15th ÉCU Film Festival | 2020 
"I was very fortunate with my cast and my crew. I have worked with quite a lot of them before, but it has always been with me in front of the camera. We became a little family along the way."

Mads Koudal

 Between a Rock and a Hard Place 
European Dramatic Short 
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Between a Rock and a Hard Place” is about the 81-year-old woman Birthe’s separation from her daughter (Karen), who has Down Syndrom. Birthe is struggling with dementia and the municipality believes that she’s no longer capable of taking care of Karen, who has the mental age of an 8-year-old. We meet the family on the day of Karen’s departure and experience Birthe’s denial about her own abilities as she believes that she’s still fit to take proper care of her own daughter.

Hi Mads thank you for talking to TNC, how are you handling the lockdown?

Hey there. You are very welcome.

I spend most of the time with my family during the lockdown. I have a daughter who is 16 months old. Its lovely to spend so much time with her. But when my daughter sleeps, I write on a new script. Actually a couple of scripts. Even though I still have some admin work to do as well.

As a filmmaker is this experience providing you with some creative motivations?

To be honest this experience gives me more time to write. Besides working as an actor, I also have a part time job as a Hospital Clown. But because of the lockdown, I cannot work at all. But I do hope that we all can go back to “normal” soon. I miss to work and being social.

Your film Between a Rock and a Hard Place has been selected for the 2020 ÉCU Film Festival in Paris, what has it meant to you to be part of this unique film festival for independent filmmakers?

I means a lot. Making movies is hard work. It ́s very difficult to make a good movie, so when a movie is selected to a festival like this, its just awesome - it pays off. And I really love Paris.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place won a Special Jury Award at the 2019 Asiana International Short Film Festival, what did it mean for you to get this type of recognition for your debut short film?

I was simply blown away. I mean there were thousands of movies submitted to the festival, and then our movie won “The Special Jury Award”. I was so surprised and so happy.

I was actually at the festival in Seoul, and it was such a great festival with friendly people. Unfortunately I couldn’t attend the Award Show itself, because I had to go straight to England to shoot the feature film “The Haunting of Margam Castle.”
I got the great news when I landed in Heathrow.

How much did you background as an actor help prepare you for directing this film?

It helped a lot. I’m a trained actor and still active in this field, so it gives me a clear understanding of what works, and what doesn’t work.

I don’t know, it's hard to explain. It gives me an advantage because I understand the “language of acting” .... If that makes sense.

Can you tell me a little bit about Between a Rock and a Hard Place, what was the inspiration behind this film?

When I was younger and a struggling actor, I worked part-time as a nursing assistant, on a community residence for people with Downs Syndrome and dementia. It was a job that meant a lot to me.

Years later I felt the urge to write a story about dementia and Downs Syndrome, and then I came up with Between a Rock and a Hard Place. So it comes from a personal experience.

How important is the collaboration when working on a project like this?

Its very important. More important than working on a feature film. Making a short movie is such a team effort. You need to make a lot out of very little money.

I was very fortunate with my cast and my crew. I have worked with quite a lot of them before, but it has always been with me in front of the camera. We became a little family along the way.

I was so thankful for the cast and crew.

A very big shout out to my producer Christopher Jermiin Anker, and to my editor Thorbjørn Münter and to my DOP Tobias Scavenius. And also a shout out to my lovely lead actresses Ghita Nørby and Jeanne Rasmussen.
I wish I could mention them all right here.

What was the most challenging scene for you to film?

To be honest I think everything was very smoothly. But we had some problems with the end scene.

We shot exterior and we were loosing the light, and on top of that, we had a few technical issues. The classic - we were simply running out of time.

Looking back do you think there is anything you would have done differently?

I really don't think so no. I was very satisfied with the process.

As this is your debut short film what would you say have been the most important lessons you have taken from this experience?

I have directed music videos and comedy sketches before. But yes this was my short film debut.

One lesson would be to “let go and give myself a little break” - I was working my butt off up to the shoot, - because I wanted to be prepared - and be able to answer ALL questions and bla bla bla...



So the lesson for my next movie would be to loose some control - have fun, and just go with the flow.

"Have fun. Even though its hard work."

Have you always had a passion for filmmaking?

I have always been a bit of a nerd when it comes to movies. Dramas, comedies, westerns, Art house, the old school Universal horror flicks, B-movies - asian movies and.... You name it.

But I really had something for the old school Kung Fu movies. I was a huge fan of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan... and yes also Van Damme. I did karate as a kid, so these guys were just awesome. I was a lot into the whole action thing, - even though my short film debut, is soooo far away from that genre.

When I became an adult I started acting in movies, and from there I slowly started to be more and more interested in working behind the camera.

What has been the best piece of advice you have been given when you started out?

Don’t stop. Just continue doing it. Never give up.

Do you have any tips or advice to offer filmmakers about to make their debut film?

Have fun. Even though its hard work.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a few different projects. A short film and a TV-series, which I hope to direct in the future.

And I also have a supporting role in a upcoming HBO-series “Gangs Of London”.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from Between a Rock and a Hard Place?

Such a cliche I know, - but I hope that the audience somehow can feel the love between the mother and the daughter. And accept that the mother has done everything out of love.

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