'You want to care about characters when they die...'
Filip Tegstedt talks about his debut feature Marianne which receives its world premiere at Fantasia International Film Festival
Marianne, the debut feature from Filip Tegstedt, receives its world premiere today at Fantasia as part of their Camera Lucida spotlight, as well as for their New Flesh award for first-time directors.
The process to create the film was no easy task given that Filip took on the role of writer, director and producer.
“It’s a lot of hats. I took a co-producer who worked kind of like a line producer on the project for the few months of pre-production and also through the shoot. More like a production manager so that I could focus on the writing and directing but the only reason I did it at all was I took the screenplay and the pilot that we shot to a bunch of producers and all of them were like ‘oh I love this, let’s shoot it in the south of Sweden and pretend that it’s in the north’ which you can’t really do.”
Authenticity was the key theme in making Marianne, not only making a horror film that was inherently Swedish (Filip compares the situation to UK sitcoms where the “really good ones are very British and that’s why they’re good”), but also with the shooting style in order to capture the “supernatural feel” of his hometown (Östersund) where the film was shot – “when you go there and you are there, you feel the atmosphere so that’s why I wanted to shoot it in a documentary way to show that this is what it looks like.”
For a first-time director, Filip had a strong cast led by three A-list Swedish actors: Thomas Hedengran who was recommended by his script analyst (who was also his screenwriting teacher), Tintin Anderzon who is his favourite Swedish actress and Peter Stormare who came onto the project after a stroke of “dumb luck” that he happened to be in Sweden before the shoot.
Again, though, authenticity was key in casting.
“It was important for me to get people that are either from this town that had the right accent, the right dialect, or people with a connection to it. I’d like to say the region is like Texas; when you’re from there, you know you’re from there so that was important.”
During the shoot and also due to budgetary constraints (the film’s budget was $150,000) that meant he didn’t have a lot of time to do re-writes (“I did seven re-writes, I could have easily done another seven”), spontaneity was vital especially where the dialogue was concerned.
“I was telling everyone, just say the lines how you would say the lines and then if you want to change it, go ahead and change it. So we worked on that during rehearsals and everyone got to say I want to do this, I want to do that. We have a couple of scenes in the movie that are completely improvised.”
15 minutes were cut out of the original edit with the new cut shown at the Cannes Market and he believes the film has improved pacing as a result. A directors’ cut down the line isn’t out of the question though, neither is the possibility of a stand-alone sequel focusing on the characters a couple of years down the line.
Looking towards the future, Filip isn’t sure what project is next – “depending on what producer I get and what kind of money there is, that depends which movie or which story I will tell” – but he is certain that he won’t shoot in the same style.
“Ironically, the one problem with shooting in a very simple, documentary style like this is that when you take it to people or you show them the trailer or anything, they think that the reason you shoot it in a very simple way like this is because you can’t shoot any other way.”
When asked about any advice he would give to budding screenwriters, he refers to the “poor me” screenplay, an autobiographical tale from the screenwriter’s memories – “I’ve done that myself and I’m not going to shoot that”. One of the main focuses, he believes, is to avoid that pitfall.
“The one thing is tell stories to other people. Don’t tell your story to yourself, don’t be the ‘poor me’ guy. Tell your story so that it’s interesting to other people to hear it.”
And finally, Filip’s other belief is that the characters are vital to the film’s success, especially so with horror films.
“You’ve got to make the characters likeable and instead of having them in a claustrophobic environment and killing each other for no reason, which happens in a lot of movies, put a monster in there and have them fight the monster. Make the characters likeable so you care about them when they die. You look at movies like The Thing and Alien, all those movies, that’s where they succeed I think.”