Sisse Graum Jørgensen is one of the most dynamic Danish producers working today. Only 35, she has already produced more than nine features, including the Oscar-nominated Susanne Bier film After the Wedding, as well as Bier's acclaimed Brothers, and Lone Scherfig's Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself. In 2003, she was named European Film Promotion's Producer on the Move; she made Screen International's Talent Watch list in 2004; and the same year she was named one of Variety's 10 Producers to Watch at the Cannes Film Festival. Jorgensen executive produced the Cannes Jury Prize-winning Red Road, screening in this year's Sydney Film Festival (SFF), (along with After the Wedding).
Sisse Graum Jørgensen will be a guest of SFF and IndiVision this year. She will speak at an industry breakfast about her dynamic company Zentropa, as part of the IndiVision Filmmaker Dialogues. She spoke to IndiVision News in the weeks before her Australian visit.
Red Road was produced as part of a joint Danish-Scottish initiative called The Advance Party, where three different directors are given the opportunity to each make a film set in Scotland using the same set of characters and actors. How did this initiative come about?
The Advance Party sprung from the collaboration between Scottish producer Gillian Berrie and me. We began working together on Lone Scherfig's film Wilbur Wants To Kill Himself. On this film we experienced the meeting between the Danish and Scottish film traditions. It was really interesting so we decided to combine and refine those traditions. The idea was to come up with a set of rules for the production that contained what we believe to be the best from Scotland and the best from Denmark. Then we got hold of the three directors we wanted to work with: Andrea Arnold, Morag McKinnon and Mikkel Nørgaard.
After Lone Scherfig and Anders Thomas Jensen created the set of characters for the initiative, how was the script of Red Road developed?
Andrea wrote her own story and screenplay. However, one of the ideas behind The Advance Party is that the directors have the opportunity to use one another and collaborate throughout all the stages of the filmmaking process. So far they have chosen to do so.
The budget for the film was around US$2 million. Is there much potential to draw different international production partners together for films of this size?
It is a small budget in Denmark and extraordinarily small in the UK. I believe all public funding schemes should contain an incitement to support low-budget films. There should be a sense of obligation to get as much as possible out of the subsidy funds. The cheaper the films the more films you can produce. Volume is one of the keys to success - of course having said that, success is still primarily about good stories and original talent.
The film was shot in 31 days. Is this considered a short shooting schedule for Denmark and the UK, or average?
Six weeks is a short shooting period. Average in Denmark is 8 weeks with 8-hour working days.
Do you think that in general shooting fast makes it harder or does it make some things better?
When you're shooting fast a well-defined project is the essential key to success. The producer and the director need to agree on what is important and what is less important. The less important should be made simple and easy so they leave more time and space for the important elements.
Red Road looks very striking, and gets a great look out of the HD. What factors do you consider when deciding if your productions should be shot on film or HD?
At Zentropa we tend to shoot digitally. We prefer to shoot digitally with a handheld camera because it enables us to move fast and keep the camera running. Furthermore, we believe in having a lot of material in the editing suite and having the option to improvise with actors during shoot.
In your opinion, what was it about Red Road that caused it to be awarded the Jury Prize at Cannes? What are its strengths?
Red Road is a strong story told by a strong original and creative voice.
You've been named by Variety as one of their Ten Producers To Watch. What is it about the way you work that has made you successful?
I am just fortunate enough to work with very strong directors like Susanne Bier, Lone Scherfig and screenwriter and director Anders Thomas Jensen. I see it as my job to realise their visions and then spread those visions both nationally and internationally, so that is what I focus on.
What are you working on currently, and what's next?
I have a film coming out in the fall called Erik Nietzsche the Early Years by director Jacob Thuesen. Other than that I am working on new films with Susanne Bier, Lone Scherfig and Kristian Levring. All three are at the script-development stage and all three are being developed in collaboration with Anders Thomas Jensen.
Red Road screens at 6.15pm Thursday 21 June at the State Theatre, and 4.15pm Saturday 23 June at Dendy Opera Quays. After the Wedding screens Sunday 17 June at 7.15pm and Tues 19 June at 12 noon at the State Theatre.
An industry breakfast with Sisse Graum Jørgensen will be held 9-11am, Friday 15 June. The event is free but places are strictly limited. To request a place email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 02 9321 6476.