Interview with Danish Comedy Director Rasmus Heide

This article originally appeared on the video on demand site, Cinecliq. Reprinted here with permission.


Danish comedy director Rasmus Heide has three films on Cinecliq “Take the Tash,” “The Christmas Party,” and “All for One” (which spawned a sequel, “All for Two”). Heide spoke exclusively with Cinecliq about how he films comedy, the advantages of being a writer/director, and what it takes to make sure audiences laugh.

Cinecliq: With your first two feature films, “Take the Trash” and “Christmas Party,” you were director and co-writer. How does being involved in the writing change the experience of directing?

Heide: Being involved in the script from the very beginning is a great advantage when you’re doing comedies, because whereas funny lines and actions can be described fairly easily in a script, it’s very hard to get it across in writing when a scene’s “punch line” is an awkward silence or the absence of something expected by the audience. Since I like to explore as many aspects of film comedy as possible – including the ones that are easier felt than described – being involved in the script gives me the courage to aim for these laughs as well.

How did you get involved with “All for One”? At what point of the development process were you attached, and what attracted you to being part of it?

My longterm comedy partner, Mick Øgendahl, handed me a first draft while I was still editing “The Christmas Party”. Both he and I have always been very fascinated by American comedies. They tend to be bigger, bolder and a little bit crazier than Scandinavian comedies, which are often aimed at a younger audience or at families. This was his take on it, and I was immediately up for the challenge. We wanted to introduce the American scope and look to a crazy Scandinavian heist-story, and when the part of the villain in “All for One” appealed to legendary Dutch/American actor Rutger Hauer, things started falling into place.

The success of “All for One” led to a sequel, “All for Two,” which you also directed and where you have a story credit. What were the biggest challenges you faced in creating the sequel, both from a story perspective and a directing one?

From a directing point of view it was a huge advantage to build on our experiences from the first film, and it gave me and the actors a common reference when exploring characters who were already established.

The biggest challenge when doing a sequel is that you have to surpass expectations by quite a bit, to give people the sense of having as much fun as they did watching the first film. Everybody around you tells you to repeat what you did the last time, but that is the only thing that will disappoint the audience for sure.


It seems your film’s characters are often very broadly drawn (very dim, very confident, very sexy – that kind of thing). What attracts you to characters at the fringes of what might be considered normal?

I like to take common feelings that everybody recognizes, and emphasize the parts that you normally wouldn’t admit to. For instance, the sad feeling of being left out or not invited to the party is a very common and relatable feeling. By magnifying this type of feeling in a comedy, you allow people to laugh out loud and still relate to the sincerity of the feeling. Just because it is out of proportion, doesn’t mean it is just for laughs.

What do you do to make sure that something that is funny on the page ends up being funny on the screen?

I make sure that the script is as funny as possible, and never leave anything up to the improvisational skills of the actors or me coming up with something funny on set. If a scene is supposed to be funny, I always circle the one line, action or moment in the scene that pinpoints the laugh and make sure the dynamics of the scene lead up to this point. After the first couple of takes, I try to look at the scene with an open mind – disregarding the script – and ask myself, “Is this convincing? And is it funny?” If you don’t pause and evaluate the scene, you risk ending up in a situation where the funny element in the script is only in the minds of the actors, and not on screen.

Please talk a bit about your directing process. How do you like to prepare before the shoot? How do you like to work with your actors? Given that you are working with comedy, how much improvisation goes on?

I always try to prepare as much as possible before the shoot, and then still be open-minded on the day. I have been very lucky to work with actors and crews that are more experienced than me, so I always listen to new ideas. The key is to know when a new idea elevates a scene or a character, and when it deviates from the overall course and feel of the film.

Since I’m usually involved in the writing from the very beginning, I already have the scenes shot and edited in my head. This way, I always have a clear idea of how a scene could be done, which allows me to be very confident and open-minded when going through locations, wardrobe or rehearsals with the actors. Usually something better evolves during the creative collaborative process, and as a director, you get to pick and choose.

Is there one moment from one of your films that ended up on the editing room floor, but which you wish could have made it into the cut?

I’m very fortunate to have had final cut on all my films, so the only things that end up on the editing room floor are scenes which I think would have made the film not as good. But I did shoot one scene for “All for Two” where the two brothers, Timo and Ralf, get into trouple while driving around town yelling at old people. It was a very funny scene, but ultimately made the two brothers too unlikeable, so it had to go.


Obviously, you can never go back, but now that you have so much more experience, what would you do differently if you were to do your first film, “Take the Trash,” now?

When I make a new film, I try to remember that it could be my last. It is so expensive and requires the talents of so many people. When a project is finally greenlit, I have to make the film as good as I possibly can and not hold anything back. I do everything to the best of my abilities, but when I finally watch it at the premiere, I see hundreds of things that I think I can do better, and that’s probably what keeps me going. I want to make the perfect comedy, if there is such a thing.

I haven’t seen “Take the Trash” since the premiere in 2008, but as much as I love the film, I remember tons of things I would want to change.

Most recently, you have been directing television for the show “Tomgang”. How do you find TV directing compared to film directing?

The biggest change for me was to direct something where I did not participate in writing the scripts. I quickly realised that you are way harder on the material. I tear out scenes or change lines around if I have the faintest sense that it might add something to the episode. It is a very liberating and creative way of shooting that I will try to introduce on my next film.

What are you working on now? What do we have to look forward to from you?

In three weeks we start shooting the second season of “Tomgang”. Building on our experiences from season one, the scripts for the second season have become much better, and I cannot wait to work with the main actors of the show again. That’s the one scary thing about comedy. You constantly have to force yourself to try new things to make it funny and intriguing, because humour evolves with the audience, and if in the end they don’t laugh, they are right, and you are wrong.

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Watch Rasmus Heide’s films “Take the Tash,” “The Christmas Party,” and “All for One”  – now showing on Cinecliq.

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 Photo credits: First photo by Henrik Ohsten. All photos © Fridthjof Film.

Articles from Screen Forever 2013

Screen Forever

22 November 2013

I attended Screen Forever (the rebranded Screen Producers Australia (the rebranded Screen Producers  Association of Australia)) Conference in November 2013. Here are the articles I wrote for Screen Hub covering it. The links below take you to the articles behind Screen Hub’s paywall. The blurbs are simply lifted from the newsletter.

Screen Forever: The State of the Digital Union

Video on demand (VOD), digital distribution, and the changes industry and consumers face every day were all over Screen Forever 2013. Andrew Einspruch digs through a piles of notes to find the jewels.

Screen Forever 2013: Drama in the BBC`s DNA

If you think about producers of high quality television drama, the BBC has got to be at the top of your list. Kate Harwood, Head of Drama Production, England at the BBC talked at Screen Forever about the importance of drama to the broadcaster, and the challenge of getting good writers.

Screen Forever 2013: Dude, Where`s My Audience?

With VOD, catch-up viewing, second screens, time-shifting, cord cutting and all manner of changes looming over the content consumption landscape, it makes sense to ask, as a session did at Screen Forever 2013, “Sorry, Where Has My Audience Gone?” Andrew Einspruch tells us that the answer might surprise.

Screen Forever 2013: Multi-Channel Networks and the Business End of YouTube

The days of YouTube just being dogs on skateboards or kilted Darth Vaders on unicycles playing bagpipes are long gone. YouTube is big business and getting bigger all the time. Andrew Einspruch reports that one of the engines of this business are the emerging multi-channel networks.

Screen Forever 2013: Google`s Approach to Watching Content Owners` Backs

The world of content and culture is moving online. And search giant Google is in the driver`s seat to know what the trends are. But the digital world unfolds in a fraught way for many creators. In the opening session of this year`s Screen Forever conference, Derek Slater, Global Public Policy Manager, Google USA, gave a glimpse into this changing world, as viewed by the advertising behemoth.

Screen Forever 2013: Co-Financing with the USA

A session at Screen Forever looked at some of the ins and outs of financing a feature film with some amount of money from the USA. Andrew Einspruch reports that success factors range from making sure the Aussie elements of the project work to developing credibility as a producer.

Screen Forever 2013: Finding Out How to Get to Sesame Street

On a sunny day in Melbourne, where the clouds had clearly been swept away, Kim Wright, Film Producer with the Sesame Workshop, talked about the things that make Sesame Street a success. Screen Hub`s Andrew Einspruch reports from Screen Forever, the Screen Producers Australia conference.

Screen Forever 2013: The Challenges Facing Network Ten

Hamish McLennan, CEO and MD at Network Ten, acknowledged problems and served up a few useful nuggets to producers who have Ten in their sights, reports Andrew Einspruch.

A Short Animation to Inspire

August 30, 2013

Eight years ago, the animation below, “Ryan”, won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film. And when you watch it, you can see why. It blends a fantastic visual sensibility with a compelling, haunting story of a an animator, Ryan Larkin, whose brilliance sadly burn out.

Ted Hope, the successful indie producer (“21 Grams”, “American Splendor”), said “Ryan” is “a perfect balance of form with content. It is an expressionistic documentary, an animated essay film. It respects life and our struggles. It is about the creative process and inspiration.”

See for yourself. It is an amazing, inspirational work.

Ryan by Chris Landreth, National Film Board of Canada

And here is an animation done by Ryan Larkin. You can see how the above documentary both uses and draws on it.

Walking by Ryan Larkin, National Film Board of Canada

Kevin Spacey On the New World of Content

Kevin Spacey

Actor Kevin Spacey called on the screen industry to drop the ever-fading distinctions between TV and film, and further embrace on-demand viewing. Speaking as the first actor to ever give the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, Spacey said, “The device and the length [of the program] are irrelevant. The labels are useless, except maybe to agents and managers and lawyers who use these labels to conduct business deals.”

The actor, whose Netflix-funded series “House of Cards” is up for nine Emmy awards, said that they went to Netflix because they did not want to go through the traditional process of making a pilot. They knew they story they wanted to tell, and Netflix was the only organisation who had the confidence to let them simply make the whole season.

As for labels, Spacey said that the changing nature of distribution and devices is blurring the once-clear line between film and TV. “For kids growing up now, there’s no difference watching ”Avatar“ on an iPad or watching YouTube on a TV or watching ”Game of Thrones“ on their computer. It’s all content. It’s just story,” he said.

“And the audience has spoken. They want stories. They’re dying for them. And they’re rooting for us to give them the right thing. And they will talk about it, binge on it, carry it with them on the bus, and to the hairdresser, force it on their friends, tweet, blog, Facebook, make fan pages, silly gifs, and God knows what else about it. Engage with it with a passion and intimacy that a blockbuster movie could only dream of. And all we have to do is give it to them.”

It was a rousing call that ended with an Orson Wells quote: “I hate television. I hate it as much as peanuts. But I just can stop eating peanuts.”

Here are some highlights from the speech:

And you might enjoy watching all 47 minutes of it here.

Interesting stuff from a plugged-in actor who is doing his part to embrace these new business and distribution models.

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version of this article was originally published at Cinecliq. Reprinted with kind permission.

Ben Affleck as Batman

August 26, 2013

Ben Affleck

News that Ben Affleck will wear Batman’s cape and cowl in the Warner Bros 2015 sequel to Man of Steel caused quite a stir when it was announced last week. Snarky memes and tweets quickly emerged. And while #batfleck may have been the less than flattering reaction, don’t write him off.

Sure, he’s been in any number of less than stellar films (Gigli and Pearl Harbour spring to mind). But then, any actor with a sustained career can say the same. Plus Argo and The Town showed he was capable of interesting, nuanced performances.

Director Zac Snyder has clearly shown he can deliver on this kind of action flick. And the reaction to the news that Heath Ledger would play the Joker shows that fans aren’t always right when it comes to judging casting.

So as Val Kilmer said, “Give Ben a chance.”

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A version of this article was originally published at Cinecliq. Reprinted with kind permission.


Digitise or Perish article

I wrote up the Digitise or Perish panel featuring by Rick Prelinger, who created the Internet Archive and the Prelinger Library, and Paula Le Dieu, who is currently working with the Mozilla Foundation. A version of it appeared in artsHub, and a somewhat different version (slightly shorter, mainly) in Screen Hub.

No longer dusty storehouses for unused documents, the new archive is not an end point but a beginning, Rick Prelinger, director and cofounder of the Prelinger Library  and the Internet Archive a forum of the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums sector (GLAMs)  in Canberra this week.

Prelinger said that consciously or unconsciously, people think of archives as mortuaries for works that have reached the end of their lifecycle. Instead, he said, use justifies archives so archives should measure success by how much new work and study they could facilitate.

Prelinger said if we see archives as a birthplace rather than a mortuary, we can imagine a new lifecycle for archival material that begins on accessioning.

It is a vision that is far from a dusty, locked up vault. And the implications are far-reaching. For Prelinger, it means putting users before collections, evaluating archival activities in terms of how well they serve access, and committing to pushing material out into the world. It means using records of the past to inform and intervene in the present to influence the future – what Prelinger calls historical intervention.

Read the artsHub version

Read the Screen Hub version


Cannes 2013 Extras: More Articles for Screen Hub

I had two additional article published in Screen Hub based on my trip to Cannes this year. (The original six articles are here.) Happy reading!

Cannes 2013 Extra: How to Produce for the International Market

Angus Finney brought the proverbial wealth of experience to the table. He is the Production Finance Market Project Manager at Film London, and former managing director of Renaissance Films (UK).

Finney started his talk by relaying the results of an informal survey of 15 film financiers from around the world, conducted at a private dinner last October. He had asked them what the key differences were that had occurred over the last five years in the international film market.

“The first interesting observation was that five years ago, there were at least 25 international sales companies that all those financiers trusted in terms of their ability to normally get presales, and most importantly, to hit their take estimates,” said Finney. “That number has gone to ten. Ten companies they trust to actually, definitely hit their numbers. That is food for thought when it comes to international sales and the importance of the sales community when it comes to recouping international film budgets.”

Read the rest…

Cannes 2013 Extra: branding yourself and your projects

One of the keys to success at a film market is presenting yourself and your project in the best way possible. Roshanak Behesht Nedjad of Flying Moon Filmproduktion gave a lot of insights at a session called “Branding Yourself and Your Projects” at the Cannes Film Market last May. Screen Hub’s Andrew Einspruch was there, reporting this, our final bit of coverage from Cannes.

Let’s start with some numbers. There were around 12,000 film buyers, sellers, agency representatives and wannabes at this year’s Cannes Film Market. Obviously, not all of them are empowered to write a cheque.

So let’s simplify for the point of illustration. Assume there are just 1,000 sales agents there who could actually make a decision, and they are there for the five main days of the market. Now assume they only have meetings with two people on any given day (which is absurdly low – it is more like five to ten per day, at least). So, 1,000 agents x 5 days x 2 meetings/day = 10,000 meetings. If they all saw the same people, that’s 5,000 projects being pitched.

The point being made by Nedjad? At a minimum, you are competing with at least 5,000 other projects. That’s your starting point, and probably a very low number.


Read the rest…

Stephen Cleary and Genre for ScreenHub

14 June 2013

Stephen Cleary

My article on Stephen Cleary’s approach to genre is up at Screen Hub. It was based on the Genre Bootcamp he conducted for ScreenACT.

Stephen Cleary has contributed a lot of clear thinking to the Australian industry`s long meditation on genre, which is such a profound tool in inderstanding projects, their structure and the contract with the audience. Andrew Einspruch reports on his Genre Bootcamp for ScreenACT.

Why do we like genre? Because we enjoy familiar stories told in an unfamiliar way – which is the heart of creating a good genre film. “Genre turns sameness into a virtue,” said Stephen Cleary. “The audience enjoys more than the individual film when they watch a genre film.” That’s because they are familiar with the genre, and bring that background of their understanding of the genre to their experience of watching the film.

“Genre is simply a way of organising things, and that’s it. There’s no need to get too hung up on it,” said Cleary. “The way you organise things depends on what you want, so genre definitions change according to who’s making them.” That is, the way a producer might think about genre is different to someone who is trying to organise a DVD store. In the US, there’s a big genre called “foreign” (everything not made in English). Or there’s the genre “arthouse”, which is a film with a limited audience. But these definitions are not particularly helpful, say, for a writer talking to a script developer about their script. They need to know about genre from the perspective of storytelling.

Read the rest.

Cannes 2013: My Articles for Screen Hub

29 May 2013

Cannes Festival 2013

I wrote half a dozen articles for Screen Hub while on my trip to the Marché du Film in Cannes in May 2013. The links should get you past the paywall.

Cannes 2013: Challenges in Film Financing, Part One

Why are mid-range films being burnt out of the market? `Risk to reward ratio` say the bankers who control the nutrient for the whole ecosystem. Andrew Einspruch thinks that the advice to stay small and starve pretty well sucks, but he reports the dilemmas as the experts see them. What do they really want? Better returns than real estate. 

Cannes 2013: Financing Trends and Realities, Part Two

“Film has become a place where capital meets opportunity… What’s harder for us is financing vehicles that are very dependent on testing the market with different talent… We will continue to see independent product coming to various festivals, of a quality that festivals have not seen in prior years.” The bankers talk about The New Investor, as the market shivers and stabilises.

Cannes 2013: Success Tips for Newbies – The Experts Speak

As the masses gather for the Cannes Film Festival and its associated Marché du Film, .Screen Hub’s Andrew Einspruch has landed amongst them as part of a delegation from ScreenACT. The group sat down with Geoff Brown and Julie Marlow, both ex-SPAA and now working together as Filmmaking Services, who have been to dozens of Marchés du Film. Their generous wisdom flowed freely.

Cannes 2013: What Kind of Producer Are You?

For the third year, the Cannes Film Market held its Producers Workshop, aimed at new and new-ish producers attending the market. One session in the series of workshops was What Kind of Producer Are You? Screen Hub’s Andrew Einspruch reports but keeps any reflections on his own identity to himself.

Cannes 2013: Decoding B2B marketing

Even emerging producers fresh from the real world have to understand they are a brand, according to the Cannes Film Market’s Producers Workshop. Screen Hub’s Andrew Einspruch stays idealistic as he contemplates the pitching nitty-gritty of B2B Marketing Tools and Strategies and the invention of the producerial self.

Cannes 2013: An Australian perspective on the market

Part of any market is reading the entrails – was it a good market, a bad one, or somewhere in between? Screen Hub’s Andrew Einspruch sat down with the oracle of Screen Australia, Ross Matthews, Head of Production Investment.

AIDC 2013 Articles for Screen Hub

March 2013

I attended this year’s Australian International Documentary Conference, and wrote a bunch of articles for Screen Hub. The bold line is the name of the session title. The paragraph that follows is the article I wrote for it.

Riding the Freedom Streams

AIDC 2013: alternative finance and distribution for documentaries. Do you want to be an enterprise ship or an independent scrappy kayaker? Screen Hub’s Andrew Einspruch donned a lifejacket and waded into a watery metaphor of business models.

Future Rights Model

AIDC 2013: from out of the wreckage, a Future Rights ModelIf you can control your film’s distribution, you can control its revenues. Distrify is a distribution platform aiming to let filmmakers do just that, reports Screen Hub’s Andrew Einspruch.

Screenrights Lab/Ancillary Rights and How to Start a Franchise

AIDC 2013: ancillary rights, the devil is in the lawyer. So your show has just become a hit, and everyone wants to help you “exploit the opportunity”. That’s where the ancillary rights come in. If you signed a crummy deal, then someone else is going to get that money, reports Screen Hub’s Andrew Einspruch.

Documentary Distribution in a Digitised World

AIDC 2013: Digital Distribution, a Complex Way to Make Money. Digital distribution is the great hope for many filmmakers – a way to get material out into the world, either as a sole strategy, or as part of a hybrid or traditional distribution model. It`s just a hell of a lot more complicated than it looks.

Who Do We Think We Are?

AIDC 2013: Ruth Harley Lauds Australian Documentary. If a documentary represents a kind of picture of the world at a particular time and place, then CEO of Screen Australia, Dr. Ruth Harley, took the opportunity in one of the first sessions at this year’s AIDC to have a look at what kind of snapshots her organisation helped create in 2012.

Screenrights Lab: Keep the Pirates at Bay

AIDC 2013: Keeping the Pirates at Bay. The piracy horse has bolted. The only question that remains is what is to be done about it. The figures are compelling, but finding a solution still seems to be an elusive goal.

Screenrights Lab / Education Rights – Ensuring Profitability and Sustainability

AIDC 2013: Making Money Under the Education Kanopy. When you think profitability, do you think education sales? Kanopy provides the “Netflix of education”, and it’s a damned site more profitable than Quickflix.

Is Your Documentary a Format?

AIDC 2013: Ye Olde Complete Guide to Formats. Formats are a strong theme at this year`s AIDC. And if you have a format, and you want to strike a deal for it, what do you need to keep in mind?

The Australian Television Content Variety Hour With Your Host: The Ghost of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo

AIDC 2013: Australian stories on Australian screens. The screen sector is up in arms about the dilution of Australian content on our TV screens. The title of an AIDC session was the whimsical Welcome to the Australian Television Content Variety Hour With Your Host the Ghost of Skippy the Bush Kangaroo. But the content of the session was serious business.

The Never Ending Tail

AIDC 2013: long tail, teaching old docs new tricksSustainability can take more than one form in the documentary business. For smaller players, the long tail of distribution is your friend. Sue Maslin gives some useful examples of how you can make money from old catalogue.

Walk Off the Land After the Harvest

AIDC 2013: Walk Off the Land After the HarvestA discussion of ethics in documentary making is a bi-annual tradition at the Australian International Documentary Conference. Screen Hub’s Andrew Einspruch reports on the session chaired by Screen Hub Editor, David Tiley.

Captain Ahab`s Motorcycle Club

AIDC 2013: Captain Ahab`s Motorcycle ClubMaking a film about the embalming and display of American President Abraham Lincoln is a little eccentric. Doubling Estonia for Chicago might come across as just plain nuts.