(Post from 04.12.15. Interview first published at EDN.dk 04.11.2015)
EDN – European Documentary Network – is a great network that gather and support Documentary Filmmakers in many ways. We’ve enjoyed their expertise in the workshop Twelve for the future a couple of times, at their pitch trainings at Docs in Thessaloniki, Below Zero and IDFA and through their many others tools at www.edn.dk. In November Carsten got the great honour of being EDN Member of the Month, and if you’re interested, here is the interview they did with him.
EDN: Could you start by telling us more about your background and your way into film producing?
CA: First of all; its an honour to be Member of the Month, I adore EDN! EDN does great work for the industry and I am a proud member. (More below)
EDN: In 1998 you launched Indie Film, and decided to focus solely on documentaries. What was the motivation for this decision?
CA: The main motivation was that after 14 years of doing all sorts of production, I knew that I had to take charge of which direction my career should go from there on. I also knew that with increasing competition, Indie Film was in need of a sharper identity. I decided to take 100 days to think about what to do. It may have taken me a day or two to figure out, because documentaries were (and still are) what I enjoy and know best.
EDN: What is the creative vision behind the company and how do you select the projects to produce?
CA: Since 1998 Indie Film has produced both documentary series and feature documentaries. Our output is film with strong visual identity and themes surrounding human interest. We focus on director driven, challenging documentaries. Audience shall expect as much from a documentary as they do from any fiction film. We are keenly interested in alternative models of distribution and formats in a market that is constantly in flux as a result of changing ways of media consumption.
EDN: Can you give a piece of advice to an international producer interested in working with Norway and who has a project relevant for a Norwegian co-production?
CA: There are quite a few experienced partners here to choose from. A financial contribution from Norway generally requires a creative contribution in the film, at least in combination with funding through the Norwegian Film Institute and through regional funds. This can for instance be a DP, Musician, Editor or Sound designer. From next year it looks like we will have a new incentive-type funding as well, where a foreign production gets a kickback share from what they spend in Norway, but details are still to be decided.
A Norwegian producer can also give access to other funds, like the Fritt Ord Foundation and the Arts Council. For producers based in developing countries we have a very interesting funding trough Sørfond/South Fund, which is support given to the main producer but applied through a Norwegian partner once a year.
Have a look at the Norwegian Producer’s Union members: http://www.produsentforeningen.no/medlemsliste.aspx
EDN: What is the best way to approach you at Indie Film?
CA: Send me an email. I get a lot of emails, but I try to get through them each week. My tip is to stick out from the crowd. We are quite interested in developing collaboration with foreign directors, expanding our network. Today for example, I registered for the breakfast meetings at IDFA, asking to meet filmmakers from China, Russia and America.
EDN: Later this month you will be pitching the project Munch in Hell at a Round Table session at the IDFA Forum in Amsterdam. What is the film about and what is the current stage of the production?
CA: We are thrilled about pitching at IDFA, I have had the pleasure of doing that twice before, and it is maybe the most effective place for setting up finance and get feedback on what kind of interest there is from broadcasters and distribution world wide.
Edvard Munch gave away his complete collection of art to the Municipality of Oslo when he died. Munch in Hell tells the story of how he was treated in Norway before he died and especially how his legacy has been treated after his death. We are still in writing and finance stage of this project, with the ambition to get into production before summer next year and complete it by the end of 2016.
EDN: Edvard Munch is a world famous artist who has already been dealt with in art history and programmes. What new stories does Munch in Hell bring to the table?
CA: People will not believe how an artist of this calibre has lacked political, financial and moral support at home through- and after his lifetime. It is not before told in this magnitude and not at all on film. Director Stig Andersen will tell in his own voice how this has been a story he has had an increasing urge to tell his audience. It will create reactions, I’m sure.
EDN: How do you see the international potential of the project?
CA: Edvard Munch is Norway’s most respected artist. It will have a style that may work in many art slots on channels around the world, but it will also work well on many other slots because of its combination of a personal dramatic story of a mythical character, told by a director with an emotional relation to the story (Stig is an Art Historian, and has for instance worked at The Munch Museum).
EDN: In spring you also pitched Munch in Hell at an EDN Online Pitching Session focused on art documentaries. The EDN Online Pitching Session is an online video conference, where a selected number of documentary projects are pitched and matched with decision makers fitting the specific profile of the projects. How was that experience and how did it help move the project forward?
CA: This was a very exiting and interesting first time experience. There were about five pitching projects/teams, and I think about 6 or 7 TV commissioners and distributors. All projects dealt with art as the main topic, so this was also the buyer’s special interest on this occasion. I would recommend this type of specialized pitching to all type of projects that has the opportunity. You will meet buyers and sales people specializing in your topic at hand very effectively, without even leaving your office. Stig and I had great response from both TV and distributors, with quite important feedback on our idea as well. So it helped finance and also helped us further defining the idea for the film.
EDN: What are your expectations and aims for taking part in the pitching at IDFA?
CA: Our expectations are fairly high. Even though few deals are made then and there (as for most forums), we get a good idea of the interest in the film from all parts of the industry. We will be aggressive in getting as many people for the pitch and for the meetings, and hope that we are right, that many professionals will believe in the idea for their audience. We are lucky enough to have Jan Rofekamp from Films Transit on board already. This means a lot for our strategy, he is part of setting up and attending meetings, building a base of interested parties we hope to get during the days at IDFA.
EDN: Last year two films produced by you at Indie Film had their international premiere at the IDFA festival – Ida’s Diary and Ballet Boys. Can you give a short overview of these two films and how their sales and festival life have been after IDFA?
CA: These two films we first pitched at the IDFA Forum 2013. Then they both had their screening there, Ballet Boys in the Kids Programme, and Ida’s Diary in the Mid Length competition at IDFA 2014.
Ballet Boys is a film for the whole family, with three male teenage ballet dancers who director Kenneth Elvebakk followed for almost four years, through their deciding-for-a-career-years and very important adolescence days as well. It shows where dedication can lead you and what it may cost you. Ballet Boys has been Indie Film’s most commercial product by far, represented by Wide House and sold to TV in more than 20 countries. It has been released at the cinema in Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, France and England in addition to Norway. Today we can count almost 40 festivals.
Ida’s Diary (Dir. August B. Hanssen) was completed a few months after and is now surely picking up its festival run with 10 festivals so far. The film is represented by First Hand Films and has been aired in five countries. Also a short version of the film, titled Being Ida was featured on Vice, with more than 9 million subscribers worldwide. Ida’s Diary is a very ambitious and uncompromising film, being true to a diary style that requires a fair deal from the viewer. Our main goal has been to create more openness and understanding about mental health among young people. We have been quite specific about this challenge, focusing on the UK and Norwegian markets so far, with great help from Good Pitch, where we pitched during early development (London, summer 2013). We have had great help from our outreach producer Karianne Berge in Indie Film, co-producing partners Mouka filmi (FI), Telling Productions (UK), and outreach partner Hope Street films (UK). (The film is also co-produced with Chezville (NO) and Substans Film (NO)).
EDN: After IDFA – what lies next for you and for Indie Film? Which other new projects do you have in the pipeline?
CA: We are fortunate enough to have a great team of four other really clever people steadily employed at Indie Film. August B. Hanssen, Karianne Berge, Stig Andersen, and Sarah Winge-Sørensen. This means we need to nourish a certain portfolio of films in different stages at all times to have a fairly steady cash flow. At the moment we are about to release two films, Arctic Superstar (Dir. Simen Braathen) – about a Sami Rapper on his struggles towards an international career and Heritage, a film about the relationship between father and son, directed by Charlotte Thiss-Evensen, animation by Academy Award winner Microfilm. We have two films in production, Karianne Berge’s The Grenade Man, developed trough the EDN workshop Twelve for the Future and the feature doc The Night (Dir. Steffan Strandberg), a fairly big budget film with lots of animation, co produced with Erik Gandini’s company Fasad and the animation studio Walking the Dog based in Brussels.