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BUSKING FOR BERLIN On The Streets For A Living

Carl Tomich

Perth film-maker/musician, Carl Tomich, spent the last two years busking in the city of Berlin and documented the experience in his film, Busking For Berlin, which screens at Defectors (upstairs at the Flying Scotsman) on Wednesday, January 7. BOB GORDON has a chat.


Describe the lead up to you arriving in Berlin and deciding to not only busk, but film the adventure…


In the lead up to my Berlin adventure I was living in Melbourne the past six years and had just started my own small business making video clips for bands but was finding it hard to break into the scene. Heaps of students were doing jobs for free just to get their foot in the door, so I decided I wanted to make a bigger project, my first, full-length movie. The idea came to me when I was asked to film a friend’s band, one night they invited me out on the streets of Melbourne to watch them perform a busking set. I was surprised at the reaction and money they made and I thought it could be an interesting idea for a film.


I had previously lived in Berlin for three months back in 2011, but couldn’t find work, so I came up with the idea to see if I could make it living as a busker in this foreign city and would capture the whole experience on film.


How many buskers are there in Berlin and how hard is it to get some footing as one of them?


The Berlin street arts scene caters for many different types of buskers, different types of performers suit different areas in Berlin; the jugglers, mimes and clowns perform at intersections, the circus folk drum up a circle of people in the city’s town centre and musicians head to train stations, markets and parts of the Berlin wall. In total, there may be up to several hundred performers in Berlin at any one time, but I explored the scene everyday for a year and I saw about 30-50 acts who would go out and perform every day and make a living out of it. There is plenty of space in Berlin and most of the other performers are very friendly and willing to share their spaces and be filmed doing their thing.


Who are the most impressive of the Berlin buskers? Could they make it on the world stage?


Whilst making the film I stumbled across several buskers who were already starting to make headlines around the world, using the streets as their stage and Berlin as their opportunity to share their music to the wide range of tourists who come in droves, armed with cameras keen to explore the current trends of the city. One busker that comes to mind is a South African girl, Alice Phoebe Lou, who has been performing in Berlin for less than a year, and had already managed to secure herself close to 20,000 fans on Facebook and the support of big name artists like Jose Gonzalez and The Lumineers.


I have also experienced the opposite, where big name artists come from the stage to the streets, one being Max Buskohl who was a contestant in the top three of German Idol, signed to Universal Records and had a semi-successful punk band before. He still performs on the stage but the streets give him the chance to reach out to a new and wider audience.


What is it about Berlin that brings out the adventure and creativity for those blessed with a sense for those two things?


Berlin has always been a creative city, from the roaring ’20s, from the time of war, to a dramatic turnaround to the humming creative centre it is today. It feels as if this has been the place of rebellion. The low cost of living in Berlin has made this a considerably good option for artists to be able to afford the time to work on their projects which has thus attracted more artists and created a vibrant community in which to do so.


What do you hope people get from the film?


The overall idea of the film is to spread two messages: the first is to change the mindset of what people can sometimes think of buskers, they are not all beggars, they are just artists using an alternative way to share their music or whatever talent, not with just people in bars, but people in streets. The second message of the film is to show how sometimes taking that leap of adventure might lead to something new and exciting, sometimes if you follow your dreams they might just work out.


What are your future plans?


To continue making documentaries, but since making the film I have found my passion for music again, and still to this day continue to busk on the streets. The next documentary will focus on techno music and drugs, and how much they both rely on each other to keep people in the clubs and interested in the music, focussing mainly on the longstanding and ever growing techno scene there.



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