A fruitful collaboration with Denmark’s star writer/director
by Annika Pham
- Tivi Magnusson has been a producer for the last 25 years and running his own company M&M Production for the last 11 years
M&M Production has always been an incubator for young talent and has supported Anders Thomas Jensen since his first short film Ernst & the Light, co-written with Thomas Villum Jensen in 1996.
Cineuropa: How did your collaboration with Anders Thomas Jensen start?
Tivi Magnusson: Eleven years ago, he came to me with a script. I liked the writing, but not the story itself, so I asked Anders Thomas to come back with something else. He brought me another script. It was half financed by us and half financed by the DFI Short Film Live action programme. He didn't really have a strong film background apart from working at a local video store and being a film buff. The first feature film that he directed and that we produced, Flickering Lights, became a huge domestic success with 600,000 admissions. It is still the biggest DVD sale to date in Denmark. But the film didn't travel that well abroad. His second feature film The Green Butchers [+see also:
film profile] was more offbeat. It didn't perform as well in Denmark but sold really well and won many international prizes. Now Adam's Apples [+see also:
interview: Anders Thomas Jensen
interview: Mads Mikkelsen
interview: Tivi Magnusson
film profile] is starting to travel the world.
How do you work together?
I give him total free rein as we have a very special relationship. Usually we go away together for two or three weeks to a sunny place where we enjoy ourselves and work very hard at the same time. Anders Thomas Jensen writes the first draft of his script, we discuss it and if I have a problem with it, I know him so well that he accepts my comments.
Would you say that he is your star director and why do you think he is so successful in Denmark?
Yes, he probably is my star director. We don't think in terms of how successful he is or his films have to be, but he has been nominated at the Oscars three times for his short films, he won one Oscar with Election Night in 1998 and was Denmark's candidate for Best foreign language film this year. Internationally, he is the most well-known scriptwriter/director from Denmark and at home, he is the most prolific scriptwriter, representing 40% of Danish film production today. Money wise, all his films are hugely successful in Denmark and his popularity comes from the fact that he has a unique way of making lines for people and using irony.
Do you have any say in the casting on his films?
In 1994-95, there were a lot of new actors including Mads Mikkelsen, Nikolaj Lie Kaas, Nicolas Bro and Ulrich Thomsen who made many small films and are now big bankable stars thanks to Anders Thomas Jensen. Anders Thomas uses them because he knows them very well and they sometimes write their parts together.
How did you put the financing together for Adam's Apples?
We usually go first to the Danish Film Institute, then to TV2 Danmark and the Danish Broadcasting Corporation who, by law, have to support Danish films. The film was also supported by the Nordisk Film & TV Fund, we got a GM from Nordisk Film Distribution and a private equity loan from the regional film fund Film Fyn. German broadcaster ZDF also pre-bought the film. The total budget was DK 21m, about €2.8m which is quite a high budget in Denmark.
Would Anders Thomas Jensen be interested in making English language films to broaden the potential international audience for his films?
We do have a project for an action film to be made in English, although many Danish directors who have made English language films have failed. Lars van Trier for instance is big internationally and good at promoting himself, but his films have not been successful in cinemas.