Despite limited budgets, Christian Tafdrup and Mehdi Avaz have succeeded in making films appreciated by members of the audience as well as the voting committees behind the two most prestigious Danish film prizes, the Danish film critics' Bodil Award and the Film Academy's Robert Award.
Small Films Can Look Big
'A Horrible Woman,' which opened on 25 December, is a satiric look at a relationship under pressure seen from the man’s point of view. Made with support from the New Danish Screen development programme, the film was shot in three weeks on a budget of DKK 3 million (about EUR 400,000).
"When the budget is low, you tend to end up in a single location or have a small cast, so with this film I thought it’d be fun to say, Let’s set the film in a lot of different places, have it take place over a year and be a chamber piece centred on a couple, though other characters could appear too. By saving in other areas, we were able to prove the concept that a low-budget film can look big," says Christian Tafdrup.
Following through on the concept, the team put a number of creative restrictions on themselves, initially of a practical nature: they had to shoot the film in 16 days without rehearsals or lighting and with a crew of no more than six people. Apart from that, the method largely involved the director not trying to control too much but trusting in the script and the cast and not being afraid to surrender to real-life conditions.
'A Horrible Woman' is Christian Tafdrup’s second feature. He debuted as a director in 2016 with 'Parents.'
Now seen by 106,000 cinemagoers, 'A Horrible Woman' has been nominated for two Bodil Awards and five Robert statuettes, including for Best Film at both events.
High Quality at Low Prices
'While We Live' is a melodrama by the Avaz brothers – directed by Mehdi Avaz, produced by Milad Avaz and written by Misam Avaz, who found inspiration for the screenplay in real-life events.
The film had a budget of just DKK 2 million (about EUR 270,000) and was produced without funding from the Danish Film Institute, though it later received promotion funding.
"In the development stage our strategy is to be faithful to the artistic concerns, and in the execution phase to be faithful to the basic business of making a product. In that way, we make high-quality content at the lowest possible price," says producer Milad Avaz, who has a degree from Copenhagen Business School and is comfortable with the business aspects of filmmaking.
"Even if people think we could get 20 million to make a film, it shouldn’t cost more than 10, if that’s what we think it should cost,” he says about the team's philosophy.
'While We Live' is Mehdi Avaz’s first feature film as a director.
Seen by a little over 100,000 cinemagoers so far, 'While We Live' has been nominated for four Bodils and five Roberts, including for Best Film.
The quotes are excerpts from interviews in Danish published on dfi.dk in December and October, respectively.