Exvlusive Interview with Svend Colding – Filmmaker
Danish filmmaker Svend Colding started his directing career at New York Film Academy in 2011. Before that he hadn’t touched a camera. So it was a big gamle to go to the Big Apple, but after the first class of writing, with writing teacher Randall Dottin, he was convinced that this was what he should do. In 2013 he started working in the danish film industry after going back to Denmark. He worked at several danish feature films and tv series, first as a PA, later as a 2nd AC and then as a 2nd Assistant Director. While working on the big productions he also managed to write and direct his own short films and music videos. In 2018, one of his short films got into 18Frames, a film school run by the students. Svend is shooting his thesis film this spring and graduating in August.
NY Glam: How long have you been making films and videos?
I started in 2011 attending New York Film Academy’s 1-year program of Filmmaking. Before that I didn’t think that making films was an option. I’m from Aarhus in Denmark, where there isn’t many options for young people with dreams of making films. Studying in New York was therefore the opportunity I needed to get me going.
NY Glam: What film was your directorial debut?
We did a lot of small projects at NYFA, but nothing that I would call my debut. So it wasn’t before I moved to danish capital Copenhagen, where I was able to make my first real short. I wrote a 10 pages script and showed it to my friend and colleague, actor Alexander Behrang Kesthkar. My plan was for him to star in it, but he didn’t see himself as the lead. He rather wanted to help producing the film and play a supporting role. I learned a lot from his unselfish choices and I couldn’t have done the film without him. The name of the film is “+1”. It was shot in 2014 and finished in 2015.
NY Glam: What is your recent film about?
“Slanging” is about a coke dealer, who’s trying to get out of the drug business. He needs to do some unfinished business before he’s able to start a new life without his criminal ways of living. For me it’s a movie about wanting to change and doing wrong for all the right reasons. It was an interesting task to make a criminal character likable, without a “save the cat” moment or something alike. I wanted the audience to understand this man, despite the job that he’s doing.
NY Glam: How did you go about casting for the film?
I’ve been knowing Besir Zeciri for a long time and wanting to work with him for almost as long. So it didn’t take a lot of drafts of the script, before I started seeing him as the lead. Luckily he liked the story and had the time to join the project. I always priorities authentic performances. Actors that doesn’t have to do that much to be interesting is my preferred ones. This is one of the reasons for my likings of Besir, but also for the rest of the cast in the movie.
NY Glam: What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?
You can make a great scene, but sometimes you have to let it go, if it affects the flow of the story in a negative way. The good old “cut your darlings” applied in this film. Me and my editor, Patrick Lund Larsen, made a scene with a lot of tension build in it. We both loved it, but for some reasons it made the story drag a bit. It’s always a hard choice to leave scenes out or to shorten them since so many people have been working so hard to shoot it. But in the end you have to do what’s best for the story.
NY Glam: Tell us a bit about the other films you’ve made and your other projects.
My films doesn’t look like each other. I like to play with different genres and different styles. My first film was a thriller/chrime movie, the next one was a kids movie, then a drama and now back to the thriller/chrime genre. For me it’s important to play around and being able to test out different techniques of story telling. But even so I always hope to put in something that tells you, that it’s a film made by me – not sure if it’s working though!
NY Glam: What role have film festivals played in your life so far?
I had a lot of great experiences with film festivals so far. From Giffoni Festival, a big Italian children’s film festival, where my film, “Real Strength” won an award to a small festival in Coventry, England where me and my friend stayed at the festival manager’s house. Even though I’m not much of a networking type of person, I still like to meet fellow filmmakers and party with them. It’s also a source for great inspiration to see films from all around the world.
NY Glam: Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?
It’s always hardest to start. You have to earn the trust of the crew and cast. Once you showed that you know what you’re doing it gets easier to come through with your visions. I’m always trying to surround myself with people I admire and whom I’m also able to have fun with. It’s hard to stay creative if you’re not enjoying the process – from script, to shooting and in editing. I always try to analyse what I didn’t like about the latest film I made. That goes for both the process of making it and the end result. So when I start on something new, there’s definitely things and methods I want to use again, but there’s also a lot of stuff that I’m not gonna touch. But in the end it’s not hard to keep going as long as you stay hungry.
NY Glam: How has your style evolved?
I’m putting more and more attention on characters and their developing throughout the movie. That means that for my more recent films I’m trying to let everything start with the characters. Does this camera angle tell us something about the character’s state of mind? No? Well, then we have to do something else. I’m also getting more aware of my cinematic preferences according to light and camera work. Mostly I like it to feel more raw and authentic than staged and classic. I’ve also more concerned about flow and tempo in scenes. I’ve been making too many scenes, where you have to chop them into pieces before getting something that felt right. If your able to see the perfect flow on set, you’ll probably also see it in editing.
NY Glam: What has been your personal key to success?
Success is a funny word, since I doesn’t see myself as a filmmaker with a lot of success. But I like to listen. Shut up and listen. I’ve always learned a lot more from listening than talking. Another thing is trust. You have to find crew and cast that you trust, because you cannot make your stupid little movie all by yourself. People are much more creative if you let them do what they signed up to do and a lot of times you’ll see solutions that you could never come up with yourself.
NY Glam: What are you thinking about doing next?
I’m about to shoot my thesis from the alternative film school, 18Frames. We’re in the middle of script writing and planning to shoot in May or June. Hopefully it will premiere in August.
NY Glam: Where does your studio want to go from here?
I’m not attached to any studios, but I have a couple of producers that I love working with. Hopefully I’ll get to work with them again soon. A have a dream and a hope to make my first feature film in the next couple of years, even though the route is hard and rocky. I also have a short length tv-series in mind, that I want to do as well. It’s just really hard to get these projects through as a newcomer in Denmark. There is a lot of talent and a lot of fighting for the money – that’s probably just the business anywhere. But maybe somebody is willing to read my scripts and give me the chance – I’ll be ready!