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Behind the lens of 65 minute music film

Director of documentary set in abandoned Arctic community, offers his advice to the next generation of film makers

‘Efterklang: The Ghost of Piramida’, in short, is a trip down memory lane in an abandoned Russian settlement and coal mining community on the remote Arctic island of Svalbard. It is one of the highest profile films being shown at Copenhagen’s high-profile documentary festival CPH:DOX.

We asked the director, Andreas Koefoed, a University of Copenhagen graduate in Sociology, to offer his advice to any budding film directors.

»CPH:DOX has established itself as the most important Scandinavian documentary film festival and is recognised world wide for its innovative style and for breaking barriers between documentary and other art forms. It has played a huge role for the new generation of Danish documentary film makers. I have had five films on the festival and it has helped me a lot as a window to the world,« says Andreas.

Curiosity for the world

When was the moment you thought being a filmmaker sounded like a good career plan?
»When I was a kid and teenager I never thought of becoming a filmmaker. I was very much into music and into books. After high school I played piano and sang and I also started studying political science. But soon I realised that I was too shy to be on a stage and that I would never make a good diplomat either«.

»I started studying sociology and at the same time I got the chance to produce small stories for a youth TV programme and I got really excited about it. The process itself, shooting and editing, gave me a tool to portray people and tell stories, a way to express myself. I felt that I could invest myself 100 per cent in it and use the skills I had and the curiosity I had for the world«.

You graduated in 2004 from University of Copenhagen with a degree in Sociology, has that in any way played a part in your growth as an up and coming film and documentary maker?
»I spent 4 years studying sociology. It has given me some academic skills and a way to perceive and analyse a topic which I can use in filmmaking. However I am not interested in making academic films as such, so my main approach is always on the character and the personal development and the existential conflicts. But I would love to make films that include both a personal dramatic story as well as a social issue or context«. 

Telling a story up North

This year’s festival features your film that was made for the Danish band Efterklang’s album, entitled ‘The Ghost of Piramida’. What was it like filming on-location and how did it come about to link up with Efterklang in the first place?
»Rasmus from Efterklang contacted me last spring and asked me if I wanted to come along to Svalbard. I had been a fan of their music for 10 years so it was a wonderful invitation. However I didn’t know exactly how to make a film out of the trip. I didn’t want to fall into a classic portrait of a band making a record so I was looking for another angle on the story«.

»Luckily, one of the last days in Piramida we met Alexander, a 70-year old man who used to live in Piramida and who had gone back to visit it again for probably the last time. For him it was a lost paradise, where he spent the best time in his life. He was a film director himself and gave me a dvd of a film he made in Piramida. I went back to Denmark and looked at the film and then got the idea to make him the narrator of our film. So he is telling his story of Piramida while Efterklang is exploring the place and recording sounds that later turn into music«.

Andreas will be part of public Q&A session on Saturday 10th November at the CPH:DOX festival. For more information click here.

Advice for the next generation

What advice would you give to current students / graduates that want to follow down the same path as you and need some words of inspiration?
»Learn the basics of shooting and editing by making small portraits about people you care for, or an issue that is important for you. When you choose to make your first real film, then make sure that you have an original idea and that you are ready to spend two years on getting the film done«.

What’s Denmark like, in your opinion, as a place to ‘kick start’ a career path in filmmaking? Is there much support for the field?
»I think Denmark has one of the most privileged film funding systems in the world, even though it is hard to make a living from making documentaries only«.

»When I meet people elsewhere they are surprised to hear that I can get my films funded from the Danish state and that I can make a living out of it. In many other countries directors spend 5 years on the same film because they have to have another job in order to finance the films. I think it is great, but the film funding system shouldn’t make us lazy, we should keep on exploring and take risks even though the funding is not necessarily there«.

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