Interview with director Bergur Arnason

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

Since I was a kid I’ve always leaned towards visual mediums like comics and video. It wasn’t until my twenties that I decided to pursue filmmaking as a profession.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I know for myself that it helped me a lot to have the safety net of a film school to fall back on while I was taking my first steps in filmmaking. I think a film education can speed up your development if you utilise it well and it can help you develop your own voice.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

I think for some people it’s really easy to start pursuing filmmaking without knowing anything about it really. People look at some behind the scenes videos from Lord of the Rings and go “that looks fun!”. I think the hard part comes for a lot of people when they realise they have to really put their heart and soul into their work in order for it to be any good. That’s when it has to transition from being just an interest into being something you devote yourself to.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

That you really can’t get away with not being properly prepared. Unless you’re really lucky, which you can’t count on.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

On this film we ended up actually cutting a whole scene from the story, which in turn meant we had to re-edit the whole film, change the structure and find new connections between scenes. The key turned out to be just keeping our cool and being open to new ways of looking at the film while we were editing. Succumbing to panic doesn’t help anything.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

Finalizing the casting. I had so many interesting and fun actors come in to audition that it was hard to make a definite choice, especially for the smaller parts.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

Most of them I’ve met through film school. I try to treat everyone with respect and let them know that their hard work is valuable and important.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Yes and no. I think that you end up creating dishonest cinema if you think too much about what the audience wants. But if you only think about what you want, you become self-absorbed and apathetic. People want to be entertained and to see something interesting, but they also want genuine work, something that is unique and personal. It’s striking a balance between the two that makes great filmmakers great.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

I don’t know how anyone would see my film without them. Not counting my mother.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I think being inventive and creative has become a requirement for entering the industry at this point. You don’t have to be totally original in every aspect, but I believe you have to bring something new to the table in some way to make your mark on the current cinematic landscape.

Processed with VSCO with a1 preset