Regner Grasten • Producer/distributor
"Making small movies for big audiences"
by Annika Pham
At the last Cannes Film Festival, veteran producer Regner Grasten, known for scoring with local family fare such as the Anja & Viktor franchise, announced the creation of Filmfabrikken with Zentropa head Peter Aalbek Jensen. Almost a year later, on April 3, his first project, the low-budget film Eye for Eye [+see also:
film profile] by up-and-coming filmmaker Kaywan Mohsen has landed on Danish screens with a P&A spend equal to the James Bond films. He told Cineuropa why Filmfabrikken is the Danish Miramax.
Cineuropa: Could you remind us what Filmfabrikken stands for as a company?
Regner Grasten: With Zentropa, we’ve created Filmfabrikken, a “Danish Miramax”. The Miramax theory was to find a little movie with an edge, a new approach and make it big. At Filmfabrikken, our idea is to try to create independent US movies in Denmark, low-budget movies by new talent, like those launched at Sundance.
Zentropa also recently launched the Brilleaben Fond to support innovative low-budget films…
Yes, but that is a European idea of independent: small films for small audiences. The collaboration between Zentropa and Grasten is to make small movies for big audiences. It is definitely influenced by independent US filmmaking such as Juno, Little Miss Sunshine, and so forth. These are small movies, for the most part made by newcomers, with unknown actors, and they are huge successes.
But scripts are solidly built and remain the backbone of the films…
Yes, because US independents think that audiences don’t care about directors, actors. All they want to see is a good story. In Denmark we’ve had this problem for many years where producers, institutions like the Danish Film Institute, thought that the audience only wanted to see expensive films by well-known directors, with famous actors. What we say is the audience doesn’t care! They want to see a good movie, period.
That’s why we’ve picked this film, Eye for Eye, which only cost Kaywan Mohsen around DKK 100,000 (approximately €130,400)to make. We helped him finish it, so the official budget is now DKK 1.6m (€214,000). We’ve released it on 75 screens, spending €254,000 in marketing, a budget used for blockbuster films such as Batman or James Bond.
How did you convince so many exhibitors to take on this small movie?
There was no problem, because they wanted our next family film Anja & Viktor on September 12! Last year, we had Rich Kids, which also worked like a kind of US independent film. It was made for around €1m with unknown actors. We booked it in 80 cinemas. It garnered 120,000 admissions and is close to selling 80,000 DVDs. So the exhibitors didn’t dare say no to Eye for Eye.
Nevertheless, the gamble is high on this movie. But as it is a low-budget film you can take a lot of chances on marketing and use a big release. The risk is fair. Elsewhere in Europe, the same thing is happening – in France with the comedy Welcome to the Land of Shtis. No one thought it would explode the way it did. I think high box office gross can be achieved if people dare to do what we’re doing now. There is a lot of talent out there worth betting on.
What other films are you producing at Filmfabrikken?
Christian E. Christiansen (Råzone [+see also:
film profile]) who directed this year’s Oscar nominated short film At Night is developing a feature-length version of his short film for us, called You & Me. We’re starting shooting and the film will go out on 100 prints on August 30, 2008. It will be a Danish love story, a ‘kleenex movie’.
We have one of the most popular Danish singers, Natasha, who will make the title song: You & Me. The music will be crucial for the marketing campaign. As the film will be released during the summer, when all young kids are in holiday, this will be the hit song and we’ll put it out on mobile phones, Ipods etc. The film will cost only €1.2m. It will be produced by Zentropa’s Louisa Vesth (who produced At Night). The DFI and public broadcaster DR are in also involved.
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