Isabella Eklof - I don´t need money from producers, I only get money from stateWritten by Eva Csölleová, Vítek Formánek
Three days before FebioFest we didn´t know anything about this Scandinavian director, so hastily tried to get some information but they were all about her latest film Holiday which she also introduced in Prague When we met her and told her we want to ask about different things she replied “ Thank Godness” and it was interesting talk with interesting person.
When you watched Chaplin, Fellini or Bergman on video tapes as a young girl, did you dream about becoming one of them or you just liked the stories and the way they were made?
It´s funny, because upon my early 20´s, I have never dreamt about making the movies. It wasn´t really a job that one could do, in my mind, you know, I always thought I will be an author. It was just natural thing for me cos I was reading and writing a lot and also my father was keen on me doing that. My parents were very classically educated and very old fashioned and I think the latest books they read were from 1950´s.The film wasn´t an art for them and they didn´t know anything about modern literature. I was always very curious person so I took lots of evening classes, video classes and once I was doing a funny video scene with my then boy friend when it clicked in my head, that I would like to make movies. At that time I actually realized that all those films I watched on video as a kid were an art.
How does it work on Danish Film Institute where you have studied? Is it only for Scandinavians or it´s internationally orientated? Are classes divided for cinematographers, directors, scriptwriters etc.and you are supervised by renowned Danish directors and actors?
It´s only opened for people from EU, which, I think, is stupid and they should change that, you also have to learn Danish since classes are in Danish and not English. Lots of good and known directors are teaching there. It´s known that not all teachers are good artists and vice versa. I am not sure how good the Institute is now since people changed there but I was very lucky when I studied there. We had an animation director who never made a feature film but he made workshops for us, he was constantly challenging us and he covered all aspects of filmmaking from screen writing to editing etc. Also cinematography teacher for first two years was amazing, he had those old school cinematographic eyes to be on time, he knew technique perfectly, brought so much discipline, which is important and when you can master all technique you are completely free artistically. If you are struggling with technique you are never gonna rise above. Classes were divided into cinematographers, editors, script writers, directors, producers, sound engineers. Our graduation film was about 30 minutes long and it was a privilege to work with all those people and technique. The good thing was that production crew was hired and paid for from professional side, so they really showed us how to make films on top level. For my middle term project I had one of the best light engineers in Denmark
When you left the school, did you get any offer from studios to work there?
There are no studios in Denmark. There are some big production companies but there are no private money in film industry in Scandinavia, cos it´s really bad investment, high risk, low income. Everything is funded by state.
You made your film debut at the age of 40, right? Why did it take you so long, couldn´t you get good story and funding or you worked on commercials and on TV to get experience and earn money?
No, I was one of those people who studied for twenty years. I was poor struggling artist and went to four different schools and made my weird shorts with which I got technically better and better. I wasn´t a person about which other people think she would be a hit or had a high status so I had to prove my high status by producing good material. It was because I was a woman and it´s and old truth that people would give guy the money because they believe he has potential but they only give woman money if they already proved themselves. So I was slowly building my name in making better and longer movies.
You had a success on Sundance festival with your debut film. It´s not easy to get there since competition is big and they choose from about 2000 films. How did you approach them? Did you have any agent or you did that al by yourself?
Danish Film Institute has a really good program. They choose certain number of films every year and they support them with money and know-how and help directors with pointing them at right people. So they sent the application there for my film. It was in fact the first festival we applied to and we got there so early that we had to finish that film two weeks earlier than we expected, so it was bit stressful.
I really do care about the actors I take them as family members
You are said not to like watching your own movies. How do you want to avoid possible mistakes for the future projects and why such distaste for own work?
I think I have little bit of IDD diagnosis so I am very impatient person. Even if I love some film I don´t wanna watch it more than once. I have very good memory for art and especially for literature so I remember everything. I watch the films as a kid, I am totally inside the movie and I can´t ever have, say, TV on, while I do something else, I am totally immersed. So it is very challenging for me and takes lots of energy from me just to watch the film. It´s just waste of time and energy to watch something twice. As for my own films, I saw them hundreds of times during the edits and you get really fucking tired of them after that. You know if you see that movie in rough cut with bad sound etc, its bad enough so I have no guts to watch it all over again.
So with having IDD are you difficult director to work with?
Not at all, I am a nice person. I really value niceness as very important quality I don t hang out with people who aren´t nice. I think one of my best qualities as director is that I really like to watch my actors they like to be watched and to be seen. I give them a feeling that I really see them and take them as family members. I expect them to perform at very best and I am little impatient if they don´t.
You were always interested in stories about human existence of all kinds. Does that mean that you intend to film only meaningful stories that can change something or point at something and that are asking philosophical questions, so you are not into comedy, horror or action movie at all?
No, not at all. I could make a horror since I believe they have a potential to show some deep, dark side of us, which could be interesting. I don´t see any point in doing action films, I am completely uninterested in them and I think it has to do something with my testosterone level, seeing blowing the cars away bores me to death (ha,ha).I could do a comedy a black comedy or something which is really hard to talk about. Making a film is a long process and you have to be totally dedicated to it. Some people just do film for money and they are not that much personally interested in it but it all depends on level of complexity they want to be devoted to this film. And I want to be on the highest level.
About your film Holiday you said” I wasn´t anticipating the success and distribution abroad. I am not interested in business, but I have to be because it pays the bills” So how do you approach your film making, what do you expect from that and do you think your saying will convince future producers?
Well, I am in very privilege position I don´t need money from producers, I only need money from Danish state. So I can make film that nobody sees and I still get money, as long as it has critical success. How does it all works is as follows. You have to make co- production with different countries because each institute gives you maximum of 30% of the budget. So you have say 40% from Denmark maybe 30% from Holland and 30% from Sweden. So you don´t need any private money at all. It´s not like American system for films which is bad and you see how much shit they make. Producers should never have final cut, it is recipe for disaster.
You seem to be a strong supporter of Me Too. Pointing at REAL abuse is fine by us but don´t you think it got bit out of hand when someone complains about something said or done two decades ago and culprit is almost crucified? It´s more like a witch hunt to us.
Give me a concrete example?
Few weeks ago director of Star Gate was kicked out of his job for saying sexual joke about 25 years ago. Fans got behind him and he was reinstalled cos studio was afraid of loss of money for the film. Stupid, isn´it?
I don´t think it´s witch hunt. We live in that environment and I know it from personal experience when as a woman everybody was putting a hand on your knee. You were forced to live in environment where you didn´t choose the rules. It´s exactly what my films are about. I understand you can feel it as an exaggeration but that happens when you have a system change. You have to make very very clear rules and it may feel that it affects people unproportionately. Ultimately it´s changing the way you think about physical contact, the way you think about power. It´s not okay to use your power against somebody who is not in position to defend him/herself.You should know when you are flirting and when you use the power, it´s not the same and you should be able to tell the difference.You shouldn´t pat 15 years girl on the knee.
But everybody makes mistakes and if you do or say something when you are 20 and you are accused of that when you are 40, it´s unfair, cos we all mature, don´t we?
I completely agree with you. There are many aspects of that. One is that America is very hypocritical society, they get hysterical and they have these weird laws. We are not in America so we don´t have to take their problems and deal with that shit. Second aspect it, you should not punish somebody for something you don´t know if they did. So just because there are rumors about somebody, you shouldn´t fire him. But there is difference between something like this and somebody like Kevin Spacey, who has been harassing and using young men to get a job for almost 30 years. If you verify that and he doesn´t go to jail, it´s just okay to say that you have heard all that about a guy and you don´t wanna work with him. Something completely different is a matter when he is charged and goes to jail, spends some time there and is released. Then you can give him a job because he paid his dues. If such guy doesn´t care and there are about 10 kids saying the same about him, he is probably not a good person, so we consider that when offering him a job.
And what when a person is accused and doesn´t have time and right to defend himself, is that still okay?
Of course not.We should look at the facts and not get hysterical.
Do you use festivals like FebioFest only to talk and promote your films or to try and get contact from some interesting people for further collaboration?
I think I go to festivals only to see from inside how the real world is. The promotion my films is the least part of it. I am not a PR person and it´s not my job and I am not interested in marketing. I basically go because I am invited and I am very flattered and it´s kind of holiday for me.
Thank you very much Vítek Formánek and Eva Csölleová
For cooperation we thank PR of Febio Fest.
Photo: Febiofest.cz, Imdb.com, Eva Csölleova