Christian Dyekjaer • Director of Call Me Dad
“The show is about the most tolerant guy you'll ever meet”
- In his new series, the director pushes a young, progressive man to the absolute limits of his tolerance as his mum starts up a relationship with his best friend
Presented in the comedy section of the Series Mania Festival, the Danish series Call Me Dad [+see also:
interview: Christian Dyekjaer
series profile] is the story of a young man trying to wrap his head around the romance between his mother and his best friend. Director Christian Dyekjaer spoke to us about his formula for the Viaplay show, mixing classic comedy with a social commentary on the post-modern ideal of tolerance.
Cineuropa: What was your role as a director on the show?
Christian Dyekjaer: It was a little different than it would be on a film set, mainly because the broadcaster, Viaplay in this case, has the final cut. That shifted the whole dynamic, but another difference was that the idea for the show started with the two main actors, Alex Hogh Andersen and Magnus Haugaard Petersen. They pitched this story of two friends, one of them becoming the lover of the other's mother. I don't know about other countries, but in Denmark, it's becoming less and less uncommon for a woman to be much older than a man in a romantic relationship. So I liked the starting point, but we needed something more to carry a whole series. Together with a scriptwriter, we developed a narrative about a young man trying to live up to the social ideals of our times. Simply put, Emil is the most tolerant guy you'll ever meet. The rest of the series kind of wrote itself from there.
Some might even see him as a pushover. Are Danish men really that tolerant today, or did you push the envelope for comedy purposes?
We did, of course! The show is definitely a satire. Still, young people in Denmark, even more so in Copenhagen, really seem to try to live up to being the best version of themselves that they can. In this case, the right thing would obviously be to accept that his best friend is dating his mum. But Emil actually feels like he should be glad about it, and he's going to try and play along. Until he explodes, that is – maybe because he mixes acceptance with emotional repression. Because that's the thing about us humans: our emotions aren't always commendable. We get jealous and petty, and we can't turn a blind eye to this.
So the show works as a pressure cooker acting on Emil's tolerance?
We push Emil towards his limits during the whole six-episode run of the show. The idea is really to watch how far he can go. My vision for it is blowing air into a balloon and to just keep on going until it explodes. So the pressure just goes up and up, to the point where his mum gets pregnant, making the situation even weirder for him, yet unavoidable.
Did you feel like you had to respect a certain format for the show?
We had to play with cliffhangers, like everyone else in this game. Yet I feel like our show is a little different compared to most. Very early on in the process, I told Viaplay that it would be best if we had a lot of space for improvisation on set. They were more than fine with that, as long as I kept in tune with the general storyline that we had agreed upon. I'm glad we found a common ground because the things I'm most proud of are the ones we made up while filming.
The series industry is evolving fast. Was the show designed to be sold abroad, beyond Scandinavia?
I have to admit that I didn't give it a lot of thought. Mainly because I have experience as a director of comedy films, and I know they tend to sell the most box-office tickets within our country but do not travel that well. Of course, you always hope that what you build will shine beyond your borders. And I believe the post-modern themes of Call Me Dad will feel accessible to Western audiences.
Danish shows have been, and still are, thriving. What's the secret?
I don't really know. Maybe it's because we don't have a lot of money or time. We shot the six episodes of Call Me Dad in 25 days! So I suppose we're good at dealing with a fast pace and delivering. But we do have a singularity in the way we structure our hierarchy, as it's much flatter than in most countries. Maybe that helps us optimise time within the production process.
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