“What is most important is not the story”
by Annika Pham
- With their company Plattform, Erik Hemmendorff and Ruben Östlund are bringing a breath of fresh air into Swedish filmmaking, shifting the focus from the content to the medium itself
The friends who met at the school of film directing at Göteborg University set up Plattform in 2002 because they felt no one in the industry wanted to produce the films they wanted to make: innovative, free from traditional narrative structures and therefore demanding, but also entertaining. At the heart of the Göteborg “bubble”, a new film movement reunited former film school graduates and friends, all driven by the same philosophy. Platfform gained festival recognition with Östlund’s first feature, The Guitar Mongoloid and now Involuntary [+see also:
interview: Erik Hemmendorff
interview: Ruben Östlund
film profile]. The company also produced Patrik Eriksson’s An Extraordinary Study in Human Degradation, Sweden’s first film shot entirely on mobile phones.
Cineuropa: How was your collaboration with Östlund on Involuntary?
Erik Hemmendorff: We are a creative team, director/producer. We write together and meet everyday at our office. We seldom discuss films, but news, books, philosophy, history, our own tragic and comic lives and experiences. We have the same goal, and I think that Ruben as a director can feel very secure that I'm always there to protect his artistic integrity and to make his vision possible.
I have worked with Ruben since I finished film school in 2002. It was a great time. We knew that the old system with 35mm was going to end. Most producers at that time were afraid of video and they wanted to make old films that had already been made. We, on the other hand, wanted to make new films on the new digital medium. We wanted to be the first production company that let the directing style decide the way of producing and shooting, instead of letting the production take control of the film and the director.
How did you put the financing together?
The budget came in at a little less than €1m. Film i Väst and Swedish public broadcaster SVT were on board from the very beginning and we also got development support from the Swedish Film Institute.
We decided then to shoot the first and second part of the film before all of the financing was in place. The film was shot in five different parts over a one-year period and the rest were financed after we had been selected at Cinemart in Rotterdam. It was not until the film was selected for Cannes that all the financing was cleared. We don't really work with scripts, and financiers are sometimes a bit cautious and obsessed with this piece of paper. I hope that this film has proved that there are things other than a final draft that can ensure the quality of the film you’re about to make.
You aimed high very early on at the Cannes Film Festival with sales rep Philippe Bober (The Coproduction Office), something quite unheard of in Sweden.
Ruben and I like to compete and Cannes is just the most prestigious and hardest festival to get into. It might sound strange to promise financiers that a film without a script made for €1m would have its premiere in Cannes two years later, but we really felt it was possible. I had admired Philippe Bober and his line-up for a while, and first approached him in 2006. Philippe didn't know of Ruben then but we talked and I gave him our short film Autobiographical Scene Number: 6882 and Ruben’s The Guitar Mongoloid. Philippe said he would be very interested in Ruben’s next feature.
Tell us about Plattform, the company’s philosophy and ambitions.
Plattform is a production company for bold and original directors who like to work hard for a very long time with very personal projects. Our ambition is to make interesting, quality European films for thinking and reflective people all over the world and to challenge what "cinema" is today. What is most important for us is not the story, but how it is told.
What projects are you working on?
We're editing Mikel Cee Karlsson’s Hälsningar från Skogen ("Hello from Skogen"), a personal, playful and emotional documentary from the forgotten inland of Sweden. Other projects include Axel Danielsson’s epic documentary Twin Brothers, Fijona Jonuzi's debut feature and Ilya Khrzhanovsky’s DAU, which we are we are co-producing with Philippe Bober.
Ruben and I are also working on our next project. We have some financing in place and we will probably present it early next year. It’s extremely good.