Producers on the Move 2016 – Denmark
by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- Danish Producer Mikkel Jersin has even had to deal with an erupting volcano during his career, which includes titles such as Sparrows and Louder than Bombs
When Danish producer Mikkel Jersin started working on one of his first major features for Denmark's Nimbus Film, he very much felt that he was jumping from the frying pan into the fire. Icelandic director Rúnar Rúnarsson's Sparrows [+see also:
interview: Atli Óskar Fjalarsson
interview: Rúnar Rúnarsson
film profile] was staged at a former whaling station in Flateyri, on the northwest coast of Iceland. When the Bardarbunga volcano blew up in what was Iceland's biggest eruption for 60 years, it was a minor problem. "We were filming at the end of the world – it was like I was pushed out of the nest and had to learn how to fly," Jersin recalled. "The midnight sun did not make it easier, and we were shooting on 16mm, which had to be flown to Stockholm to be developed, before the director and editor could check it. It was a logistic nightmare."
"However, I am so proud of the result – it received the Golden Shell at San Sebastian and another 11 awards at international film festivals, so we were greatly rewarded for our trouble." Starring Óskar Fjalarsson in cast with Ingvar E Sigurðsson, Kristbjörg Kjeld, Björk Björnsdóttir and Rade Šerbedžija, Sparrows (2015) is the story of 16-year-old Ari, who has been living with his mother in Reykjavik, but now is sent back to his father in the remote Westfjords. And "things certainly weren't as they used to be" when he finds that his childhood friends have changed, and the surroundings of his new life are hopeless and declining. It does not help that his father gets into financial strife.
With a BA in Business Communication and International Marketing from Copenhagen Business School, Jersin also worked as a journalist, before he enrolled at the Danish National Film School; he finished his education in 2011 and was signed by Nimbus. He has worked on several Nordic co-productions, including Swedish director Lisa Langseth's Hotell [+see also:
film profile] (2013), Icelandic director Dagur Kári's Virgin Mountain [+see also:
film profile] (2015), which won the Nordic Council's Film Prize, and Norwegian director Joachim Trier's Louder than Bombs [+see also:
interview: Joachim Trier
film profile]. Last year he set up the Snowglobe production shingle in Copenhagen with producers Eva Jakobsen and Katrin Pors preparing new projects with Trier, Denmark's Omar Shargawi,and Mexico's Amat Escalante. This year he is going to Cannes to participate in the Producers on the Move programme.
How did you get into film production in the first place?
Mikkel Jersin: I came into the film business quite a few years ago, when I was making commercials for a living. One day a director suggested that we should spend our profits on making a short. That turned out to be a great idea, and we had so much fun doing it, so I applied to the Danish film school and I have been busy ever since.
What sort of productions do you go for?
When I become involved in a project, I look for something authentic and original in the idea. Some Nordic directors – such as Rúnarsson and Trier – have strong personal voices, and I try to imagine what their voice and this particular idea will be like in the end. I always try to understand the personal language of the director as best I can. When I instigate a project myself, it is because the idea has something unique to it that I have not seen before, and that I believe can make a difference to the audience. There needs to be a relevant subject for me to be interested.
What are the good and bad sides of the job?
I consider myself to be a good listener and a pragmatic person. I am good at solving problems, and I hardly ever lose my temper. I am not good at handling the huge amount of administrative tasks that comes with the job, so I try to have good people around me who can help me with that.
Are there any directors or producers you like in particular?
I admire the directors I work with – I am quite often surprised by the depth of their ideas, I would never be able to come up with such personal and touching stories myself. Personally, I am also a big fan of French writer-director Jacques Audiard, whose Dheepan [+see also:
Q&A: Jacques Audiard
film profile] won the Palme d'Or in Cannes last year. The producers I look up to are the those who succeed in making arthouse films that travel, or in co-producing with unexplored parts of the filmmaking world – those who have to make up the rules as they go.
Can you tell us about your upcoming projects?
I'm currently working on several projects, but the most imminent one is a Danish film that takes place during the Korean War, and will be a co-production between Korea and Denmark. It's still too early to reveal more, but it's a project I'm very happy with.
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