Nowadays it can be quite difficult to explain to your older relatives what the job you’re doing is actually about. For example if your title is, Marketing and Community Growth Manager. ‘We make movies for the new media,’ is what Julia Wilczok, one half of directors duo Acapulco told her grandparents to paraphrase her profession. ‘That’s even how they explain it to their neighbours by now.’
She and Nadine Schrader, the other half of Acapulco started their career in television, a rather old school business from today’s perspective. ‘We first met in early 2000,’ Nadine remembers. ‘We both worked as editors for a music television show, back in the days when music television still deserved that title.’ As is widely known that era has long gone and the two moved on, working in different cities, even continents. It was at a friend’s New Year’s Eve party in Berlin some years later that their paths crossed again by chance.
Though television and the music industry had changed dramatically in the meantime, their interest in working with moving images had not. Unsurprisingly, the two still shared their love for music too. Nadine enjoyed Berlin’s nightlife as a part time DJ while Julia refers to herself as a ‘heavy fangirl’ not mentioning though which artists that fandom was all about and when it stopped.
This much is certain: their musical preferences didn’t include the 80’s band The Four Tops although one might guess so given the name Acapulco. The thirty-four and thirty-eight year old founded the enterprise in 2014, a few years after their second encounter. ‘We simply picked Acapulco because we liked the sound and the certain 80’s decadence that is related to it. Apart from that, the letters look really nice,’ Nadine explains. ‘Another positive effect about our name is that it makes us top position in everyone’s address book.’
This fact might actually be helpful especially when considering that the two started their own business ‘from the bottom,’ as they put it. They were familiar with developing ideas for different TV and internet formats as well as producing them. However, none of them had studied direction nor had their names ever appeared in the credits of any show or commercial they had been involved with. They founded Acapulco to finally change that fact. It was about time to become the ones in charge of creative decisions.
Fake It Till You Make It
The less practical skills necessary for being a directors duo they had to pick up along the way. How do you win potential clients over when a proper portfolio doesn’t even yet exist? According to Julia it’s the Catch me if you can-effect, ‘you have to go out there and introduce yourself as a director to make people believe so. But in the beginning I sometimes cringed when someone else introduced us that way.’ Nadine found men in the industry having less problems being confident and showing off, ‘every Tom, Dick and Harry calls himself a photographer or director. You have to learn to be that bold, too.’ That doesn’t prevent skeptics. A former colleague once told Julia and Nadine with a quite patronizing attitude that ‘direction duo is not a proper job description.’
Whatever led to this presumption, it’s hard to imagine it was this duo’s professional appearance. When they speak about their job they do it with a sobriety and self-assurance that conveys years of experience and knowledge. It’s hard to miss that they work together perfectly, there’s no sense of competition to be spotted between them. Nadine and Julia never interrupt each other, they share their speaking time equally and just when the whole conversation is about to become all too mature, their sense of humor makes itself felt, ‘we’ve actually never won a pitch for a TV commercial… this is the saddest interview ever.’
The first year of self-employment tends to be tough for the most, but when asked if they can make a living from their work they answer happily, ‘right now we can!’ It’s not their only success. There’s Young Hearts, for example, a movie the two shot at a Berlin disco for elderly couples. A Swiss pastor who had seen it called them to ask for permission to show it in his parish because he wanted ‘to give people hope’. Also, it caught the attention of National Geographic on whose website it was presented. The jury of a German Film Festival even encouraged the young directors to submit Young Hearts.
(See the video below this article)
National Geographic Comes Knocking
‘What I love about this job, is that every day is different,’ Julia says. ‘It doesn’t get boring.’ That translates for example, into walking through knee-high mud with heavy equipment for one and a half hours at Wacken festival. Wacken is a small place in Northern Germany where the world’s biggest heavy metal festival is held once a year. Nadine and Julia went there to shoot a ‘half-documentary short movie’ for Facebook’s Smart Heroes campaign aiming to reward a German NGO for their social involvement in AIDS prevention.
By the time Julia and Nadine had arrived at the actual festival area together with their fully equipped cameraman, the metal fans (some of which still needed to be casted for this clip) had already spent three days and nights celebrating (and of course, drinking) in between heavy rain and pyrotechnics. ‘It was not as glamorous as directing commercials might sound,’ Nadine concludes with a smile. Her partner says, ‘if you do what we do you have to accept there are no short-cuts. You don’t switch from being an editor in film production to shooting high-key commercials in one day.’
But that is, of course, what they dream of for their future. ‘We’d love to do a car commercial – if such big TV commercials still exist in a couple of years. Another plan would be to develop Acapulco into a production company with further employees who focus on production, so Julia and I can focus on directing and keep on specialising in online ads and branded content.’ It’ll be interesting to see how these two fresh faced female directors might shape that genre.
If you want to learn more about Acapulco Film’s work you can visit their website here.