Another intense week at film school almost over. Hopefully I won’t get punched in the nuts today!
For the past three days we have been in sessions with director Kaspar Munk, who is educated at the alternative Danish film school Super16. We watched two of his shorter works, both coming-of-age films with more sensory images and silence than I’m used to. We also read the script for Munk’s first feature film Hold om mig/ Embrace Me, and later met the writer after seeing the finished film. It was very educational for understanding the differences between what needs to be on the page, and what needs to be on the screen. The writer, Jannik Tai Mosholt, told us of the origins for the script (a true event involving a bullying incident turned simulated gang rape in a classroom, where the victim commited suicide), how the project got greenlit, and what it was like working with the director. Having read the script it was really interesting to see just how much had ended up on the cutting room floor – and understanding why.
Munk talked in great detail about moviemaking as a collaborative effort and the difference between scripts and films, and about feeling almost claustrophobic in the tight schedule (and budget) neccesary when filming a feature film in Denmark. He has tried experimenting with a more improvised approach, creating scenes out of the moment occuring between young actors in a certain location, mood before plot. And interesting enough, some of these scenes reach a higher level of poetry than it is possible to conjure up in a script.
We also managed to get some writing done this week. First, a little 1-hour exercise where we had to come up with a scene based on an event in our own life – an almost group therapy like session. The next day, we had to write an alternative ending for the movie we just watched (Embrace Me). A courageous move on both Munk and Mosholt’s part, as they had to sit through a reading and discuss the vastly different takes on what was their movie. I think for the first time ever, I wrote a happy ending! It was sappy, sure, but it wasn’t half bad. These writing exercises often leave me with a feeling like I’m in a race, watching the other cars zoom by, and I don’t know when I’ve crossed the finish line. Maybe the rest of the gang feels the same way, who knows.
Yesterday’s fun began with watching the pilot for Munk’s next feature, followed by the actual finished film; a low budget teen drama, done in the same multiplot fashion as Embrace Me, but with a much lighter tone. You & Me Forever was both funny and touching, moody and poetic, gritty and realistic, very much in eye level with the teenagers it portrayed. Those of us who have daughters were somewhat shaken by the subject matter, but for me it was highly inspirational, as I just pitched and sold a teen novel with a female protagonist. When the movie hits theatres in August, you can decide for yourself. If you live in Denmark, that is.
Our final exercise with Kaspar Munk was playing out scenes from our script, directing each others as actors and looking at the conflict and turning points within the scene. It was amazing how much better things got in just 20 minutes, with a little direction and improv, keeping the soul of the scene but making it come alive. There was yelling and screaming, punching and hugging – just another day at the office.
For me this week was very helpful in learning how the director works – Not just as some jerk with a giant ego who’s going to ruin a brilliant script and take all the credit, but as someone who can help deliver the story and make it something more than just an idea. Who can make it real, with characters, imagery and tone. And hopefully make the story grow in to something even better.