Each year, Talent Campus offers five young directors the opportunity to make a short film from scratch. Bryn Chainey – a Berlin-based, Australia-bred 23-year-old – is one of this year’s finalists. His film, Jonah and the Vicarious Nature of Homesickness, tells the strange story of a man who leaves his home without explanation and floats through outer space in a boat, only communicating with his family through an answering machine. It will premiere at the opening of the Berlinale Talent Campus on February 13 and is in the running for the Berlin Today Award. [Editor’s note: Chainey won the prize at the ceremony on February 14.]
How did you become involved with the Berlin Today Award?
There was a long application process. Once you’ve been accepted to the Talent Campus, you can apply for the Berlin Today Award section, which is for the directors. I think of the 350 people in the Campus, 250 of them put in ideas. And then they let me know in January  that my idea had been shortlisted. So at [last year’s] festival, the 15 directors had to pitch in front of a bunch of producers and the jury – to explain the film and what we wanted to do and then go to meetings with a bunch of producers to try to make a connection with someone.
I hate producers. I really hate pitching. I hate all that stuff. I was terrified. So it was a very stressful experience. I didn’t actually go to any Talent Campus events like the workshops and lectures because I was a wuss. Plus, I had these RBB TV people doing a documentary about the Talent Campus at the time, so they were following me around, doing interviews at the same time. The whole week was just this intense confrontation with all the things I was afraid of.
But you managed to come out of it alive, and successful?
I came out of it with a film deal. And it was nice. It is a competition, but it’s not competitive. It’s more like speed dating or matchmaking, where a director has to find a producer and they click and you make the film. And I found a producer. She liked me and I liked her, so we got the film going.
How did you get the idea for your film?
I think ideas are like soup. They’re a mixture of all the things you’ve been feeling and experiencing for the last few months, years, whatever. They go in and they all blend up and become a big mess. And then you have to turn on the tap and bits of goop come out. So there wasn’t a specific thing that made me think of the story. When I sit down to write, something comes out. And it usually surprises me.
Can homesickness really be vicarious?
I’ve been away from home for almost two years now. My family’s in Australia; I’m in Europe. Whenever I talk to them and they say that they miss me, I miss them even more. And when I tell my mum that I miss her, she starts to cry and says, ’I really miss you too.’ When somebody misses you, it makes you miss them more. And so in that way, your homesickness is vicarious. And I find that that’s what I’m experiencing right now.
Do you feel like you’re in outer space over here?
Yeah, for sure… but I don’t think the film’s about me. Although one day I probably will be Jonah. I will be a man with a big beard. That is actually my dream – to become a hermit. I will probably end up going mental and disappearing into some hole somewhere and living in my own little private world. It’s tragic.
Do you think you’re going to win?
I don’t know. It’s corny, but we already won, the five of us. We got to make films and that’s the biggest prize. We got a fair amount of money to make a really stupid film. And nowhere else I can imagine people letting me do that. I don’t really care about the award, though I’m a bit nervous about it and I wish I wasn’t. But that’s not important. The important thing is – we made a film! And besides, there is no prize attached at to it. It’s just a trophy. And who cares about trophies?
What would you like the audience to say or feel after seeing your film?
Something. A lot of people don’t say anything when they leave the cinema. They go out quietly. I want them to say something, whether they love it or hate it. I would like a feeling to be generated. If they go, “Hey, Jonah was such a douchebag! I can’t believe he did that!”, that’s perfect. But if somebody walks out and says, “That was a really well-made film”, I’d hate that.