by Jorn Rossing Jensen
- Multi-award-winning Swedish producer Annika Rogell goes with her gut feeling – “and I ask myself many times before I say yes to a project”
Swedish producer Annika Rogell is a busy collector of prizes – her first documentary, Swedish director Göran Hugo Olsson’s The Black Power Mixtape [+see also:
film profile] (2011), earned two Guldbagge Awards, Sweden’s national film prize, and her first feature, Swedish director Sanna Lenken’s My Skinny Sister [+see also:
interview: Sanna Lenken
film profile] (2015), won the Audience Award for Best Nordic Film at the Göteborg International Film Festival. The latter also received a Crystal Bear for Best Film in the Berlinale’s Generation Kplus section, and the movie is screening in the Écrans Juniors section at Cannes.
Having attained a BA in Media and Film after her university studies, Rogell took a Master's in Film Production at Stockholm’s Dramatiska Institutet, before going into production. Her second film with Olsson, Concerning Violence [+see also:
film profile] (2014), took home another Guldbagge for Best Documentary, adding another prize at Berlin. It was selected for Sundance, where The Black Power Mixtape had already been honoured in the World Cinema competition.
Rogell worked for Swedish production companies such as Memfis, Garagefilm, Fasad and Anagram, before she joined Story (co-owned by Olsson) in 2009. She produced My Skinny Sister for her own, newly established Tangy production outfit, in co-production with Germany’s Fortune Cookie, Swedish regional film centre Film i Väst, Story, the Swedish SVT and German ZDF television channels, and Arte.
Cineuropa: So far, you have mainly produced award-winning films. What is your secret?
Annika Rogell: I go with my gut feeling. I ask myself how my gut feels many times before I say "yes" to a project, to be sure this feeling is right. Generally, I get intrigued by stories we do not often see, with a certain artistic strength, and with a director who has that little bit extra. I also have a political interest, and all of the projects I choose have something in them that reflects a problem in our society.
You have studied a lot, but was it always with the intention of making films?
I don’t think I studied film a lot - I did study at the Swedish Film School for three years, a more practical-based education. Before, I studied media in general, as I had an interest in all of the ingredients a film consists of, including sound, photography, music and writing. Before that, I thought I would choose one of them, but I couldn’t - film was the only subject that had a bit of everything.
You have worked for several Swedish production companies – is there anything you took with you from those years?
I worked with other companies in the shorter term on specific projects, but in general, I think it is good to collaborate with others to learn how to become a better producer. As there is no formula on how to be, and what specific problems you can get yourself into, it is important to have a network and be able to talk with others who have been in similar situations, and I will always give advice if I can. I do not agree with the mentality of keeping everything secret to gain from the system yourself - then you miss more than you get.
How do you get involved in your productions, if you don’t instigate them yourself? How did you start working with Olsson, and how did My Skinny Sister come up?
Often, people come to me at a very early stage, and we develop the project together, which can take some time – first, however, I need to be sure that we share the same vision. With Olsson and Lenken, I fully trust them as directors, as well as the stories they want to tell, so for me, it is a question of which projects I can feel in my heart that I want to be part of for several years.
I started with Göran on The Black Power Mixtape when I came to Story at the beginning of 2009. He showed me the archive material, and I was sold from the beginning. Göran and I were the main team for two years, when we made it. I was close to every part of the creative side - editing, sound design, music composing and so on. He was very close to our co-producers and financiers.
As for My Skinny Sister, Sanna and I went to film school together, and we have worked together since. Still, I said no the first time Sanna came up with the idea, because I did not want to do a children’s film, which is what I thought it was, and I was not sure how to realise the project. But after a while, I saw the beauty in the story and its potential for all ages.
Which production do you consider your best achievement so far, and why?
That's a difficult question. I am proud of all my features. The Black Power Mixtape and My Skinny Sister were both special, as they were my first documentary and my first feature, respectively. And with both films, I had people telling me how affected they had been by them, and how important they thought they were. Knowing that an audience will carry your film with them for a long time, and that it has touched their hearts, is a great feeling.
What was your biggest challenge during a production, and how did you overcome it?
Finding the lead actress for My Skinny Sister: an 11-year-old girl who is in every scene, who needs to act being in love and crying, and who has to have that special something extra that makes you want to look at her for one-and-a-half hours. It was a bit of a nightmare.
What do you think you are particularly good at – and what certainly not – in film production?
I think I have good taste and a good feeling when it comes to the making of a film, including prioritising. I am also stubborn and honest - when I say something, I do mean it. I think the team sees that, and they trust me not to hide things from them. I am not good at spreadsheets, and I think I have a bit of a phobia of them. I am not great at smooth talking, which is also why I make films that I honestly think are important. There are films that I appreciate but would never consider producing, as they do not have the topic or the energy I need in order to agree to be stuck with them for years.
What are your upcoming projects?
All of my new projects are in development – the one closest to production is Swedish director Sara Jordenö’s documentary Kiki [+see also:
film profile], which will hopefully be ready at the beginning of next year.
What do you hope to get out of your Producers On the Move experience at Cannes?
I would like to find a new project, I would like to set up my first minority co-production, and I would like to find producers to work with in the future.