Filmmakers must have courage and integrity

Q&A. Marie Schmidt Olesen has worked with film production and talent development for 14 years in Scotland. Now, she looks forward to getting to know the Danish talents and supporting them in challenging both themselves and the art of cinema. Meet New Danish Screen's new commissioning editor.

Marie Schmidt Olesen went to Glasgow as an English and journalism student and ended up staying for 17 years. Now, she has taken up the position as commissioning editor at the Danish Film Institute's subsidy scheme for talents, New Danish Screen. Her job is, alongside artistic director Jakob Høgel, to identify and cultivate new talent, assess and support project proposals and contribute to the development of the subsidised projects through dialogue with the filmmakers.

"I'm looking for filmmakers with integrity and commitment who dare to have far-fetched ideas and have the belief and talent to actually realize them."

We have asked Marie Schmidt Olesen about her visions for working with Danish talents.

Why did you apply for the job as commissioning editor at New Danish Screen?

Marie Schmidt Olesen

Has worked as a radio journalist, researcher, production assistant, director and producer of documentaries, news and short films, and a mentor for talents. Former director and partner in the production company Autonomi Ltd. and the organisation Diversity Film, which offered training programmes in filmmaking to excluded communities.

BA in English from Aarhus University and University of Glasgow and MA in Media Culture from the University of Strathclyde and University of Glasgow.

New Danish Screen

New Danish Screen is a subsidy scheme for the development and production of fiction and documentary films in various formats. The goal is to support and inspire the development of the film idiom and narrative technique, thus maintaining and furthering the dynamics and diversity of Danish film.

The unit is a service both for emerging professional-grade talents and more experienced professionals.
New Danish Screen is founded on a partnership between the national boradcasters DR and TV 2 and the Danish Film Institute. Funds of roughly 15 million Euros have been allocated to the scheme over the current Film Policy Accord term 2011-2014.

Films include "The Ambassador" by Mads Brügger, "R" by Michael Noer and Tobias Lindholm, "Ballroom Dancer" by Andreas Koefoed and Christian Holten Bonke, "A Soap" by Pernille Fischer Christensen and "Applause" by Martin Pieter Zandvliet.

"I needed a change. I was about to start from scratch with some new projects, but I actually felt like I'd used up all of my options as a creative producer in Scotland. Then I saw the posting for this job, and it sounded amazing to get the chance to help to discover and stimulate inspiring filmmakers to realise their crazy ideas."

What do you see as the strength of the New Danish Screen scheme?

"New Danish Screen is a unique scheme that enables the creation of projects that wouldn't receive public funding in many other places in the world – if any! Experimental films that can expand our understanding of the world, each other and the audiovisual medium. The support and openness to film art in Denmark is incredible.

It can be hard to evolve as an artist in a cutthroat industry where you don't automatically get your project financed just because it feels right. We can support them in that process, and maybe push a little. New Danish Screen is about developing the art of film. We mustn't rely on traditional expressions, but try to innovate."

What will you look for in the applications?

"I'm looking for unpredictable ideas and concepts. I'm looking for filmmakers with integrity and commitment who dare to have far-fetched ideas and have the belief and talent to actually realize them.

I love ambiguous and not so stringent films that challenge the film idiom, break down narratives and recreate them in a fresh way. But there must be a point to it. In the same way, everything doesn't have to be cross platform, transmedia, and whatever else people are talking about these days. The most exciting film for me is a film that someone is passionate about, and then the format is irrelevant. The key is that the filmmakers have an intention with their films. And can explain the motivation behind that intention."

With your background, what can you bring to the job?

I come from outside and don't know a lot of people in the Danish industry yet. Some might consider that a disadvantage, but it can also be healthy to bring a new perspective and experience with another production environment.

All the way back from when I first started out as a producer, I have dealt with talents. There has been great diversity in the people I've worked with, so I'm used to being open to different levels, approaches and ways to make films. My hunger to get the best out of people remains intact."

What is your personal favourite film?

"Tomas Alfredsons 'Let the Right One In" and Mike Leigh's 'Life is Sweet' are some of my all time favourites. Among the Danish films I love are Tobias Lindholm og Michael Noer's 'R', Mikkel Munch-Fals' 'Nothing's All Bad" and Lars von Triers' 'Melancholia'.

Documentary-wise I often return to Hubert Sauper's 'Darwin's Nightmare' because it's one of the first documentaries I can remember, which combines the global with the local in relation to disaster, action and consequence. It's so tough to watch. Other new classics are Pernille Rose Grønkjær's 'The Monastery', Joshua Oppenheimer's 'The Act of Killing' and Victor Kossakovsky's 'The Belovs' - etc., etc.... "