One may think, there is hardly anything students don’t know about the AAU professors in such a small university as the Anglo-American. Every week we meet them to discuss serious issues and listen to their wisdom shared during a lecture; we are used to rely on their opinion and trust their life experience. However, there is a whole other world hidden behind the mask of a strict but fair professor. And Robert Ellmann is a living proof of it.
Every year professor Ellmann teaches six courses in three different departments of the Anglo-American. Educated at the University of Michigan and Cambridge, he constantly has articles in progress and even published a book in Economics. It would seem, there is no time for a hobby in his life. Nevertheless, to the question about his interests Ellmann ordinarily replies, “I make movies.”
In 1999, Ellmann debuted with Tennis Match, a short surrealistic film shot in the best traditions of George Melies with the use of revolutionary at that time animation technology. “An evil company controls tennis and only a dead zombie and a dog can stop it,” that’s the premise of his Kafkaesque motion picture. Reflecting Ellmann’s Czech experience, a lot of symbols from the country’s history are used in seemingly not serious struggle between Nike and Reebok at the Wimbledon championship.
Barrandov studious and FAMU animators had a hand in making the movie; and, although, most of the parts were played by the lawyers, famous Czech actor Jiří Schwarz had one of the main roles. All the efforts in making Tennis Match payed Ellmann off more than once, for the film was warmly accepted in many International festivals and eventually bought by MTV Europe, which came as an honour for a novice director.
Steve Preisler, also known under the name of Uncle Fester, was the object of Ellmann’s second 40-minute film Friction. Czech television hired him to make an animated documentary on any subject of his choice and Ellmann went with a story of “a founding father of Breaking Bad TV show,” as he calls the American scientist. Preisler even came to Prague for 10 days of shooting in Ellmann’s, indeed, bizarre film.
“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligary sets the bar on the minimum you have to do take make a film today,” says Ellmann, describing old German movie that serves as his inspirational subject. Only silent motion pictures he recognises as the real non-theatrical moviemaking and their influence can clearly be seen in his works.
These film experiences eventually led Ellman to the current project, his first animated feature film Twice Upon a Time. He is now working in collaboration with Kino Svetozor and Czech Toy Company “Efco,” that have already made a few hundred of toys for the project. As Ellmann shares, the story will be about a boy and a girl who use a time travel machine on Valentines day to go back in time and undo their life mistakes. He is hoping to finish the production process in a year.
By Karina Verigina