Tribeca ‘09 Interview: “North” Director Rune Denstad Langlo

A scene from Rune Denstad Langlo's "North." Image courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival.

A scene from Rune Denstad Langlo's "North." Image courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival.

Director: Rune Denstad Langlo

Screenwriter: Erlend Loe

Cast: Anders Baasmo Christiansen, Kyrre Hellum, Marte Aunemo, Mads Sjoegaard Pettersen, Lars Olsen, Astrid Solhaug

Synopsis: Five years ago, Jomar (Anders Baasmo Christiansen) had a great girlfriend and a promising future as a professional skier, but then a sporting accident triggered a mental collapse. Now 30, Jomar lives a sad, rudderless existence as a ski lift operator and downer of pills and booze. Then he finds out that he has a five-year-old son. With scant more than a snowmobile, a jug of moonshine, and the clothes on his back, Jomar impetuously takes off on a sublimely comic off-road trip bound for Norway’s Far North, hoping to reclaim the life he lost.

Please introduce yourself.

Rune Denstad Langlo, lives in Oslo, Norway. Works as a producer/director in the production company Motlys. Born 1972. Grew up in the suburbs of Trondheim, third largest city of Norway. Played soccer, drove Kawasaki and listened to heavy metal. It was all pretty much like Chuck Klosterman’s “Fargo Rock City.”

My grandfather was born in Seattle, WA, as my great grandparents immigrated to US around 1900. My great grandfather, gold-digger and carpenter, changed his name from Lars Langlo to Louis Nelson. He married my great grandmother Margit, also a Norwegian. They traveled to Trondheim, Norway for a vacation in the 20ties and never returned.

What were the circumstances that lead you to become a filmmaker?

It was a coincidence. I was 26, broke, and had been studying various subjects for six years, uncertain what to do next. A friend offered me a two weeks job as an assistant on a documentary about the famous Norwegian polar hero Roald Amundsen. The production company Motlys (my current employer) produced it, and as they needed a researcher on another project I quit my studies. I didn’t know anything about filmmaking and it took some time before I knew what I was doing.

The first time I realized that I wanted to be a director was while working on a pilot for a TV-series with Norwegian director Bent Hamer. The series was based on archive material and I had written the script for the pilot. I spent a month working in the editing room with Bent and his regular editor Paal Gengenbach. They, on the other hand, spent most of the time telling entertaining anecdotes from their careers and I was deciding that this was the thing I wanted to do.

What prompted the idea for your film and what excited you to make you undertake it?

I got the idea for North when I was visiting my hometown Trondheim in the spring of 2005. At that time I went through a depression and also experienced several anxiety attacks. One day I went cross-country skiing and passed the old slope where I used to ski when I was young. I remembered the guys who used to work there. They were angry, often smelled of booze and they all seemed to have some kind of mental problems.

On the train back to Oslo I wrote a synopsis about a depressed guy running a ski slope, filling his days with pills, booze and television. He had lost his girlfriend and sponsored career as a free rider after a mental breakdown, and the story was about his journey and struggle getting life back.

At this time I was the producer of the project and it wasn’t until I met with screenwriter Erlend Loe a year later that the project really started to develop. Erlend transformed the story to be what we later would describe as an off road movie, and he filled it with wonderful characters. I worked close with Erlend developing the story and the project became more and more personal for me. Early 2007 it was time to sign a director and I remember waking up one night thinking that I could not give this film to anyone else. I arranged a meeting with my colleague, executive producer Sigve Endresen, telling him I wanted to direct it myself. He later told me that he was terrified and I am very grateful that he gave me the chance.

The old ski slope I passed that day is actually the same location we use in the beginning of “North” (both producer Brede Hovland and writer Erlend Loe also went skiing there in their youth.)

What were some of the biggest challenges you faced in developing the project?

My biggest challenge developing “North” was the lack of experience as a director. I had only directed a few documentaries and never done fiction before. Second, North is a low budget movie, we only had two months of preproduction, and besides from the lead role most of the cast is amateurs and debutants. I remember the first day of shooting as scary, but fortunately I worked with some of the most talented and experienced people in Norway. They – especially producers Brede Hovland/Sigve Endresen – gave me confidence that I could make it. During shooting it was most of all DOP Philip Oegaard and lead actor Anders Baasmo Christiansen who helped me in the process of making this film.

Another challenge was the conditions we where filming in. Jomar Henriksen´s journey in North is 1100km long. To save time and cost we had to concentrate the shoot around two locations. We shot all the scenes before his journey around Trondheim and the rest around Troms County. This location is situated approximately 500km north of the Polar circle. The film was shot in February and March, which is the toughest winter period and this became an enormous challenge for the crew. The weather was a challenge throughout the shoot, and it was difficult just to move a few meters to take the next shot.

How do you define success as a filmmaker, and what are your personal goals as a filmmaker?

For me, success is that someone wants me to make another film. If that happens, my personal goal is to make it better than my last film.

What are your future projects?

Erlend Loe (screenwriter of “North”) and me are currently working on a new script about a girl and her revenge. We will have a first draft ready this summer. The film is called “Nater” (“Angry”) and it is a dark comedy.


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