Movies & TV / Columns

Director Nico Sentner Talks w/411 About His New Film Nazi Doomsday Device

December 24, 2018 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz
Nazi Doomsday Device

The 411 Interview: Nico Sentner

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Nico Sentner is a writer, producer, director, and actor from Germany who has been in the movie business, according to imdb.com, since 2005. He has directed a short film called Dark Legacy and produced movies like Sin Reaper 3D, Iron Wolf, and The Hitman Agency. Sentner’s first feature film as a director, Nazi Doomsday Device (also known as Atomic Eden) has recently been released on Amazon Video UK and Vimeo On Demand. In this interview, Sentner talks with this writer about making Nazi Doomsday Device, working with stars Fred “The Hammer” Williamson, Mike Moller, and Lorenzo Lamas, and more.

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Bryan Kristopowitz: Why the title change from Atomic Eden to Nazi Doomsday Device?

Nico Sentner: To be honest, I´m not very happy with the title change. This decision was made by the UK distributor to meet the tastes of the British audience.

BK: Why did you want Nazi Doomsday Device to be your first feature as a director?

NS: I´m a huge John Carpenter fan. As a matter of fact, his movies were the reason why I wanted to become a filmmaker in the first place. My favorite film from John Carpenter is Assault on Precinct 13. And my first film as a director is also my personal homage to Carpenter´s Assault on Precinct 13, same as Assault on Precinct 13 was Carpenter´s homage to Howard Hawks Rio Bravo. I also paid tribute to Carpenter´s early work by naming some characters after actors in Carpenter´s movie. Fred Williamson´s character is named Stoker and Austin Stoker was the leading actor in Assault on Precinct 13. Everett Ray Aponte´s character is named Darwin and Darwin Joston played the iconic Napoleon Wilson character in John Carpenter´s classic film. There are a few more Easter eggs like that hidden in my movie. I may reveal just one more, the character I played is called John Zimmermann and Zimmermann is German for Carpenter.

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BK: How did you cast Nazi Doomsday Device? How did Fred “The Hammer” Williamson get involved? How did Mike Moller get involved?

NS: I was already friends with Fred for a few years but I never really had a project which could suit him. However Atomic Eden made the difference. He was highly interested in the story and he agreed to play the role of “Stoker – The Leader”. The character of Stoker was designed specifically to meet Fred´s iconic badass action image. And besides all of this, Fred also wanted to help me and support me doing my first feature film as a director.

With Mike I already had a working history with him by that time. I had the honor of executive producing Mike Möller´s Arena of the Street Fighter, a 100% pure martial arts flick, which worked as an exhibition film for Mike´s outstanding talent in the Martial Arts. The film worked well for us in international sales but a few territories refused to take Mike´s film due to the lack of story and the lack of “star value.” So I thought, I have to put Mike in an international action film next to some iconic name of the genre. And with Fred Williamson already attached, it felt like a natural fit to put Mike in the same project.

Also I wanted to mention shooting star Everett Ray Aponte. I met Everett a few years ago at the American Film Market. He was pitching me a project as a filmmaker but when he left I had immediately the character of Darwin in my mind, even before the screenplay to Atomic Eden was written, the character of Darwin was already created. This character was completely written for Everett Ray Aponte. So if for some reason Everett would have refused the role, the character would not have been in the movie.

With Wolfgang Riehm, who played “Heinrich – The Priest” and Hazuki Kato, who played “Reiko – The Samurai” I had the pleasure of working before. As a matter of fact, Wolfgang Riehm is the actor I have worked with the most so far. He is in at least 4 movies, which I produced or co-produced. Dominik Starck was my co-writer, who played “Brenner- The Blade.” Josephine Hies, who played “Laurie- The Rookie,” was a last minute replacement for another actress who stepped out of the film at the very last minute. Originally, the character of Laurie was supposed to be an experienced, tough mercenary like Vasquez in James Cameron´s Aliens, however with Josephine as a last minute replacement we re-wrote the character completely to meet the physical appearance of a young girl like Josephine Hies, so we created “The Rookie”.

In the end I was blessed with a great ensemble cast with Fred Williamson, Mike Möller, Everett Ray Aponte, Wolfgang Riehm, Hazuki Kato, Josephine Hies, Dominik Starck and the wonderful Lorenzo Lamas to bring all these mercenaries to life.

BK: How did Lorenzo Lamas get involved in the movie? Was all of his dialogue actually in the script or did he improvise some of it? I have to say that his profanity is truly epic.

NS: I´m friends with US-producer Leman Cetiner, and Leman is friends with Lorenzo. So, when the green light came to shoot Atomic Eden/Nazi Doomsday Device, I contacted Leman and asked her if she could present the project to Lorenzo and to my pleasant surprise, he was interested in the film. Also, we knew that he was coming to Germany for another job, which was not connected to us and we wanted to use this chance of having him in Germany to work with him. Working with Lorenzo was such an honor and pleasure but also lots of fun. We were all incredibly impressed by his performance. The whole undertone of the scene was written that way in the first place, however Lorenzo added a lot of his own improvisation to the character, which ultimately made this truly epic profanity scene what it is today.

BK: Where was Nazi Doomsday Device made?

NS: Almost 85% of the film was shot in Wegeleben. It’s half a deserted town somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the former East Germany (coincidentally not very far away from where I´m living). Most of the recruitment scenes were shot entirely in Saxony-Anhalt (also former East Germany and also my home state in Germany). I´m very happy that I shot a few scenes in Schadeleben (my home town) and in Quedlinburg (the town I was born but also a town, where George Clooney´s Monuments Men was shot). We also had one shooting day directly in Chernobyl, and one shooting day in Los Angeles, Texas, Moscow and Essen (North Rhine-Westphalia).

BK: How long did it take to make Nazi Doomsday Device, from finishing the script to completing post-production?

NS: Almost 2 years. Screenplay, pre-production and shooting took only 4 months with 30 days of shooting. Post-production took the most time. The film was post-produced on two continents and in 4 different cities: Los Angeles, Berlin, Hamburg and Stuttgart. It took a lot of effort and I think we punched above our weight and budget in regards to the post-production. For example: the very few CGI effects in the film were made by the same people behind the visual effects of Game of Thrones. I mean 98% of all of the effects are practical special effects anyway, however I wanted all of the effects to look absolutely real, that nobody even realizes that there are any CGI visual effects. The color grading was made by the same guy who graded Clash of the Titans and the music was made by the great Ingo Hauss, one of the masterminds behind U96 – Das Boot and that list could go on. However, this was all necessary to meet the needs of the big distribution companies for proper theatrical releases, and we have met those needs perfectly. The film was released theatrically in Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates and was number 4 at the Kuwaiti box office the year it was released. We had a successful theatrical run in Germany, too. The film was supposed to have a theatrical release in the U.S. too, but the distributor went out of business before he could release the title in the states.

BK: What was the hardest part of making Nazi Doomsday Device? The easiest?

NS: Financing was the hardest part by far. Nowadays you have to compete with Bruce Willis and Nicolas Cage starring flicks made straight for the home video market. And as already mentioned the post-production was quite challenging, too. Is there any such thing as “the easiest” when making independent films?

BK: Describe your working relationship with co-writer Dominik Starck, who also appears in the movie as Brenner? And what the heck is going on with Brenner’s introduction scene?

NS: Dominik is a dear friend and a fellow movie buff. Brenner, his character, was not so far away from his real life persona. That’s the best explanation I can give to his introduction scene 🙂

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BK: You also appear in the movie as the character John. Did you always intend to act in Nazi Doomsday Device or was it something you decided to do late in the game?

NS: I´m always playing small roles in the movies which I produce. This may sound weird, but this is the best way to directly get feedback from the audience. Surprisingly, I’m often recognized for my bit parts in Sin Reaper and Arena of the Street Fighter and when people recognize you, they will not hold back with their criticism. This is a great way to learn what your audience likes and wants to see. However, directing a movie and also co-starring in it is a whole new challenge, that’s why I limited my character to an extended cameo, same as directors like Quentin Tarantino or M. Night Shyamalan doing it.

BK: How did you get so much action out of the epic fight/gunplay scenes in the movie?

NS: It was pure intention to have so much action in the movie. I was blessed to have one of the best, if not the best stunt team in the world and I was trying to make the best use of them. Due to the budget, I had only 5 days (and nights) to shoot all of the action sequences before the stunt team and the special effect guys left. So, I was literally shooting day and night, as according to the screenplay and original idea, there were action scenes set during the day and night, too. I would like to thank my amazing stunt team for bringing those fabulous action scenes to the screen the way I imagined them.

BK: The heavily armed hazmat suit wearing psychos are terrific faceless villains. Who played them and how many people actually played those characters?

NS: The “Army of Mad Men,” as we call them, were played partly by the stunt team and partly by some hired extras for the mass scenes. I can´t really recall how many there were, but we easily had 50 people to play them, if not more.

BK: How did you get involved in the movie business? How has the movie business in Germany changed since you got started?

NS: I always wanted to become a filmmaker. Everything started at age 12, when I discovered my parents had a S-VHS camera and I started shooting little shorts with my friends. At 16 I worked as a trainee in a production company and when I found out that the owner and founder of that highly successful production house was only 19 years old, I thought to myself: I´m doing something wrong! One year later, at age 17, I founded my own production company “Generation X Group®” Film- & Medienproduktion. Because I was still underage at that time my parents had to sign for me at first. My parents thought that I may just try this myself a little before I come to the conclusion to get “a real job” and become a dentist or something. However, that was 18 years ago and I´m still doing movies for a living.

I´m very well known in Germany as a director for commercials, and my company is very active in production and distribution of European independent films. It was a long journey of ups and downs to reach this level. My first big break as producer and director came in 2005 with my first professional short film Dark Legacy, a low budget horror-short, which I shot to test the waters with the MDM, the public funding system for films in Central- & East Germany. The result: nobody in Germany wanted the film or was interested in the genre I wanted to go for!! Every German film festival turned Dark Legacy down. And then, suddenly out of the blue a festival from Scotland contacted me and wanted to screen my film at their event, the same title everybody in Germany had turned down. That was when I realized I needed to submit my work internationally. It worked out well. Dark Legacy was screened at more than 30 festivals around the globe (but never in Germany!) and even won “Best International Horror Short” at a festival in Los Angeles. Lots of newspapers, websites and even TV networks in Germany were reporting about the success of Dark Legacy afterwards. And this press hype really boosted my career. Suddenly doors were opened for me, which were closed before. And I learned the most valuable thing, you have to think internationally and not just your domestic market.

Things have changed only to a certain extent in Germany since the day I started. The rise of “Video on Demand” and all those platforms are a warm welcome for independent genre films. They give us a lot of new opportunities. Also platforms like Netflix, Amazon Prime Video and even some German platforms like Telecom´s “Entertain” are producing German original films and shows, which are all genre stuff. This has the potential to become a game changer.

BK: Who are your movie making heroes?

NS: As a director: John Carpenter, John McTiernan, John Sturges, Alfred Hitchcock and most recently the great Antoine Fuqua. And as a producer: Joel Silver, Mario Kassar and Andrew G. Vajna

BK: Any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

NS: I currently have three new (very different) potential next projects on the table. I may know more early next year which project will make it into the production stage. So far, it is too early to tell.

BK: The ending to Nazi Doomsday Device suggests that there’s more story to tell. Will we see a sequel to Nazi Doomsday Device at some point?

NS: I would love to do a prequel and sequel to Atomic Eden/Nazi Doomsday Device. I have already written the stories. There are even 3 stories for character spin-offs already there, but the film has to reach a certain level of success first before those ideas have a chance to get the green light.

BK: Just how cool is Fred “The Hammer” Williamson in person?

NS: There is hardly a word to describe how cool Fred is as a person. I enjoyed working with him a lot. He brings so much experience to the table with his 50+ years in the industry. He is also a very funny guy with a great sense of humor, even though he would never play anything funny because it could hurt his image. His humor is legendary. For example: Everett Ray Aponte fell off his horse on the first take and afterwards, every time Everett was walking by Fred, I mean literally every time, Fred said “Careful – don´t fall!” Classic.

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A very special thanks to Nico Sentner for agreeing to participate in this interview and to david j. moore for setting it up.

Check out my review of Nazi Doomsday Device here.

Watch Nazi Doomsday Device on Amazon Video UK here or Vimeo On Demand here

Check out the Nazi Doomsday Device Facebook page here.

All images courtesy of Nico Sentner and Generation X Group GmbH.


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