The Norwegian producer and distributor would be thrilled if Mia Hansen-Love were to make a film starring Isabelle Huppert about her life.

Maria Ekerhovd

Maria Ekerhovd

Bergen-based Maria Ekerhovd is the founder of Norway’s Mer Film, which works across production and distribution and has offices in Bergen, Tromso and Oslo. Her past productions include Iram Haq’s What Will People Say, Eskil Vogt’s The Innocents and Gunnar Vikene’s Norwegian Oscar submission War Sailor. She also co-produced Flee and More Than Ever, and was the 2021 Eurimages co-production prize winner at the European Film Awards.

Ekerhovd’s latest film is Ole Giaever’s Let The River Flow, which won audience awards at Tromso and Göteborg, and was acquired by Beta ahead of EFM. She is now developing Mer’s first TV show, The Wedding Party — A Countdown To Disaster, and was in Berlin to pitch Butterfly, Itonje Soimer Guttormsen’s comedy drama about two sisters, in the Berlinale Co-Production Market.

What is the first thing you do when you arrive in your office each day?
I try to get in early, at 8:30am, to have a half hour to drink my coffee and have a look quietly at what I need to do that day, before anything else takes over. We’re working on fewer projects, but bigger projects, and trying to work deeper on them, so this preparation time is part of that process. There are 12 people in our company, and in Bergen our office is in an old sardine factory that’s now home to different cultural organisations.

What was your first job in the film industry?
I couldn’t be an assistant because I didn’t have a driving licence. I was a clapper loader on a few films. Then I rose to be a producer and production manager and first AD on shorts.

Who helped you most when you were first starting out?
When I was starting the company, Axel Helgeland was my cheerleader: he’s been a great producer since the 1970s and now he’s chairman of the company. Also because he worked very internationally, he’s been a great mentor. When I started out in 1999 it was a very communal vibe, with people my age not having experience and learning together by making a lot of shorts.

What was your favourite film growing up?
I hope it’s not that sad it’s a TV series: Twin Peaks. I saw it when I was 13 and an only child, and my parents didn’t want to watch it with me, so I’d plug headphones into the TV and sit a few inches from the screen. It made a big impression on me.

What do you like best about your job?
To hear new stories and meet new talents. You feel like you learn something new when somebody pitches a story for the first time. I can see how this can be a film or a TV show. That gets me so excited every time. Every new project for me can have that dream project feeling.

What’s the biggest professional mistake you have made?
We said no to distribute [Ali Abbasi’s] Border. That was stupid [laughs]. But generally I try to have no regrets.

What is your favourite festival?
Tromso. I’ve been going for 20 years, working as a volunteer, and now we’ve had the opening film [Where The River Flows]. It’s a magical place. Also my husband works here [Henning Rosenlund is the festival’s assistant programme director]. I also love the hustle and bustle of Cannes, that heightened experience of seeing a film in the Lumiere. Cannes was my way into the industry — my career was sparked when our short [Bobbie Peers’ Sniffer] won the Palme d’Or in 2006.

What job would you do if you didn’t work in film?
Maybe a psychologist; my mother is one. A big part of my job is talking to people and sharing human experiences — I would like that. But I can’t imagine not working in film.

What book are you reading?
My Struggle author Karl Ove Knausgard has a new series out, and I read the first book in that series over Christmas. Just to have time to dive into 600 pages was a luxury.

What do you do to unwind?
On New Year’s Eve I went with family friends to a sauna followed by a swim in the ocean, which was five degrees — I was sceptical that I would enjoy it but I am so competitive that I knew I’d have to try it if everyone else did it. Maybe I’ll start cold swimming more. Also, I love walking in nature — that’s a great thing about living in Norway.

Who would direct the movie of your life?
I would love a film about an older woman — by Mia Hansen-Love. One of the films that has touched me the most in recent years was Things To Come, and if she could do a follow-up with a portrait of a curious woman in her seventies who makes some radical choices, that is a film I would long to see. And then it needs to be Isabelle Huppert [to star] — of course.