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An Interview with Michael M. Michalak, Writer of Winnetou - The Beginning

by Mike Haberfelner

July 2014

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Your upcoming movie Winnetou - The Beginning - in a few words, what is it going to be about?


It is the tale of Winnetou – how it started, how two young men from different cultures became blood brothers and how a cowardly murder bonded them further.


What do you find so fascinating about Winnetou that you want to make a movie about him? And how did you discover the novels of German writer Karl May in the first place, what's your relation to them?


Our publishing company, Nemsi Books, is the publishers of the translated original works of Karl May and we have long felt that Karl May’s message of peace and tolerance needs to be told not only in the English language for English speaking people, but also via the audio visual media. Karl May has been known to our founder since early childhood and since his teens he desired to make the original works Karl May available to a larger audience. As he is now living in the United States of America, on the very prairies that Karl May so vividly described, he thought it fitting to initiate a project that would bring the original works to the people as Karl May intended.


Will Winnetou - The Beginning be based on any particular novel(s) of Karl May or on an original story of yours, and how much artistic licence are you taking with May's oeuvre?


Our film will do two things – firstly, it will explain that Karl May’s tale is a vision of freedom born out of his imprisonment. Secondly, it will guide the audience through that imaginary vision described in his first tale of Winnetou … and the rest we will leave unsaid for now as we don’t want to spoil the suspense for our audience (smile).


Besides May's books, other sources of inspiration when conceiving Winnetou - The Beginning?


Yes, we relied on Karl May’s autobiography, which explains a great deal about the author and how the iconic character of Winnetou was born.


What can you tell us about the intended look and feel of your movie?


The film will be shot in the Black Hills of South Dakota and surrounds with its beautiful vistas, fascinating wild life, especially the bear, bison and the wild horses or mustangs and, of course, real American Indians. Our intent is for our audience to experience Karl May’s vision as though they were a part of it.


I am sure you are aware about the German Winnetou-movies of the 1960's that were big all over Europe - your thoughts about them, and do they at all play a role in your approach to your subject at hand?


The old films were fascinating - for a child. However, any child who had read the story would have picked up that Santer did not die in the first volume of the story. Neither did the film evoke the deeper meaning that Karl May intended. The moral of Karl May’s tale is that greed kills the innocent and that avarice impacts heavily upon those that are left behind. What was the real impact on Winnetou and Old Shatterhand after Nsho- Tshi’s and Intshu-tshuna’s death? – Well, you will have to watch the movie to find out …


I think one of the key factors of pretty much every Western movie is finding the right locations - anything in mind on that front yet?


Yes, the locations we have explored so far are ideally suited for our purpose. The Black Hills and surrounds are perfect for the scenery that Karl May described in his tale.


Anything you can tell us about your projected cast yet, and why exactly these people?


Our casting director and director are still in the process of deciding on the final cast. Picking the right actors to play these parts is not so easy – especially when it comes to the lead roles. One must remember that an actor that takes on the role of Winnetou or Old Shatterhand would have to commit to these roles for many, many future productions. Not many actors have the fortitude to play these parts for what may be the rest of their lives.


Likewise, do talk about your key crew for a bit!


Winnetou Productions was formed in 2010, after we approached the late actor and activist Russell Means (Last of the Mohicans). Russell believed in the project and encouraged us and since we were inexperienced, we started to gather a team of industry professionals. Today our team is comprised of Emmy Award winning and Emmy Award nominated people with many years of industry experience who are truly dedicated to the project and believe in the message Karl May wished to express to his readers. We have all worked long and hard to realize this project and all of us are most enthusiastic about the product we desire to deliver to our audience.


Presently, you are still in the process of raising funds for Winnetou - The Beginning - so what can you tell us about your fundraising efforts?


The first thing to remember is that we are not Hollywood – we are an independent film production company. Raising funds is always the most difficult hurdle – especially when production costs run into millions of dollars. Investments in films are risky. One never knows how the public will react. So investors want to know how their investment will be returned and of course they always want to see a profit – but no matter in what glowing light the potential of any project is presented, investors want to see a sample of the final product. Producers must therefore prepare a pitch package that includes a ‘teaser trailer’. Such a teaser can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars when you consider the costs of location, equipment, travel, accommodation, talent, props, costumes and insurance (to name but a few) – and yet the result is but few minutes of actual film that will be shown to investors. The task is indeed daunting. Our project is currently working on such a ‘teaser trailer’ as part of our pitch package and we have started a crowd funding campaign to help us achieve it. Every dollar donated counts towards our final goal. 


Once your funds are raised, what's the schedule, and any idea when and where the movie will be released onto the general public yet?


Our estimate is that after some six to eight weeks of shooting (weather permitting) there will be some three months of editing, music, effects and credits to work on and then our product will be handed over for distribution. If all goes according to plan, our audience will see our product in a year’s time.


Karl May has written numerous books about Winnetou - so is Winnetou - The Beginning planned as a one-off or the starting point for a potential series? And any other future projects you'd like to share?


Winnetou – The Beginning is the start, we have plans for future films in this genre and, as you say, there are many books, fifteen to be exact, which we are currently considering.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, IndieGoGo, whatever else?


Our IndieGoGo: 

Our websites are:

Our Facebook pages:

Links to the new music written for the film:


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Feeling lucky ?
Want to
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The links below
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Find Michael M. Michalak
at the amazons ...


Great Britain (a.k.a. the United Kingdom)

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Your shop for all things Thai

Yes, we invite your readers to visit our web pages, to share our postings, donate to our film project, and to become a supporter and part of our production. As Karl May said:

For whom were my books written? Quite naturally for the people, for all the people, …

And we therefore invite all the people to join us and make this another century that celebrates

Karl May’s vision of freedom.


Thanks for the interview!


And we thank you for the opportunity to bring this project to the attention of your reading public.


© by Mike Haberfelner

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and shall not be held responsible for
content of sites from a third party.

Thanks for watching !!!



Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD