BFI Future Film Festival 2023
A man has an intervention with his dog, accusing it of being a bad friend. He quickly realises that the dog has problems of his own to deal with. God Knows is an absurd comedy about wanting to be loved, and not being able to help as a friend.
Hi Mone, congratulations on having God Knows as part of the Future Film Festival 2023! How does it feel to be part of such an incredible line-up of short films?
I think it's fantastic that our film has been chosen for this year's festival lineup. I love that there is a variety of both British films and international ones. I will not be able to attend the festival this year, but I am really looking forward to watching the other films online!
God Knows is also nominated for Best International Film; what has it meant to you to get this type and level of recognition for your film?
I’ve always been very fond of British film, and that might be because I certainly share that sense of humour. I’ve been a big fan of Monty Python since I was introduced to them, and that sort of stylized and theatrical humour certainly resonates with me. So the fact that my little absurd comedy film, which is in Norwegian, will be screened at the British Film Institute is such a great honour.
What role do festivals like the Future Film Festival play in providing a platform for short films?
The fact that BFI is taking young filmmakers seriously and wants to screen their short films at a festival of this scale is extremely encouraging for us to keep making them.
Can you tell me about your involvement with God Knows, what was the inspiration behind this short?
The inspiration for the film was a dysfunctional friendship that I realised I had to end. I was curious about how one actually does this. There are some clear conventions when it comes to breaking up with someone you have a romantic relationship with, but what are the conventions when you break up with a friend? Is there any point at all in trying to salvage the friendship when the other person is completely indifferent? This situation is played out by this ridiculously selfish character, who has an intervention with his dog.
The film was made during the pandemic and came about largely because I wanted to create something where I really felt like I could experiment and have fun with the film’s absurd and magical expression.
How flexible do you like to be with your shoot and script once you go into production?
I'm actually quite stringent on set, in the way that I like having control when it comes to the text. Once the script is written, I am more interested in exploring how to work with the text, as in a classical theatre text, rather than removing myself from it and improvising around it. In contrast to some directors, I believe there is something incredibly interesting about the staged and theatrical style of storytelling. I'm not concerned that the actors' performance of the text sounds formal and solemn. I find it rather fascinating.
What were the challenges you faced while making God Knows?
We definitely had some pressing production challenges, as we shot the film during the pandemic. I produced the film myself in addition to being the director. The day before our first day of shooting, our lead actor received a message from his flatmate that they had COVID and that they all had to be quarantined. Of course, there were some big upheavals in the production then, as we had to postpone the entire production. Fortunately, we were able to postpone due to our only having a two-day exterior shoot. Still, I want to announce to all young filmmakers who haven't shot a lot of exteriors before that you're going to be sleepless the couple of weeks before, since you'll be constantly checking the weather forecast. And yes, we filmed in the rain, and it was freezing.
Looking back, what would you say have been the most valuable lessons you have each taken from making this short?
If you want to have a good time as a director, get a producer.
Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?
I’ve always been immensely fascinated by films that are able to make people laugh and cry intensely over the course of an hour or two. Titanic (1997) and Into the West (1992) are two of the films I remember my family watching over and over again when I was a child. It seems like I was fascinated by dramatic "drowning-in-the-ocean" scenes.
As a child, I would often prefer to rent a film or a book and spend my time immersing myself in another world for hours rather than hanging out with my friends. For a long time, I thought I would be an author or actress. But as I learned that I was too social a person to be an author and too bad of an actress to be an actress, I luckily learned that there was this job called "director," which sounded like the perfect combination of every creative aspect a film consists of.
How much does your background in drama and philosophy influence your filmmaking?
My background in drama and philosophy has definitely influenced me a huge amount as a filmmaker. My interest in working with a more stylized, non-naturalistic expression in production design, costumes, and acting style certainly started when I was doing theatre when I was younger. Philosophy has been a huge inspiration for all of the films I've made in recent years, and it will undoubtedly continue to be one of my main sources of inspiration in the future.
Would you consider exploring the themes of God Knows, or any of your other short films, into a feature in the future?
I am generally interested in the tragic juxtaposed against the comical. I always have been, and I'm sure it's something I'll bring with me into my feature film work. This film focuses on some very specific themes, like friendship, selfishness, the need to be loved, and being able to be enough for others. I’m not sure if that's something I want to work with further at the moment. Right now, I'm not interested in making films about the individual and personal human experience. I am more interested in portraying the general and common experience of being human. This film definitely dips its toes into both of those aspects, and where I am now, I'm probably working towards the latter. But there are still a few years left before it is time for me to make a feature film, so I’m sure this might as well change.
How much has your approach to your work changed since you started out?
When I began making films as a young teenager, it was more about understanding what the language of film does to a viewer, and this desire for understanding led to some degree of imitation of other films I enjoyed at that time. But that process was in itself very educational. Now I am definitely more confident in what my true interests are. And now that I've made a number of short films and music videos, it has naturally made me want to challenge the artistic norms I've been working with for the past few years.
Do you think filmmakers should continue to push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?
I am studying at the National Film School of Denmark, and right now we are working on a particular assignment called "The Radical Artistic Experiment." It sounds very "film school-like" and maybe a little pretentious, but it has given me so much joy as a director to work towards a goal that has an almost impossible avant-garde focus of going against the boundaries of conventional filmmaking. It’s both extremely challenging and incredibly fun. There is nothing to lose when you are trying to fail at the conventional. And I don’t think all artists should work within the classic conventions of storytelling, just because it’s what we know. Progression is paramount for making something new and interesting. This way of thinking could end in something everyone will enjoy: an innovative and immersive experience. It’s the biggest production I’ve ever been a director of, and it is honestly thrilling to focus on trying to do things I’d never usually do, rather than trying to make a conventionally good and communicative film.
I feel that there is a consensus that naturalistic drama films have a veto on the portrayal of "real life."
What top 3 tips would you offer a fellow film filmmaker?
This one is tough.
Make as much film as you can; you'll criticise yourself and your work anyway, so you might as well keep going because you will get better with each film.
If you find people you like to work with and who understand your work, hang on to them.
Use your family shamelessly for free. Make them help you with whatever they can, as actors or with the production. Because, honestly, who else cares about your short film?
And finally, what message do you hope your audiences will take away from God Knows?
In its essence, I suppose that what I really wanted to say with the film as a filmmaker is that the true experience of life isn’t just one thing. Life is both tragic and comical at once. I feel that there is a consensus that naturalistic drama films have a veto on the portrayal of "real life." I disagree with this notion. When I've felt the most alive, it's been when life has seemed the most absurd. This film is certainly absurd, melodramatic, and ridiculous. But it’s still life.