by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- Cineuropa met up with Iceland's Producer on the Move, Árni Filippusson, of Mystery Productions, to discuss how he got into the film industry, as well as his toughest challenges
At Denmark’s European Film College, two Icelandic students – Árni Filippusson and David Óskar Ólafsson – became soul mates, and they have worked together since 2006, when they started Mystery Productions. Most recently, they worked on Icelandic director Ragnar Bragason’s Metalhead [+see also:
film profile], which last year collected eight Eddas, Iceland’s national film award. They are currently preparing Ólafsson’s directorial debut, Bakk.
Whereas Ólafsson has started directing, Filippusson has also been a cinematographer; since Icelandic director Hafsteinn Gunnar Sigurdsson’s Either Way [+see also:
interview: Hafstein Gunnar Sigurdsson
interview: Hilmar Gudjônsson - Shootin…
film profile] (2011), he has filmed four features and television series. In fact, Sigurdsson’s movie, which was nominated for the Nordic Council Film Prize, eventually garnered him an Edda for Best Cinematography.
Having also worked with his Reykjavik-based company on Icelandic directors Dagur Kári’s Dark Horse [+see also:
film profile] (2005) and Baltasar Kormákur’s A Little Trip to Heaven [+see also:
film profile] (2005), as well as US director Clint Eastwood’s Flags of Our Fathers (2006), which was shot in Iceland, Filippusson now has two local features lined up on his cinematography schedule – a thriller by Anton Sigurdsson and a comedy by Bragi Thor Hinriksson.
Cineuropa: Why did you choose film in the first place?
Árni Filippusson: Originally I think I wanted to do something creative that would also make me look intelligent.
And how did you get into it?
When I was 17, I got a job making sandwiches and cooking microwave dinners for a film production, and I decided I would never work in this business again – I thought all filmmakers were stubborn idiots. But after college, I decided to try film school, before spending five years at university studying something I was not sure of. So I went to the European Film College for a one-year course, and then I was hooked.
You have worked both as a cinematographer and a producer; which do you prefer?
I love both, and I love having the opportunity to do both. After being stuck in front of a computer checking various budgets in Excel, it is nice to go on location to do some shooting with a hand-held camera, working in the field. And after a while, I miss being at my desk, going through scripts and budgets, and having millions of meetings.
What is it that you are particularly good at?
I am probably the best you will find doing both jobs at the same time in Iceland, but on the flip side, I am not able to be the best at both jobs, precisely because I am doing both jobs.
Which film presented you with your biggest challenge?
Definitely Either Way – my feature debut as a cinematographer – which we filmed far up in the Westfjords in 2010, during the crisis in the Icelandic film industry. We had an extremely small budget, around €45,000, but an enthusiastic crew, so we decided to shoot the film and trust we could raise money for the post-production later. People thought we were crazy, but it was a film where you invested everything you had to create something you really believed in. Everything worked out in the end, and Either Way travelled the world and was selected for more than 30 international festivals.
What was your and Ólafsson’s intention with your company?
David and I met at film school, and we had an instant connection. We had the same ideas and ambitions: to create something great and be part of something extremely interesting. He is like a brother to me, my best friend and for sure the most reliable partner you can find.
What is on your agenda at the moment?
We are in pre-production with an American feature shot in Iceland, which we will also co-produce. We also have a television series, Bragason’s Prisoners, set in a women’s prison, and a psychological action-thriller in development. Now, at Cannes, I hope to extend my co-production horizons, and it would be good to make some new connections and friends.