KSL MOVIE SHOW

KSL Movie Show Exclusive: Director of ‘Escape From Germany’ talks challenges of period pieces on a budget

Apr 15, 2024, 2:00 PM | Updated: 3:06 pm

Warning: Spoilers may lie ahead!

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s the Movie Show Digital Extra! When we don’t have enough time on the main show broadcast, we bring it to you on our digital platforms. In this Movie Show Digital Extra, Andy Farnsworth is joined by film director T.C. Christensen, whose new movie “Escape From Germany” opened on Thursday, April 11, 2024, in Utah theaters, with a regional distribution to follow. 

“Escape From Germany” tells the true story of how missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints were miraculously evacuated from Germany just before World War II broke out in August of 1939. 

Christensen talks about how “Escape from Germany” came to be, how long he’s been working on it, some of the challenges of shooting a period piece on an independent film budget, and what he hopes a viewer will experience when they watch it. 

Listen to the whole interview on ‘Escape from Germany’ or read it below!

Andy Farnsworth: It’s a Movie Show Digital Extra. That’s that special thing we do just for our podcast version and for our listeners where we have something we want to share with our listeners, but we just don’t have time to do it on our two-hour over-the-air show.

This is one of those times, definitely, and that’s to sit down with filmmaker T.C. Christiansen. T.C. is a long-time friend of the movie show. T.C., welcome to the Movie Show Digital Extra. I’m a digital extra, you’re a digital extra, you’ve had extra in your films… Now, we’re giving some bonus called “digital bonus”, but on the DVDs, aren’t they usually called, like, “extras”?

T.C. Christiansen: Yeah. So that’s been my goal in life — to be a digital extra.

Farnsworth: The way things are going at some point, you could be a digital extra in your own movies, right?

Christiansen: That is how it’s going. Yeah. All right. Well, then I can die now I’ve done —

Farnsworth: No, no, no, no don’t get ahead of yourself here. Well, what we’re talking about today is your brand new movie “Escape From Germany” which releases, officially — does it come out on Thursday or does it actually come out on Friday the 12th?

Christiansen: You know, they let us do a day early to help with the first weekend. But so it’s really Thursday. Yeah that it’ll be in theaters.

Farnsworth: And now this is the story of the missionaries evacuate LDS missionaries evacuation from Germany right as World War Two began in September of actually it was August of 1939 because it was the first day of the invasion was September 1st, but the, well the no way to say it any different, the miraculous way that the missionaries were able to get out of Germany and not just “oh, well, it’s time to leave everybody. Let’s get on the train and leave.”

Christiansen: That’s what it sounds like. You just say, “Oh everybody get out go”, but it wasn’t it. There were a lot of barriers to it as you say and it took some miracles and some ingenuity and sticky-to-itty for them to get out.

Farnsworth: Now we’ll go into all of that. But for my first question for you — and just for our listeners’ sake, we’ll probably talk spoilers in this podcast. So, I look at this as the companion to having seen the movie as much as anything else, like, once you’ve seen the movie, these will be the things — I saw it yesterday. So I’ve already seen it and what we’ll talk about, my goal T.C. is, you may agree or disagree with my opinion on the movie… the only thing I don’t want to do is spoil things that I want — you know, I mean, there’s a reason it’s called the theatrical experience. So first question I have for you is what made you want to tell this story right now?

Christiansen: I actually wanted to tell this story a long time ago. The right now kind of got forced on me. Mostly because of COVID, you know, I was ready to do it. We had 80% of the cast. We had the locations everything was put together to do the film and then POW! And I wasn’t willing to run out and make a film during COVID because the risk of cast getting it, or crew and then you have to shut down and there’s expenses with all that and anyway, so I’ve waited but now that we’re over all of that I could get into the locations wanted. Now I cannot worry about people getting sick and shutting us down. So now it’s the time for that. Now in in broader terms, I first heard of this story probably 13 or 14 years ago and most of those stories that I like sit and percolate and this one did for quite a few years and it took quite a few people calling me or writing me or sending me things and saying “Hey, why don’t you ever looked at this? You should look at tha.” And when that happens that’s one indicator. I know there’s something about this story that people are relating to and I take a deeper look at it.

Farnsworth: So is it something someone shared with you, or is it something you came across on your own?

Christiansen: Well, the first time I heard about it, we had just done “17 Miracles” and I was invited to a Sons of the Utah Pioneers of it and they sat me down next to an older gentleman and he got talking to me and he told me, “I was one of those missionaries that were evacuated from Germany right before World War II.” And I’m like, what? I had never heard of it. He told it as if it was kind of a thing that people knew I didn’t know it. And then years after that someone sent me a book. Terry Montague, an author from Idaho, written a book about the event and then other people started calling, you know, and then a pretty soon, you start to get serious about it. But here’s the thing I had to tell you about all that, Andy, is that this was a bigger deal. I mean, I’m talking financially. I can go get a bunch of hand carts and go out in the woods and make a film.

But this is 1939 Germany, and its trains and period cars and just a lot bigger stuff that I knew we couldn’t film at all here. And I didn’t think I could pull it off. I felt like this is too big for the amount of money that I’m able to get and responsibly spend, but I got —

Farnsworth: Responsibly spend — that’s the keyword.

Christiansen: It really is, but I got thinking about it and what if we do this instead of that, this big thing I can make it in a smaller thing I can do… and eventually got enough ideas that I fell like, yeah, now I think I’m at a point where now we can do this.

Farnsworth: Well, it’s interesting because, literally, my next question was going to be: How do you shoot a piece movie on a budget? Because by necessity almost it requires a bigger budget than you would if you could just go out and, you know, film in Utah and stuff like that. Because when you’re going to shoot period that could be location or time.

You know, you’ve got to find clothes that are appropriate to the era, at least as close as you can approximate. You’ve got a find a look at a background that doesn’t, you know — there have been some movies shot in Utah before… they were supposed to be other places.

They looked like Ivory Homes down in Draper. And it’s supposed to be in ancient times, and I struggled with that when I was watching it. So how do you do that?

Christiansen: Well, I’m also the screenwriter and so it starts there where I’m thinking in terms of not just telling the story, but how can we pull this off? And what would be an interesting location but still is doable, where we don’t have to have 1,000 extras? Is there a way we can do it with 100 extras? And you’re just looking as I’m scripting it? I’m thinking that through with every scene and tried to make sure that I don’t overextend and then get caught in those situations where you’re going, “This looks rinky dink.”

Farnsworth: So, it does help that being the writer also is that you don’t have as the directors to say, “I want to do this” and then the writer saying, “Okay, can at least eliminate that time?”

Christiansen: Well, that is I think that is a bonus. The downside is I’m not very good at any of them. So well, really, if I was going to, I mean, there were other writers I would hire, there were other directors I would hire. But it’s a way that I found that I can make movies, the stories that I want to tell and still get our investors’ money back. And that means I get to do another one.

Farnsworth: Okay, so what were some of the I guess tricks but what was some of the movie-making magic you used to create 1939 Germany? What were some locations that stood in for 1939 Germany was any of it actual Germany?

Christiansen: We didn’t want to go to Germany. You actually don’t want to go to Germany to do a Nazi film.

Learn more about why T.C. Christiansen says you don’t go to Germany to do a Nazi film like ‘Escape from Germany’ by listening to the rest of the KSL Movie Show Digital Extra below.

 

“Escape from Germany” is rated PG for thematic material and brief violence.

Listen to The Movie Show with Andy Farnsworth and Steve Salles on Fridays from 11 am to 1 pm on 102.7 FM & 1160 AM, kslnewsradio.com, or on the KSL NewsRadio App.

Follow the show on Facebook at @TheMovieShow and join The Movie Show Club for exclusive perks! Text “Movie” to 57500.

The Movie Show podcast is sponsored by Megaplex Theatres, Utah’s premiere movie entertainment company. 

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KSL Movie Show Exclusive: Director of ‘Escape From Germany’ talks challenges of period pieces on a budget