Director Robin Trouillet’s student short Turning Man – 81RPM (Der Dreher – 81RPM) is a declaration of love to music, dancing and rebellion. A documentary centred around Engineer, Inventor and gifted frisbee player Jürgen Leppert, an 81 year old hard raver whose passion for speakers and rave culture is as strong as it ever has been. Trouillet portrays Leppert through a mixture of both fly-on-the-wall interview segments and colourful, staged compositions which underpin his ongoing and feverish rebellious mentality. It’s an exuberant and, importantly, fully-rounded portrait of an individual who has, and always will, swim against the stream. DN is proud to premiere Turning Man – 81RPM on our pages today next to an in-depth discussion with Trouillet which covers his spontaneous discovery of Leppert, the mixture of staged and organic elements of his filmmaking practice and his aspiration to curate fully-rounded portraits of unique people.
Where did you first come across Jürgen and what made you want to make a doc about him?
Our Cameraman Josua Wielandt and I met in our local pub and we decided that we wanted to make a film together, but we still lacked an idea. A few hours later, he told me that a colleague of his once heard about an old man with a long white beard from Karlsruhe who has crazy loudspeakers in his showroom window and goes to techno raves at night.
That sounded very interesting to me because I like doing portraits. I called Jürgen Leppert Lautsprecher the next day – the three of us arranged to meet for a talk and red wine at Jürgen’s place, and after that it was clear that we would make a film.
It is always important to us that there is enough room for freedom, if something comes up well or someone has an idea, then there must be time for it.
And what were the next steps? Were you free to film with him for a few days? How much planning went into your interview time with him?
We met in spring and then shot for three days at the beginning of August. We had planned the locations and also the actions such as dancing in the improvised club, playing Frisbee in the park or working in the workshop, etc… A few shots were also planned, but a lot of shots were made during the shoot itself. It is always important to us that there is enough room for freedom, if something comes up well or someone has an idea, then there must be time for it, but a basic plan is always obligatory, in the end the plan gives you the freedom for improvised scenes.
I wanted to ask about the form of the documentary because it blends those conversational, fly-on-the-wall moments with staged elements, how did you arrive any that approach?
Our goal was to make a cinematic portrait of Jürgen that does justice to his kind. I also like to push the boundaries of the classic documentary style and try to create images that convey deeper emotions. We wanted to show his enthusiasm, his conviction, his passion, but also his anger. Jürgen is a tough and unique person, a genius with enormous stamina and that impressed us a lot. And it’s just nice to see and talk to someone who is so into his element and lets us share his experiences.
What would you say was the most challenging aspect of putting this film together?
The balancing act of bringing all this into a form that has a thread and a drive was the biggest challenge. We wanted to stay under ten minutes and the first version was 20 or 25 minutes long. That’s normal in the process and we then worked our way up to fourteen minutes, that we were happy with.
There’s a lot of music featured in the film, of course. Did Jürgen help pick any of the tracks? And how was it obtaining them to use?
In the editing process, we sat down and tried out different pieces of music that we thought would fit well and Jürgen signed off on them. We then sent the respective artists the version of the film and asked them if we could use their track, but that we didn’t have the money for any licenses. The budget for the whole film was €600, as we got the equipment from the university. Fortunately, everyone liked the film and agreed, which was the best thing that can happen.
We wanted to show his enthusiasm, his conviction, his passion, but also his anger.
Now that the film is finished and you’ve reached that final milestone of sharing it online how are you reflecting back on the process of making it?
In February 2021, the film was finished, and we were happy with it because it was a more or less spontaneous idea and we just felt like doing a film project together and it kind of worked. After more than about 60 festival participations and 20 international prizes and awards, we are now more than happy to make the film available to everyone.
You mentioned earlier that the film was originally 25 minutes long, what were the main differences between that cut and the final edit?
Since the post-production was more than two years ago, I can no longer say for sure. But we definitely had three and a half to four hours of interview material and the task was to find a form for it and show the essence. We cut down from the first longer version, it may have been only 20 minutes until there was nothing unnecessary in our opinion. Then we added some statements that we found important and in the end, we ended up with a length of 14:05 minutes.
Is there anything you can tell us about your next project?
I am currently in post-production for my mid-length film Psychobilly Fever Dream, which we shot in October 2022. A fictional story about two dropouts who meet through the music of the psych rock band The Cramps and decide to live in silence away from civilisation.