides in New York City and Berlin.


AWARDS (Selection):

2013 PRIX SPECIAL DU JURY at the Le Nuits Meds France for HOTEL PENNSYLVANIA (short)
2013 PREMIERE at the Clermont-Ferrand Festival for HOTEL PENNSYLVANIA (short)
2012 EPICA D’ORE for THE BUS (tvc)
2012 GOLD, EUROBEST for THE BUS (tvc)
2013 BRONZE, Best Director, LONDON INTERNATIONAL for THE BUS (tvc)
2010 GOLD for ANGEL FRANKY at the EDIs in Switzerland (tvc)
2010 Shortlist in CANNES for ANGEL FRANKY (tvc)
2010 GOLD for ANGEL FRANKY at the Cross Media Awards (tvc)
2007 BRONZE at the EPICA festival for TRANSPARENT CITY (tvc)
2004 Gold at Promax & BDA Awards New York for the MDR Station Design, FEEL AT HOME
2003 GOLD LION in Cannes, for the film for decines Sans Frontires, GAME OVER
2003 Shortlist in CANNES for Riccardo Cartillone, HAND FOOT
2003 Saatchi presents Marc as one of the top 25 New Directors in CANNES.
2001 Gold “Best Foreign Comedy Short”, Houston/USA for The short film TAKSI MUNICH
2000 Silver at the “Golden Hope” awards for the short film TAKSI MUNICH