Private Project

Dreams of Reality

Actually the day starts like any other for Lea, a backpacker from a foreign country, but soon the familiar serenity of her current whereabouts begins to show some unexpected downsides. The all too common dream of a perfect, idyllic lifestyle becomes a full-blown nightmare.

First Lea can’t quite pin down what it is but something about her surroundings seems to be slightly off and starts to appear a little surreal. She walks down a road along some beautiful gardens and estates. It is a hot day which contributes to her feeling of disorientation and she decides to sit down in a cafe at the esplanade to refresh her mind with an iced chocolate. She gets drawn into the conversations around her and at some point she notices that they are repeated among the people at the different tables. After a while she begins to see plastic mannequins instead of the cafe guests as their perfect doubles, still continuously repeating the same superficial chatter and the same shallow topics.
This is too much for Lea. Doubting her sanity she runs off the cafe, down to the beach, to clear her mind. On her way she meets more mannequins, all of them neatly blending into the picturesque scenery. At the beach the same sight: lifeless perfectly styled dolls meticulously arranged along the tranquil coastline. Suddenly she perceives something in the distance that sounds like a human voice, desperately crying for help. There seems to be a woman struggling and potentially drowning in the sea. Lea tries to get the attention of one of the mannequins, that lies next to her in the sand, but neither her nor any of the others seem to react at all, so she decides to swim towards the victim alone. It is a shock for her to realize that the person she lifts out of the water is in fact just another mannequin. Whilst she frantically swims back to the shore she notices a few mannequins standing there and watching her. When she comes closer they block her way, so she can not step out. Even though Lea pleads with them to let her through the dolls show no mercy and threateningly move in closer, as the mannequin that she tried to save before approaches her from the back. Lea gets dragged under water and struggles for her life until her strength slowly ceases, whilst the dolls’ beautiful frozen faces still show no hint of emotion.

The question stays open whether Lea really gives in and dies or whether she only just dies to the meaningless illusions around her and maybe just pretends to become one of them.

  • Stefanie Hoefgen
    Director
  • Maree Gutterson
    Writer
    "Dreams of Reality" Screenplay
  • Boyan Penev
    Writer
    "Sand and Wax" Short Story
  • Stefanie Hoefgen
    Producer
  • Stefanie Hoefgen
    Key Cast
    “Lea”
  • Nancy Morrison
    Key Cast
    “Ainslie”
  • Luzio Grossi
    Key Cast
    “Waiter”
  • Roxanne Fernandes
    Key Cast
    “Girl 1”
  • Kristen Cunningham
    Key Cast
    “Girl 2”
  • Rebecca Mezei
    Key Cast
    “Girl 3”
  • Asleen Mauthoor
    Key Cast
    “Girl 4”
  • Emily MacFarlane
    Key Cast
    “Girl 5”
  • Kate Jackson
    Key Cast
    “Girl 6”
  • Paola Chirico
    Key Cast
    “Girl 7”
  • Robin Brown
    Key Cast
    “Man 1”
  • David Nash
    Key Cast
    “Man 2”
  • Pete Stannard
    Music & Sound Design
  • Daniel Villalobos
    Location Sound
  • Tim Folk
    Cinematography
  • Kelvin (Ka) Cheung
    Cinematography
  • Liz Jenkinson
    Styling Supervision
  • Stéphane Ma
    Colour Grading
  • Project Type:
    Short, Student
  • Genres:
    Psychological, Thriller
  • Runtime:
    9 minutes 26 seconds
  • Completion Date:
    August 24, 2020
  • Production Budget:
    5,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    Germany
  • Country of Filming:
    Australia
  • Language:
    English
  • Shooting Format:
    Digital
  • Aspect Ratio:
    16:9
  • Film Color:
    Color
  • First-time Filmmaker:
    No
  • Student Project:
    Yes
Director Biography - Stefanie Hoefgen

Stefanie has always had a passion for artistic expression of all kinds, and in filmmaking it all comes together for her: the story, the music, the visual aspects and the action.

“Dreams of Reality” is her third short film and also her biggest endeavour as a filmmaker so far. Her two previous films “Re-entry”, a music video, and “Rausch”, a fashion/arthouse film, have each been selected into 3 film festivals, with the most notable one of them probably being the Miami Fashion Film Festival. On top of the official selections the films went on to garner 1 semi-finalist and 2 finalist upgrades altogether. Out of practicality Stefanie usually works behind as well as in front of the camera, doubling up for various roles, to lift her projects off the ground.
Apart from her participation in several drama classes in Germany and abroad her formal education amounts to a Fine Art major from high school (Gymnasium) and a minor from university, plus internships at Bavaria Film Studios and Radio Energy, and also a position as a production assistant at RTL München Live, a former local TV station in Munich, where she is born and raised. Over the years she has gained professional experience as an actress, model, singer and dancer in an international environment, and in 2011 she received a best actress award at the Ignite Film Festival in Sydney, Australia, for the short film “Take it on”, produced by the Salvation Army, which also aired on national television over Christmas. In addition it was also her practical experience in photo shoots and other film and music projects in collaboration with like-minded artists, that have helped her artistic and personal development immensely.

For more information and for a display of some of her work please feel free to visit her website www.stefaniehoefgen.com.

Add Director Biography
Director Statement

Aren’t we more and more losing focus of the things that really matter in this world?
At least we largely do in the modern, well developed parts of it. Otherwise how would it be possible that some of us live in abundance and luxury, mainly focusing on humanistic values of self-interest at the cost of mother nature, whilst others don’t have a roof above their heads and still starve to death?
In fact I often feel that especially our Western society actually intends to keep its population ignorant by promoting a stereotypical way of thinking that should numb us with superficial ideas and the striving for outward perfection in order to keep us integrated in the ruthless wheel of mass production and financial gain. A way of escape from this predominant mindset seems to be almost impossible, particularly for people who have never left this environment and can’t set it off against the advantages of less profit oriented ways of living. They are oftentimes not even aware of the destructive power of the system, and therefore they wouldn’t be able to even just partially eliminate it from their way of thinking, which is symbolized in the film as dying to it or likewise waking up from it.
I have also met a fair amount of people who are aware of their circumstances and do actually feel deeply unhappy and trapped in their way of living, but they wouldn’t have the strength and courage to free themselves from it. Driven by this feeling of unfulfillment and dissatisfaction they then turn towards measures of easing their pain. Substance abuse is the obvious one, but there are the drugs that are a lot more socially acceptable and gain a lot more positive attention such as entertainment in all shapes and forms, workaholistic tendencies, excessive shopping and unnatural ways of improving outward appearances. Sadly, with those people staying conformed to the system they thus strengthen it and unwillingly add to the pressure on those who do try to free themselves and others. Interpersonal interaction has become rarer in our society since everything is digitalized and automated, and true outreaches of care and empathy have become so sparse that people tend to stay alone with their problems, focusing mainly on themselves and their image to feel valuable, slowly mutating into calculating machines and robotically tending to their everyday duties in order to fit into a lifeless system.
I myself felt choked by these feelings several years ago in my home country Germany, until I finally decided to make a rigorous cut in my life and to set off with nothing more than a 15 kg backpack for the following years to travel to the other end of the world, Australia and New Zealand, to broaden my horizon. I can truly say that, being detached from all my familiar influences down there, I had the unique opportunity to really find my inner middle. The images of the untouched natural reserves and the simple life of the happy, friendly people in the outback inspire me to this day. Since then it seems that my artistic flow is stronger than ever, and among many other creative projects it was “Dreams of Reality” that was developed and shot there.
It all started when my boyfriend at the time introduced me to some of the short stories he had written. I right away connected and identified with the story “Sand and Wax”, which was also well received when published online, and I thought instantly that this subject matter would provide great material for a short film. I faced big challenges in the making of this film from that point onwards until the very end, which was pretty much a decade on and off. One of the reasons for this was because I had never been to film school or taken any classes on filmmaking, and I frankly didn’t always exactly know what I was doing. In fact I mainly relied on my creative instincts and my common sense, plus whatever information I could get online and through conversations with friends in the industry. Also, whilst I did, for the most part, have very motivated cast and crew members, I did struggle sometimes to establish a sense of leadership due to my newbie status and the fact that I in addition gradually decided to take on multiple important roles such as that of the director, producer and lead actress first, and then the role of the editor later on, as well as some other smaller tasks. Last but not least I also didn’t have the budget to pay anyone involved, so all of that was a reason for many to voice their concerns about the chances of success for this project. Indeed I can absolutely say that it wasn’t easy and that I more than once nearly gave up on the idea of ever finishing it according to my vision. I was very well aware that, with this being an unpaid project, I was totally dependent on the goodwill and motivation of my team members to finish off the not so fun parts of the production, which I wasn’t able to handle myself, and that was nothing short of nerve-racking sometimes. Without a doubt I wouldn’t have experienced nearly as many disappointments if I could have financially compensated people for their time, but that was the risk I was ready to take. The cast and crew consist of professionals, who have already been working in the industry for many years, as well as of students and like-minded artists from all kinds of backgrounds and experience levels. It is a multinational project with preproduction and production in and around Melbourne and postproduction in Munich, London and Lausanne.
Looking at the results in the retrospective I find that the core message of the film very much resembles that of “The Matrix”. The general atmosphere of a rather surreal environment, its futuristic outlook, the idea of getting “unplugged” from a system that exploits humanity and all creation, and the thrill factor that is connected with either killing or keeping an escaping individual in the system are some of the parallels I noticed. But this is something I really became aware of at the second glance, because on the first glance the two films look very different and “The Matrix”, whilst having played a part in my personal perception of society over the years, hasn’t actually played a part in the inspiration and making of “Dreams of Reality”.
Mainly inspired by the vivid language of “Sand and Wax” I was looking to convey a clean, visually perfect scenery with vibrant, bright colours and an idyllic flair displaying happy, carefree model-type actors. To put a special emphasis on the exhibition of wealth and beauty I included montages of well maintained gardens, luxurious estates and a picturesque town centre with eateries and cafes. The wellness thought is prevalent and the topics of conversation among the people are shallow, addressing materialistic values and self-idolatry. This mindset is also reflected in the inserted excerpt of the Madonna song “Material Girl” in the second montage. The musical beds for the film are going from light and serene in the beginning over to mysterious and quirky, indicating a transition to the upcoming dream sequence, to hectic and alarming with choral and almost spooky elements towards the end, with the final soundtrack conveying both melancholy and hope with a rather opulent orchestral finish, whilst the sometimes exaggerated foley elements additionally blend in to complement the scenery.
In terms of colour grading we generally went for strong contrasts, and in terms of visual effects there are the colour changes in the cafe scene, which emphasize the dreamy quality of the takes. On a less obvious note I also wanted to convey heat in different forms, which should add to the surreal tendency of the film. There is for example the scene with the steam rising up from the grid, which also hints at the ongoing sexual affair in the unseen background, and in the scene with the path through the maze of hedges there is radiating heat rising up from the tar. Both of these effects were done completely in postproduction, whereas the special effect of sizzling, melting skin on the mannequin in the red dress was done by the hair and make-up department in the preproduction process. In order to make the picture become more alive we included handheld camera footage as well.
It was also important for me to insert recurring elements, like for example the sound effect of the fly, the car engine noise, the bling effect on people’s flawless white teeth, the superficial phrase about the beautiful day, the girl in the red dress and the repeated conversations in the cafe. It is common in dreams to have recurring elements like these, but they also serve the purpose of sensitizing Lea to the fact that something is somewhat off in her environment. This is another interesting correlation with “The Matrix”, where the symbolic meaning of déjà vus comes into play. It becomes evident in both films that the things we perceive with our eyes are oftentimes deceptive illusions, that the reality we believe in is a construct of our minds and that we can really only sense the truth with our hearts.
I hope that this idea comes across to the audience by watching the film.