For this week’s edition of Meet Your Makers, The List stopped by the Spætt Film office to talk to director Magnus Skatvold and CEO/Co-Producer Håvard Gosse about their recent hit film: Trondheimsreisen. They premiered the documentary during Kosmorama International Film Festival this past March and received great acclaim.
For those that missed it during Kosmorama, or those wanting to see it a second time, the film is still currently in theatres.
Peep the trailer:How did you first become interested in film?
For me, it very much so has been a lifelong passion. I’ve been a film-buff since my childhood and I have kind of known from the time
I was 10 or 11 that at some point I was going to work with film; either has an actor or director. I was just fascinated with the world of film.
– Any movie in particular?
I think Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 was one of the first films I saw in the cinema, probably a little too young to see it, but that was just such a profound experience for me.
I like to tell a fun story which is when I was born my parents were out at the cinema; watching To Menn for En Baby. I wanted to get out and spoil this horrible film for them…I don’t know if they’ve ever watched it again.
Then my plan was to be an engineer, but I always borrowed my dad’s camera to film little clips. Then I studied math, chemistry, and physics at university and got some extra points for that which got me into my dream course: the film course at NTNU. So thanks to me trying to be an engineer I got into the film class and its grown from there!
Where did the project of Trondheimsreisen come from?
This project had been in development for about a year before we got attached to it. Trondheim Cinema and the producer were in talks about putting to use some the many kilometers of films stock they had stored. And that began the process of what it should be used for, whether a documentary or something else.
We got approached to take a look at the material and got involved in the process. Then we started with interviews, for research and for something we could use in the film. So we started with interesting storytellers in Trondheim, not necessarily famous people, but ones that had personal and historical stories to tell.
We are really happy that Dag Hoel came to us with this project. As we said he had been developing something with Trondheim Kino, but then he needed a storyteller to come on board. Dag Hoel is one of the all-timers here in Trondheim; he’s been producing for many, many years. He knows me from previous work we have done together and of course, Magnus was on his radar as well for being one of the young, new directors from the region that has a lot of experience. So it was well timed that he came to Magnus for the director position.
The dynamic between the producer and myself was very good for the project. We had different views on materials and experience and two voices to tell the story. This resulted in, mainly, positive discussions on the what the story is and could be – which is so broad as we are telling the story of Trondheim over the course of 100 years.
How long did it take to complete the film?
We were contacted about the film about two years ago. The process started there, and while it hasn’t been full time, I’ve spent several hours a week, every week on it for the past two years. It was a lot of different processes, one being getting a hold of all the material and looking through it – which takes hours and hours. You also have to think about it and let it sink in and start to build a story in your head.
There is also the process of editing it all together that started very early on. Within the first month, I started editing together little scenes and trying to get a hold of the style I wanted to use.
Choosing the footage was quite intuitive in a sense. I had done a couple of interviews that were very open, just sitting down with people for an hour or two talking about their lives with no clear agenda. I just wanted to get as much openness as possible, and people ended up using me almost like a therapist. They were talking about things they hadn’t thought about in 10-20 years; people were opening up and crying. I think there is something that happens when people speak to someone half their age or younger starts asking about their lives. How was it being in love during this time or that? What was it like experiencing the war? That gave me a lot to work with.
How was the process compared to your previous work?
This project is very special because we had to find a way of doing it, almost inventing a new way of thinking. The story we were telling isn’t linear where you have a script and just need to follow that. All the materials we had, from the footage, the interviews, and even the sound design was influencing each other. It was after the interviews that I really knew what to look for in the material and footage we had, but also it worked the other way and the material gave me ideas about what to ask people during the interviews.
The only mainframe we really had to guide the process of creating the film was that it started with this shot from 1906 and the ending using footage from the 1980’s. Most people would have organized the film to have it all in chronological order, but Magnus managed to find some kind of fluctuating way to tell the story that still makes it feel like it is going from one point to another. Which is a much more interesting film, I think.
It was a challenge because it needed some structure. The film is chronological in a way that it starts one way and ends more modern in some parts, but it takes some liberties in jumping between decades in ways we felt it was necessary to tell the story. We see the timeline as not only chronological but where do you place something like being a student at NTNU into a specific time period? We wanted to tell things like that, like being a student, as some broader. That we could mix clips from the 1940’s or 60’s or 80’s and that things are very much the same, but also has its differences.
How long did it take to look through all that footage?
Our material came from a lot of sources, from the national library, Studentersammfundet, NRK, and even regular people sending us film from their own collections.
That footage isn’t the same type of quality like some of the stuff from NRK, but having those private moments from real Trondheimer’s became the soul of the film.
We bought a machine to digitize the film ourselves but quickly found out that it wasn’t enough. We could use it to watch through the film but had to send it to a specialist to digitalize it. But its great as now all the footage is being sent to the National Library to be stored and is great for documenting our history.
How was the premiere?
It was awesome for us. I was sitting next to two musicians that have a song in the film and overheard them talking about how they were touched by the film along with everyone else. Everyone was talking about their own experiences in the city, and that was great to hear.
We had people coming up and telling us that they were never going to leave Trondheim again!
It was an overwhelming experience. I’d seen the film 10-20 times already, but it really came alive seeing it with a large audience. It was definitely a high point in my professional life – presenting it with Liv Ullmann of all people and getting such positive feedback from the audience. I had people coming up to me that I didn’t know to thank me for making the film.
We knew of course that this would be popular amongst the older generations of people in Trondheim, but it has shown itself to be more of a cross-generational film and bringing people together.
After Trondheimsreisen it was very good to go back to doing more short-term projects. Also working with the documentary ‘Blue Code of Silence’ [A documentary film about the story of the infamous NYPD officer Bob Leuci] and hopefully we will get some more answers on that in the coming months.
We [Spætt Films] have a short film that is being made with Vegard [Dahle] as director. He made the film ‘Eye’ last year, which won the 72-hour competition at the Jinzhen International Short Film Festival in China last year. We are making a behind-the-scenes movie on that as well. We also have a few feature films that are in development.
Keep an eye out for much more from Spætt films in the future. With some exciting documentaries, fiction films, and entertaining commercials currently in the works. Check out some more of their past, current, and future projects here!
Also stay tuned to TheList.no for a few film suggestions from these two!