Rúnar Rúnarsson leikstjóri og handritshöfundur Þrasta er í viðtali við IndieWire þar sem hann fjallar um stuttmyndir sínar og hvernig hann nýtti sér reynslu sína af kvikmyndahátíðum við undirbúning bíómynda sinna.
Bútar úr viðtalinu sem er tekið af Ara Gunnari Þorsteinssyni:
After winning an award for my first short, „Toilet Culture,“ we decided to make an ambitious sci-fi short with latex masked aliens. It took us years to finish and no one was interested in seeing it once we were finished, least of us ourselves. It was great to have gone through that kind of victory which bloated my ego only to crap out afterwards, when I was just 16.
I dropped out of high school to work on film productions. I started off in the lighting department and later moved to the continuity department. Being a „continuity girl“ is one of the best experiences you can have on set. You see everything the director is doing, you have to carefully monitor the lighting and work alongside all the set’s key functions. You get the chance to learn from the smart things they do, and learn to avoid their mistakes.
I first applied to the National Film School of Denmark in 2003, and got extremely frustrated when I didn’t get admittance. But in the end I think it did me good, since I was able to practice my writing, develop my workflow and find out how I function as a writer.
I’m almost always working, but I had to get over getting a guilty conscience over the fact that I don’t sit down and put something down on paper daily. I’m always thinking and developing my ideas. I take notes and think. Once I sit down, I work quickly and deliver a very detailed first draft. It takes an insane amount of preparation even if it might look like I’m not doing much of anything. I admire people who can write from nine to five and then drop it, but it’s just not how I function.
„The Last Farm“ came about during that period. The Icelandic Film Centre had just established a fund for shorts and documentaries, and we were one of the first projects funded. It ended up being the short that got me into the school. We premiered in 2004 at the Edinburgh Film Festival and I ended up being able to travel with the film from festival to festival for a year before starting school, collecting over 20 international awards.
It was a great experience to travel with the film.I got to know both other filmmakers and festival programmers, which really expanded my network. I met some of the programmers or artistic directors when they were programming the shorts sections, sometimes in a small festival.
People don’t always realize that your first steps as a filmmaker might coincide with the first steps for a programmer who has their sights on bigger festivals. You might not have expectations going to a small festival in a strange country, but it was often in those places where I developed a relationship or friendship that’s paying off today.
We were lucky enough to get an Oscar nomination for „The Last Farm.“ I ended up getting calls from agents in Hollywood. A lot of people were telling me to drop out of school and use this currency to fund a feature. But I wasn’t ready, and felt that I had overachieved quite a bit. I had made a number of no-budget films before that, but this was the first time I was working with a real budget, and I felt that I had perhaps gotten too far.
I was lucky to find great people at film school. Both my cinematographer and editor have been with me since school. We were able to collaborate on films that were not a part of the program, like my next short, „2 Birds.“ I shot it during the summer holidays and then spent my nights and weekends editing. It got into the Short Competition at the Cannes Film Festival, and ended up getting a great festival run, ending up with something around seventy international awards.
My final project for the Film School of Denmark, „Anna,“ ended up being about 37 minutes, which a terrible running time from a market perspective, but it was an important step for me to work within that time span. It was more challenging to jump from 15 minutes to 30 minutes than to jump up to a feature.
After those three films, I was suddenly standing there with over 100 awards at international festivals. That wasn’t just positive for me, but also my editor and cinematographer. They also traveled with these films and left film school with job offers.
Even if we did insanely well with our shorts, there’s always a wall in place when you’re planning your first feature. The system can’t help but to think, „You’ve only done shorts, you don’t know what you’re doing.“ But luckily I was coming out of the film school in Denmark, which is a country that really takes care of its young talent.
For my first feature, „Volcano,“ we got money from a program called New Danish Screen, which is intended for young filmmakers. It’s meant for smaller budget films, but we were in a sense lucky to be able to shoot in Iceland that was, at the time, basically bankrupt. That made the Danish low budget quite a high budget within Iceland, almost tripling our budget.
I was well prepared after having had extensive festival experience with my shorts. At that time I had figured out most of the written and unwritten rules of the festival world — premiering at this festival excludes you from that one — and so on. But of course you can’t ever know anything.
There’s one real truth I feel like no one ever tells you: You have to learn who you are. The same applies to filmmakers who want to make dramas, comedies or action movies. To get the system and the financiers to want to work with you, you have to know who you are and what you want to express. If you want them to take a risk on your work you have to be able to express what makes your vision different. That’s when you stick out. If people see that you’re work is honest they’re also more forgiving towards its flaws.