Her winning smile, positive energy, and passion for innovation makes her a natural Hubber. Barbara Windtner is a filmmaker and dance teacher. Her latest film, “Searching for Isolde“, a dance road-documentary about the search for choreographer and dance pioneer, Isolde Klietmann, is a heartfelt exploration of the life of its subject and a love letter to the art of dance.
Barbara is currently developing her next film. We chatted about the Hub, what inspires her, and her love of chocolate.
What brought you to the Hub?
Barbara: A friend of mine, who does workshops here at the Hub, told me to come and check it out. At the time, I had already spent around two years at home editing “Searching for Isolde” and I was just fed up with my room! I needed to be around people. So I came over to look at the Hub—I immediately liked it and decided to join.
Tell me a bit about your childhood. Where are you from?
I grew up in Sankt Florian, a small town in Upper Austria with around 6,000 people. The main attractions there are the St. Florian Monastery and my family. We go back generations—my grandparents, my parents, my parents cousins, my cousins—let’s just say that there are quite a few people with my last name! It’s a nice place in the countryside, peaceful, relaxing, and I feel that it was a great place to grow up. My grandmother had a farm so there were always animals around which was a lot of fun for my sisters and I.
How did you end up in Vienna? What do you love about the city?
I came to Vienna to study Theater and Communications. I’ve always been drawn to larger cities and I really enjoy city life—the culture that’s created in a city with lots of people so I really love Vienna. I also lived in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, and Salvador for some time and loved it there as well! It was an important experience that made me realize that although Vienna might be less vibrant than these cities, I’ve learned to appreciate some of the things that we often take for granted like safety and a well functioning public transportation system. And culturally and artistically Vienna is a very enriching city. So I am back!
What drew you to filmmaking?
As a child, I liked writing—I really wanted to tell stories or be in stories. I also liked taking pictures, composing shots, but it was mostly a hobby. When I was a teenager, my dad gave me a camera and I just filmed everything. In between having fun making James Bond-like short movies, I made a documentary about my friend’s animals. That was my first documentary. And then I kind of forgot about it all for a few years until I saw a couple of TV documentaries that I thought were really well done. At that time, I thought I was going be a radio host because I had spent quite a lot of time doing radio work in Vienna and Upper Austria during the summer holidays. But then I thought about film and just got back into it. I went to Buenos Aires to study it and together with my great film companion Iván Marín from Columbia, we did our first short documentaries. Film is the combination of everything I was ever interested in: words, image, and sound. To me, it’s the most complete art form.
What inspires you to tell stories?
Curiosity. If I don’t know something, I just want to learn it. This curiosity fuels my projects because I want to discover more about a subject. Right now I’m working on a film about motherhood and family life—things I don’t know very much about from personal experience—but I’m interested because I want to know more. Social issues also light that storytelling fire inside me. I want to shine a light on these issues because it bothers me how certain groups are treated. I’d like to think that if I tackle an important subject through a film, capture the humanity of it, the audience will leave the film and realize that in the end, we’re all one and the same.
How was the production of “Searching for Isolde”, your first feature-length film? What difficulties did you have to overcome?
The difference between “Searching for Isolde” and my other previous short films was that I made the decision that I wanted to get this film financed and have it shown in cinemas. My short films were often just me, grabbing my own camera and doing it. This time, I thought that I would get some producers on board but they ended up turning the project down because they simply weren’t particularly interested in dance. So I ended up mostly producing it myself anyway together with Ulrike Hager, who had the initial idea for the documentary. That was probably the first stumbling block. Next was the financing. We never got all the money that we needed but I pressed on anyway and kept the production going. We were lucky that a great part of the production took place in Argentina which allowed what little money we had to go further. After filming was completed, I thought things would go a little smoother but then my editor suddenly dropped out of the production. He handed me my 1 Terabyte of footage and left for another job. So I ended up having to edit the movie myself as well which took way longer than I thought it would. Fast forward a couple of years, the movie’s done and then there were distribution issues. I couldn’t find a distributor! Even though we were the opening film of the Crossing Europe Film Festival and got a lot of press, no one was interested. So I ended up taking that on as well. Looking back on it all, there were quite a few difficulties. But when you believe in a project, you just have to keep going.
Tell me about what dance means to you and what part does it play in your life?
To me, dance is the most basic thing in life—it’s through your body. To move with music, to be in contact with what I consider to be your base and essence, the body, to get in touch with the physical world, to feel rooted to the Earth—dance has had and still has a positive impact in my life. It allows me to center myself and get out of my mind for a bit. I went to a session once with a dance therapist in Brazil and we had to dance one-by-one in front of everyone which can be very embarrassing. Towards the end, he made us all jump together over and over like I’ve never jumped before. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more energy than after that class. The intensity of it was overwhelming but in a good way. Dance can have that power.
What are some films that you enjoy?
“The Gleaners and I.” A great documentary by Agnès Varda. I love how it’s very much from her personal point of view. I like Woody Allen films, the older ones, like “Annie Hall” and “Manhattan.” I find his neuroses, which I don’t understand at all, very funny. “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” I just think it’s such a beautiful film.
What food can you not live without?
Chocolate. Any kind. But mostly milk chocolate with hazelnuts!
What do you love about the Hub?
I love meeting the other members! It seems like every other day I meet someone knew. I love how many of the members are social entrepreneurs looking to make a positive impact in the world and I find that inspiring.
What else are you up to?
The Shake Off! It’s the biweekly dance sessions that I run here at the Hub. All members are welcome! You absolutely don’t need to know how to dance and most importantly, there’s no wrong way to dance! It’s a lot of fun and the idea is to take a small break from sitting in front of the computer all day, to shake off all your tensions, and to fill your body with real energy instead of that third or fourth coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I love coffee, but I believe that there is a natural energy within ourselves we can activate through some simple movements. Check the events page for the next session!