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.

About Andrew Einspruch

Co-founder of Wild Pure Heart Productions and the Deep Peace Trust, I'm an animal-loving, vegan, author and filmmaker, who loves nothing more than an engrossingly entertaining film or book.