CSI Hamburg – Lecturer & Students win Film Prizes

This year, Hamburg film lecturer Sven Knüppel and his team of students have scored at various film festivals with their educational environmental thriller "The Balloonmurderer". The Moscow International Children's Film Festival awarded it the prize for "Best Narrative Short"; at the Golden Harvest Film Festival in Tokyo, the film won two awards in the categories "Best Short" and "Best Drama". The short film with celebrity cast playfully points out the dangers and effects of environmental pollution. How much work is actually behind such a short film and why the film is not only for children: Director, author and POP lecturer Sven reveals. 

Murder Ahoy!

Scene: A harsh wind is blowing, salt water is in the air. The police-gulls Eggers and Lenni are faced with a mystery - a murder occurred at the Elbe. The victim: a sea bird, the weapon: a balloon?! The police team in charge is baffled - what happened here? The chief is outraged; the murder must be solved as quickly as possible. Not only the dynamic detective duo is on the case; also Miss Gloria (the Miss Marple of seagulls) investigates on her own. Who killed the sea bird? The tricky part: anyone could have done it.

Entertainment with a clear message

In an interview, Sven tells us that the short film was made in cooperation with the environmental organization Sea Shepherd. The aim is to draw special attention to the (unconscious) dangers of environmental pollution. Who would suspect that helium balloons could be dangerous? Strange, when you think about it, because every balloon sooner or later pollutes the environment, lands in the sea and can even kill its inhabitants. A dilemma, finds the POP lecturer, because "the balloon is also a symbol of childlike joy and harmlessness". This was also one of the reasons why he and his team chose the puppet format:

„Children react very differently to a film than to a lecture. The puppets make everything much more tangible and emotional".

The Balloonmurderer makes use of classic (and somewhat clichéd) detective movie elements and is thus not only for kids. Some references also appeal to the adult viewers; for example, the clown from Stephen King's "IT" makes a small guest appearance. The end result is not instructive, but entertaining and "provides the necessary aah-moment for children to get the message".  Environmental pollution is a sensitive issue that deserves a lot of attention and, above all, a proper approach. The film is therefore also aimed at adults, hoping to shed light on ways of thinking such as Oh, it's just a plastic bottle/cigarette butt. 

Together towards the finish line 

This is not the first environmental film for the filmmaker from Gula Mons Filmsyndikat. He previously made a 2-minute educational film on beach cleaning in cooperation with Sea Shepherd, which received a lot of positive feedback. Sven sees each production as an opportunity for his students to gain first-hand experience and collect material for their portfolio: "I usually involve students in my projects." For example, the team for Balloonmurderer consisted of about 35 students, teachers and alumni who took care of the production, including catering, setup, lighting, set design and much more. There is more work behind a film production than one might first suspect, he said, because "there are a lot of functions that have to be taken care of in the background to make everything work." Fortunately, many creative departments converge at United POP, so finding a team was not too difficult. For example, the costumes were created in the fashion department, makeup and hair were done by a lecturer in the makeup department, and the backyard of the Hamburg POP quickly became a film set.

Iconic gulls and celbrity cast 

During casting, it was important to the team to land a celebrity acting crew, since star cast usually helps with the success of the final product. Through his profession, Sven had already gathered many contacts to agencies and actors, which were very helpful in finding the right celebrities. In the end, the team managed to convince Herbert Knaup and Francis Fulton-Smith of the good cause of this production; and even Prince Albert of Monaco made a small guest appearance. However, the actors only had a few hours; so the Balloonmurderer team had to plan ahead very well, coordinate and work under real conditions. This was partly challenging, but most of all fun. The two main characters are little celebrities, too: The North German seagulls Eggers and Lenni already have cult status and their own YouTube channel. 

Good cause, good feedback

After the product was final, the team applied at several film festivals, which has already resulted in 3 awards. Well-deserved - the educational short production, which addresses current environmental issues and brings children and adults together, has been incredibly well received! Of course, such a success also looks great in the portfolio of students and alumni. Who knows, maybe the future holds more prizes in store; there are still a few festivals to come. The overjoyed team is currently shooting thank-you-clips, which you can watch on the Eggers & Lenni channel.

Congratulations to all participants for their success, keep it up! 

This might also interest you