Lone Scherfig [Interview]

(Photo by Yu Tsai/Contour by Getty Images)

 

Hello Folks! We have an absolutely incredible interview to share with you all today. When I first moved to the UK in late 2016, I remember being in downtown London seeing a plethora of advertisements for a film that was coming soon entitled Their Finest. By poster alone, I was intrigued. So I did some research, and anticipated its arrival. During this time, I was working on a celebration of Women in filmmaking special I wanted to do, and I discovered that the aforementioned film was almost entirely made by women. I was intrigued to say the least. So, I attempted to secure an interview with the film’s director, but she was understandably busy at the time, but directed me to the film’s screenwriter, Gaby Chiappe, and she made for a wonderful inclusion in the series. That generous filmmaker was indeed the one and only Lone Scherfig. And if you couldn’t guess, she’s finally gracing our digital pages today!

Being as insanely busy as Lone is, we are so incredibly fortunate to have gotten some wonderful words from her. She is an absolutely brilliant filmmaker. Her 2009 film An Education is one of my favorite films from the last 20 years. We were able to discuss this film, Their Finest, and much more in this incredible interview below. Again, we are so very honored to have her join the TWS family. So Folks, please enjoy some incredible words from Lone Scherfig!

 

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What inspired you to get into the world of entertainment? Was it something that you have aspired to do since your youth? Or did you happen to find yourself in this world one day?

I remember in my teens slowly realizing that watching films was something you could actually do for a living. So, not unlike what Jenny dreams of in An Education,  I smoked, watched French films, and then went to Paris to study. I wrote about Italian neorealism, the films I still feel most closely connected to.  Later I studied in Copenhagen, then went to film school there. When I got out, a director at only 24, I began working as a 1st Ad and script supervisor.

What was your very first paid gig in the world of entertainment? And were there any sort of lessons learned from this experience that still affects your work today?

The summer I left film school, The Love Boat came to Copenhagen and I got a job. We only had one television station here then and nobody knew the series, which ran in 103 other countries.The actors were unknown here and almost felt invisible when walking the streets of Copenhagen. They were euphoric.  One day, when we were shooting on the rain, the gaffers build an entire cabinet of lights for me, where I could stand and be heated. I almost melted and have never stopped loving gaffers and grips. In the evenings, we sat on the deck of the Pacific Princess and played a brand new board game, they had brought. Trivial Pursiut it was called.

The 2009 film you directed known as An Education is one of my favorite films from the last 20 years, it’s truly a masterpiece. I am curious to know what made you want to bring this story to the screen? What was it about the story that made you want to work on this project? And what are your thoughts on the final product that world knows?

The script had been on the black list, so I may have been the 25th director to read it. I remember falling for David, Peter Sarsgaards character.  The man in the marroon four door Bristol, who offers to take Jenny’s cello out of the rain. I was deeply attracted to the meticulous description of coming close to and being abused by a sociopath, something most of us at some point experience. Lynn Barber, the real Jenny, very accurately remembered David’s not very good jokes and countless moving details, without ever being sentimal. Nick Hornby had made very precise choices and had a deep understanding of Jenny, who reminded Nick of his real life sister. Nick Hornby’s tone was and still is something I feel very familiar with and felt I could take through the film machine without damageing it.

Little by little, post war London had unfolded for me and the film got more and more layers. I wasn’t too worried about anything but protecting the tone and achieving authenticiy and quality. I had already directed a few films, but except for one they were all in Danish, so I was almost treated like a beginner when I arrived in London. The first day the producers gave me a bus pass which was a massive step down from my life at Zentropa Studios in Copenhagen. I decided to chose my battles and just focused on doing my very, very best in every single part of the process, but also never guildening the lily, the story about a series of losses of innocense. I kept reminding myself that, to quote Danish film director Niels Malmros, “on film it can be as engaging to see a girl’s dress get torn as a hundred soldiers get shot”.

 

Photo by Nicola Dove

 

Another film you directed that is an absolute favorite of mine, is one that happens to be written by our dear friend and past guest Gaby Chiappe, entitled Their Finest. Same sort of question, really. What drew you to this tale? What was it about this tale that made you want to bring it to life on screen?

Gaby’s script, adapted from Lissa Evans’ novel, had the same combination of humour and emotion. Amanda Posey, who first decided to film An Education, produced that as well.  This time I was more aware of portraying a young girl with ambitions of becoming a writer. Jenny from An Education, Emma from One Day, Lauren from the Riot Club and Catrin from Their Finest have a lot in common. It’s only when I list them, I know that I am like them as well. Catrin from Their Finest is the warmest of them and the one who is struggling the most, losing everything she has overnight during the London blitz.  Catrin works in film, so I had easy access to understanding the characters and their arena. The cast is phenomenal, even in the smallest parts. The producer Stephen Woolley is a complete expert on British film history and gave me many shortcuts into the incredible British WW2 films, Their Finest is inspired by. The film is the best technical challenge I’ve ever had, combining all formats from real footage of Dunkirk to our mock up 35 mm technicolour film within the film, which Catrin has written.

If you were handed the opportunity to create the biopic of any legendary figure from Danish history, who would it be?

Rose Tremain has written a masterpiece about the court of Danish King Christian the 4th, Music and Silence. But in general, I am not a fan of biopics. There are excellent ones, but I like fiction better and I’m in awe of the writers who write completely original material.

What does the future hold for you? Anything you would like to plug to our readers?

I’ve spent most of 2020 writing and will continue this spring. I’m also reading, hoping find a project with a strong plot and a strong production budget. Both would be such a luxury. I think I may have my best work ahead of me, though I think The Kindness of Strangers which is released on the 14th, has the humour, depth, originality and quality I aim for.

What was the last thing that made you smile? 

Thinking about Bill Nighy in a restaurant scene, when I wrote about the cast in Their Finest. He has unbeatable timing in The Kindness of Strangers too.

About rontrembathiii
write. write. write.

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