From the documentary Hand Gymnastics. Photo: Ellen Fiske
I’ve just realized that I’m suffering from post-traumatic festival disorder. Two of the symptoms of PTFD are that you keep checking for subtitles, even if the film is in English and while watching a feature film you press pause after about 15 minutes, give a round of applause and then start the film again. Side effects are that it takes a bit longer to watch a film and the amount of friends that want to hang out and watch a film with you decreases in a rapid pace. But I got my medicine right here and that’s my festival interview I did with Caroline Gynther (CG), Cajsa Jönsson (CJ) and Ellen Fiske(EF), the three musketeers behind two films that got screened at Uppsala Short Film Festival. I mentioned this in a previous post. Their films were among the most interesting ones coming out of Sweden and I felt that an interview would be great.
What got you started in film making?
CG: Well that’s simple. I got interested in making film when I was studying art.
CJ: I’ve always been interested in acting so when I had to choose which program to focus on in high school I chose Theater and Film. I thought it would be a good idea to learn more about what´s going on behind the camera. A year later I discovered I’d become more interested in movie making than I was in acting.
EF: Two years ago I was working in a clothes shop in Uppsala. Selling clothes was truly boring me and when I heard the shop was about to go bankrupt I decided to do something completely different. I had always been interested in theater and film so when I heard about the documentary film school at Biskops-Arnö I made my first film as a part of the application. Making film turned out to be something I really enjoyed and sometimes it just completely absorbs me.
What people in the industry inspire you? Anybody in Sweden?
CG: Internationally I would say Miranda July. In Sweden it would be Ruben Östlund.
CJ: Most of the movies I’m inspired by are Swedish and my favorite directors are Ruben Östlund and Roy Andersson. Their movies can be mistaken for documentaries because most of the time the scenes are shot with a static camera in one shot and the actors are really talented. Hoyte van Hoytema is a cinematographer who I admire. He knows what looks beautiful on the screen and how to show the spectators the characters inner feelings. I think he´s done a great job in both Let The Right One In (Låt den rätte komma in) and The Girl (Flickan).
EF: I just saw a film called Tussilago at the festival by the filmmaker Jonas Odell. I love the way the film combines documentary and animation. I will definitely try to get a hold of his other films.
Is there any particular job you have done that you are particularly proud of and why?
CG: I’m very proud of our two films that we had at the festival, We Are Fourteen and Hand Gymnastics.
CJ: I’m really proud of a short film I made about a year and a half ago. It’s called And In That Cottage I Want To Live With You (Och i den stugan vill jag bo med dig) and is about a day in the life of my grandparents. It features no dialog, only the sounds they make. The sound of my grandmother baking, my grandfather walking the dog in the forest one windy morning and so on. I’m proud of them because they allowed me to film them and they had no problem at all with it.
EF: I’m proud of our film Hand gymnastics and the way that the old ladies acted in front of the camera. The atmosphere was relaxed and after a while they seemed to forget that the camera existed and just went on doing their business. I think I’ll always remember the moment of feeling invisible.
You are three directors. Isn’t that hard? How do you divide the work?
CG: We kind of do all of the work together, just by taking turns. It hasn’t been that hard since we agree on most things.
CJ: I’m used to work in a team and I think we worked it out quite well. We are good friends all three of us and that helped. You respect each other and their opinions better if you are friends. We divided the work in terms of days. One day perhaps me and Ellen took turns filming and Caroline took the sound, though all three of us always decided together which angles we should use and so on. When it came to editing we sat together and made the choices together. It’s lucky we get on so well and like the same sort of movies.
EF: When we work together we divide the work equally, so that each one of us got the chance to improve our skills in both cinematography and editing. We had to formulate and argue for our own ideas, which made the process quite long but also rewarding. Personally I prefer working in a team instead of being alone with all the different parts in the process of film making. I’m also very happy that I got to know Cajsa and Caroline through our work with the films.
You are the directors of two films, Hand Gymnastics and We Are Fourteen. They are different in both style and subject. How did these ideas come to life?
CG: With Hand Gymnastics, we where just lucky to be there without that much preparations. It was a school assignment and that was to catch a moment or a scene. While We Are Fourteen was the opposite. It was a long film making process. We were interested in how girlfriends act with one another.
CJ: Hand Gymnastics was an exercise in school. One of us, I don’t remember who, came up with the idea that we should go to an elderly house to film. And that day they happened to do hand gymnastics. The idea to We Are Fourteen came from just brainstorming. We thought it’d be fun to do a film about girls in the age we’d left and to show their relationship as best friends. They are still children and they like to do childish stuff, but they are so eager to become grown ups so they get confused. We wanted to show the contrast between these two and how these girls deal with it.
EF: Hand Gymnastics was actually a film exercise we got from school. We decided to film at an old people’s home, and when we got there a group of old ladies were about to start a class of hand gymnastics. We had no idea while shooting it that it would later be considered a short film and be screened for an audience. I’m very glad that it turned out the way it did. We Are Fourteen was our final exam at Biskops-Arnö. We thought it would be interesting to make a film about fourteen year olds and started filming three best friends in a small town called Bålsta. The idea was to capture the every day life of teenage girls, what they do and don’t do as being stuck in the middle of childhood and adulthood.
People think it’s hard enough to get one film into a festival. You have two! How did it feel when you found out that both films got accepted to Uppsala Short Film Festival?
CG: It was just really fun and exciting to have been picked.
CJ: It felt great of course! I’m really proud of all of us and the movies. And I’m thankful towards Ellen because she sent in the tapes.
EF: I’ve been to the festival several years in a row and I love watching short films so I was really excited when I found out that our films were going to be screened!
What is your dream project? Who would be involved?
CG: That is a hard question. I’m sorry but I don’t know.
CJ: It’s hard to tell. I don’t know really. But I would like to have Hoyte van Hoytema and me filming together. It would probably be shot in Sweden. I’d like to explore more about the Swedish mentality.
EF: I think I’d like to make a series of documentaries for television. I’m not sure what the topic would be, but the idea of making episodes and reaching out to a broader audience really appeals to me.
And to end the interview softly I have to ask, If you only had to watch one film for the rest of your life, which one would it be?
CG: Me and You and Everyone We Know by Miranda July.
CJ: The Back to the Future trilogy.
EF: I think I’ll have to answer Karl-Bertil Jonssons Julafton as I see it at least once a year. I love the way the story is told, the drawings, the music, yeah everything!