• Franz Böhm © Greg Funnell
    Directing with


Franz Böhm © Greg Funnell

There’s no need to even mention the hackneyed cliché of the directorial wunderkind when it comes to Franz Böhm. True, the young filmmaker is just 22 years old and made his feature film debut with the documentary DEAR FUTURE CHILDREN in 2021. But his career to date owes less to a wonder and more to hard work, good planning and a great deal of determination.

Böhm, who was born near Stuttgart in 1999, discovered his love and passion for film as a prepubescent teenager. Things were not always easy at home, so films became a bit of an escape from everyday life for him; a “safe space“, as he himself puts it in our conversation. The multitude of participants mentioned in the credits soon awakened his interest in how things actually happen during the making of a film – and the dream of being there himself one day. But instead of shooting clips with his cell phone camera or waiting until it was time to apply for a degree in direction after leaving school, the teenager opted for learning by doing.

He took jobs and worked as an intern on sets in the area, from commercial shoots to feature films. “From the first time I made coffee and blocked off the street as a set runner, I immediately knew that this was the right environment for me, that it was where I saw my future,“ he recalls. It quickly became clear to him that the director‘s job was particularly exciting, but that‘s exactly why Böhm thought it was important to gain some insight into as many different film professions as possible: “I asked practi­cally everyone I met on set what makes a good director. And quite often the answer was that he really knows his way around the individual departments and their work.“

It didn‘t take long for him to put the experience he had gained into practice. At the age of 16, he made his first short film; in 2017, the medium-length documentary CHRISTMAS WISHES about youth homelessness was the opening film at the BW Youth Film Award, followed two years later by the short GOOD LUCK at the British Independent Film Festival. Still, a first feature-length film before his 30th birthday? Unrealistic, Böhm was told repeatedly, but he didn‘t let that discourage him: after all, at the premiere of DEAR FUTURE CHILDREN at the Max Ophüls Prize Film Festival he was only 21 years old. The film, which was largely crowdfunded, and for which he and his team accompanied three young activists in Hong Kong, Uganda and Chile, subsequently won the audience award at the Hot Docs Festival. It was released in German, Canadian, Swiss and British cinemas in the autumn of 2021, when Böhm had just begun studying for a master’s degree at the National Film and Television School in London.

Incidentally, he does not see himself as a purely documentary filmmaker; the next project, currently in preparation, is to be fictional. “I think less in terms of genres or formats – in fact, it does not even necessarily have to be the medium of film. For me, the story and the topic are most important – and the question of how I can best serve them,“ Böhm emphasizes in our interview. What‘s also crucial for him is that it‘s about something real. His goal, according to his homepage, are “Brave, impactful films which address certain humanitarian issues,“ as he firmly believes that “films can highlight social problems in a more impactful and accessible way than any other medium.“ Böhm is willing to go to great lengths for this mission, as the work on DEAR FUTURE CHILDREN emphatically demonstrated. During filming, he and his team witnessed people being beaten up and arrested or even losing their lives for their activism; they themselves received death threats and were victims of systematic hacking attacks. “We were prepared for that,“ Böhm assures me, emphasizing, “Once we‘ve decided on a story, there‘s no going back. Then we’re ready to give everything for it, come what may.“

He often says “we,“ by the way, because the fact that filmmaking is primarily teamwork is something he has internalized since his first filming experiences as a teenager. “It‘s important to me to create an atmosphere in which everyone can give 100%,“ says Böhm, who has little use for the time-honoured idea of the auteur filmmaker. “It‘s like the manager of a soccer team. That‘s why you‘ll never read in the credits of my films: A film by Franz Böhm!“ Does that sound a bit ambitious for a young guy in his early 20s? Maybe. But so far, Böhm has always done very well with clear goals, good planning and a lot of determination.

Patrick Heidmann