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20th July 2017
Dark arts and dog tales
Title of film: Vargsamtal (Wolf Call), teaser of film in development.
Director: Axel Byrfors
Production Company: Pantera & Co
Axel Byrfors went on a short trip to Buenos Aires, fell in love with the city and stayed to make films. Now home again in Sweden he's making a film about the conversation between sled dogs and Siberian wolves

Please describe your childhood.

I was one of seven kids and we moved around lot. I was the second youngest so my bigger siblings taught me and passed on a lot of experience. It was both fun, confusing, and enriching of course.

Dad traveled a lot and told me endless stories which I think inspired me as well. Mom was very interested in art and used to let me sit at home drawing or read encyclopedias about whatever I was into at the time instead of going to school and doing maths. Now and then we used to watch Dracula together.

Some of those brief childhood obsessions got to stay as well, I’ve been a hobby herpetologist since I was five for example. I have only good things to say about my childhood.

A brief background to your directing history please.

I went through some trouble when I was in high school and had to stay at home for a couple of months and that resulted in weeks of movie marathons. It made me choose media college instead of the music program where all my friends went. And then it evolved from there.

I made some short films and got in to a course at the National Film School in Stockholm (Dramatiska Institutet). At first I wanted to be a screenwriter but once I got hold of a cheap camera I just naturally started to aim for directing. I still write though.

We love the way your narratives, even for your fashion films, take on a dark twist and there’s a lonely stillness about your characters. How do you go about writing your scripts – especially for your film for Alen.

The dark tones or themes just come naturally and I haven’t really analysed it so much. I’ve never been able to write something with a cheerful tone, although I would love to tackle that as well.

It was inspiring to have the liberty working with Alen to do whatever I wanted with a fashion short. I mean, trying to highlight beauty in something sad or even hostile is a really cool and endless exercise, in general I mean, you do that with life as well. Also Alen is kind of a homage to Buenos Aires because I was moving away at the time. The city after rainfall has such an alluring melancholy to it.

Your cinematic style also reflects the darker nature of your scripts, although they are beautifully lit and framed. Where did you learn your craft?

The quick answer, just working and experimenting, and stealing from others, I guess. Sometimes when filming your own stuff you have a canvas in your head and you try to make it look like that. On other occasions you can have an amazing DoP and a really precise physical reference of a shot and you discuss, ”making it look like that”. Or a mix. They are equally pleasing I think, as long as you get the result.

Please tell us about your plans for your documentary Vargsamtal (Wolf Call).

Vargsamtal is a personal project that was brought to life together with my brother Nils Byrfors who has lots of experience in documentary filmmaking. I recently moved back to Sweden from South America and I wanted to take advantage of the last weeks of winter. We have this dog sledder in the family that we never see so we went there with a camera, really secluded near the Finish-Norwegian border.

It resulted in a documentary short film where Sven, the dog sledder, tells the story of when he heard his dogs have long conversations with the Siberian wolves, howling back and forth to each other during the nights of an expedition. We are still working on it and looking for financing to finish the film. Hopefully soon.

You are Swedish and have directed through Pantera in Buenos Aires. Please tell us how this relationship with Argentina came about.

After film school and living in Stockholm it got to point were I had to get away from some bad routines and look for inspiration elsewhere. I kind of randomly went on vacation to Buenos Aires with a friend and I liked it so much I kept on finding excuses to stay.

After a while I got hold of a camera and started shooting free videos for clothing start ups and such, until I got a representation at a production company. Close friends of mine have had Pantera&Co for a while but I’m the newest director on their roster. I love them, there’s a lot of stuff cooking up at Pantera&Co right now.