Raindance Film Festival 2020
World Premiere
Simon Pontén & Joakim Behrman
The Owl
Narrative Short
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The mood in a teachers’ lounge changes when the reason for one teacher’s nickname is discovered. The Owl is a slow, cataclysmic journey into the dark hearts of people trying to have a good time together. When we lose our balance, how far will we go to regain stability?

Hi Simon & Joakim thank you for talking to TNC, how are you held up during these very strange times?

As you’ve probably heard Sweden has stayed fairly open so we haven’t gone full on quarantine mental as many other places in the world I suppose. But, like you said, it’s been strange and uncertain, but in hindsight it might have been a good year for development. It has sort of forced us to look at what we want to do and it not take many things for certain. Plus it has freed up a lot of time that has helped us to work on things together.

Has this time offered you any creative inspiration?

We were both quite bored with the pandemic as a theme to be honest. Since we have our own little office we have still been able to work together without having to be locked in our homes. Our ideas often come from just taking with each other. We can sit in our office and have long winding conversations where both are in character. We once acted out a whole script together playing the different characters ourselves in our office. It was a painful self conscious reminder of how important it is to work with good actors.

The Owl is your debut film as co-writers/directors, how did your filmmaking partnership come about?

We have worked a lot together as editor / director when doing commercials, Simon has edited most of Joakim’s films. Then that collaboration grew into a friendship and we naturally started coming up with ideas together. We complete each other quite well. Simon is the brain and Joakim is the heart in a way. We are good at different things.

Congratulations on having The Owl selected for this year's Raindance Film Festival, what does it mean to you to be part of such an amazing lineup of short films?

We are absolutely chuffed to be a part of Raindance this year. It is a fantastic platform which will get people to see the film, that is a big deal for us. Raindance is one of the great independent film festivals and to be in such noble line up of films is fantastic.

This will be your World Premiere, does this add any additional pressure on you?

No. We’re cool.

Can you tell me a little bit about The Owl, how did this film come about?

We were both a bit bored and really wanted to shoot something. The idea came up and we literally ran with it. So, from the first draft of the script to having shot and edited the first version of the film it took us four weeks. And since many productions and theatres had closed down, so we were able to work with some fantastic actors who otherwise would have been in production. Suppose, that was the silver lining of the whole industry-shutting-down part of the pandemic.

The Owl

What was the inspiration behind your screenplay?

Well, Joakim bought this paper owl thing from a thrift shop and put it in the office and that spawned an idea that it would be funny if someone was called The Owl because they could twist their head like an owl. Initially it was set on a playground amongst kids and in our heads it was really funny, but it later became the slightly more sinister version set in a break room with grownups.

Do you ever draw from your own life and experiences when writing a screenplay or creating characters?

Everything is based on real experiences in one way or another. Even if they are enhanced or tweaked. In real life most sane people are working towards avoiding situations that are uncomfortable or difficult. But in film you get this rare chance to really immerse yourself in the uncomfortable. We are always drawn to themes of what happens when people are stepping outside of the underlying social codes or when someone isn’t fulfilling their part of the invisible social contract. For us it is magnetic to look at scenes like that. We love it.

What would you say has been the most valuable lessons you have taken from making The Owl?

That we can get a long way if the idea is right. It is possible to make a film for £600 (including a parking ticket) and a pile of favours from our most talented friends and get it into Raindance. That is a nice feeling. Also, working with experienced actors is a bliss. They can really add that extra layer to a scene making the smallest of lines come alive. 

Looking back is there anything you would have done differently?

It turned out a lot like we thought it would. Although, it was a lot funnier when we wrote it. It turned out quite a bit darker when we saw the scene being played out. But instead of fighting with the material and trying to wrestle it into something that it wasn't, we let it have its own life and it all fell into place quite nicely. So we don’t feel that it should have been done in any other way really.

Where did your passion for filmmaking come from?

We aren’t really that good at any other job to be honest so this is our only chance to get our families to truly love us. But that aside, we both love stories. Especially when they convey these rich contrasting emotions. It seems today like there has been this ramped up goal to get an audience to feel clean emotions all the time. To make an audience cry or laugh is the highest achievement. But that is cheap work. We both love films that leave you with a strange feeling that you are not able to fully place. Those that make you sad yet somehow have you smiling at the same time. Moments like that are what makes some films more memorable than others and that is why we fell in love with filmmaking in the first place.

"Don’t adapt to what people want to see. Dare to be personal."

Has your style and the approach to your work changed much since you started out?

It's ever evolving. We are always trying to find new approaches to how to tell a story. As a writing/directing duo we are only starting out so we are still finding our language. Really not sure what the next film could look like. We might surprise ourselves.

Do you think filmmakers should push the boundaries of the films and stories they want to tell?

That sort of depends on what the boundaries are. If it means to go into the uncomfortable parts of yourself and finding out what stories that you really want to tell or to go against commercial interests and really try and create something with your own voice, then hell yes go push boundaries. That is the scariest and hardest thing to do.

Do you have any tips or advice you would offer a fellow filmmaker?

Don’t adapt to what people want to see. Dare to be personal. Take both praise and criticism as lightly as possible. Reject false icons. Free Tibet. Kumbaya.

And finally, what do you hope people will take away from The Owl?

Any combination of emotions works for us

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